One of the findings in a new Pew Research Center study titled, Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018, is that video game use among teens continues to grow.
“Overall, 84 percent of teens say they have or have access to a game console at home, and 90 percent say they play video games of any kind (whether on a computer, game console or cellphone). While a substantial majority of girls report having access to a game console at home (75 percent) or playing video games in general (83 percent), those shares are even higher among boys. Roughly nine-in-ten boys (92 percent) have or have access to a game console at home, and 97% say they play video games in some form or fashion.”
The Pew findings combined with the fact that more than half of the 50 top-selling video games contain violence are causing concern amid continued allegations that violent video games are one of the reasons for the spate of school shootings in America.
Just this week, a video game called “Active Shooter” was pulled from production after sweeping criticism from lawmakers, students and parents of school shooting victims—several of them from Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School community, the scene of a mass shooting in February that claimed 17 lives. More than 100,000 people signed a petition to boycott the game.
“Active Shooter,” which was originally scheduled for a June 6 release, was described as a “dynamic SWAT simulator.” Players could choose to be a SWAT team member or a school shooter in a setting that involved high school hallways, classrooms and a gym. From the shooter’s point-of-view, players could rack up points by the number of police and civilians shot.
Valve Corp., a Seattle-based company, said it halted the game’s production after a brief investigation according to the Associated Press. The company also said the developer was a “troll with a history of customer abuse.”
The company’s first response to the criticism was chilling.
“Please do not take any of this seriously. This is only meant to be the simulation and nothing else. If you feel like hurting someone or people around you, please seek help from local psychiatrists or dial 911.”
“Revived Games believes violence and inappropriate actions belong in video games and not (in the) real world, and insists that in no event should anyone attempt to recreate or mimic any of the actions, events or situations occurring in this game.”
“Active Shooter” won’t be available for purchase this month but it’s not the first video game to simulate a school shooting scenario or other combat style settings.
Violent video games have been blamed for school shootings, increases in bullying, and violence towards women. Critics argue that these games desensitize players to violence, reward players for simulating violence, and teach children that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflicts.
There are detractors from that view. A week after the Parkland school shooting the New York Times reported:
“Shortly after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., President Trump said that violent video games and movies may play a role in school shootings, a claim that has been made—and rejected—many times since the increase in such attacks in the past two decades.”
But the connection, especially to school shootings, persists based on evidence revealed following several high-profile shootings.
The two teenage shooters responsible for the the massacre of 13 people at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado in 1999 were avid players of weapon-based combat games Wolfenstein 3D and Doom.
CBS News reported that the shooter at the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was “likely acting out the fantasies of a video game as he killed 20 first graders and six adults at the school.”
The stories are similar for many other school shooters. But the detractors dismiss those examples pointing to the almost universal popularity of video games among boys– meaning, it would be hard to find a young man in America who does not play video games.
Still, if it is not certain that violent video games cause school shooters to act, there’s little debate that it makes them better at it. All three branches of the U. S. military use computer simulated combat games to improve a soldier’s performance and the Army has developed a program that trains teachers to better respond to a school shooting.
Statistically speaking, the Pew study finds that all teen boys play video games, and most are violent. That means Christian teens are playing them too. Regardless of your view on the role those games play in today’s violent world it should cause parents to wonder if violent video games blur the lines between what’s OK and what’s not. Just as we are influenced by what we watch, focus on and listen to, we are also affected by the games we play.