Games Don’t Kill People, Guns Do: Trump speech creates imaginary link between violence, video games

It is a logical fallacy to connect video games with violence.

It is a logical fallacy to connect video games with violence.


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On the topic of the Parkland shooting, Donald Trump once again offered his infinite wisdom, proposing that perhaps it was violent video games that we causing these school shootings. He went on in this speech to propose a rating system for media, and arming teachers so that they can defend against school shootings. So, that gives you some insight as to his logic.

Despite the fact that much of research has found the correlation between violent video games and real life violence to be inconclusive at best, this is a conversation that just keeps happening, so let’s have a look at why people may make this argument, why it fails, and where video games belong in society.

So why would people default to this rhetoric? Well, there’s a few different takes on that. For one, the viewing of violence in video games, especially extreme violence and especially over long periods of time, could result in a sort of desensitization. Desensitization is when the reaction we have to something is slowly made less and less powerful due to consistent or regular exposure to it. It’s the same concept behind exposure therapy: if one is around something they fear often enough they will eventually be desensitized to the original sense of fear that had been initially ilicied. But this can be dangerous with violence, as the inherent disgust humans feel towards violence is a part of our society and human evolution; if violence is viewed as normal, why would people not resort to it regularly?

Mind you, this is a generous approach to the argument, which is also often made in order to absolve responsibility. It’s much easier to say, “Oh, violence in video games cause mass shootings,” than it is to actually address and create policy to resolve the problem. So the while there may be valid arguments within this vein, it may not always be with the intention of solving things.

This rhetoric does, however, recognize in a sort of abstract way the artistic nature of video games. After all, books and film and other media are often criticised for their moral implications. Every pseudo-intellectual’s favorite, “A Catcher in the Rye,” was on the banned book list for years for its content, and still is to this day in many places in America. But it’s also recognized as being intensely influential, as is Allen Ginsberg’s highly controversial poem, “Howl.” In that sense, the rhetoric would do well to practice a sense of nuance; video games exist as storytelling, as entertainment, even as social commentary.

There’s more to video games than just shooting Nazis and zombies, even if that seems to be the predominant representation of them. Video games have as much place in our society as television shows, as poetry, as literature, and like these, some of them are better than others. No one is going to compare the literary merits of “Mrs. Dalloway”with “Fifty Shades of Gray,” after all. But if we’re going to be critical of video games and how they impact the individual, we also have to acknowledge what they add as well. Otherwise it’s just lazy criticism.