CNN 18 Sept 2013
In the wake of the shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday that left 13 dead, we have seen the resurrection of an all-too-familiar debate: Did violent video games make the killer do it?
Reports suggest that the gunman, Aaron Alexis, played quite a bit of violent video games. Friends have said to reporters that his heavy game use, described as up to 16 hours at a time, may help explain his actions.
Just as quickly, video game fans have jumped to defend the violent first-person shooting games. “Don’t Blame Violent Video Games for Monday’s Mass Shooting” said the headline of an Atlantic op-ed.
The problem is that people are looking for a yes-or-no answer about the role of video games in violence, when there is none. Violent video games alone likely didn’t cause Alexis to go on his rampage. But these games aren’t harmless, either. Recent reports suggest he may have been mentally ill and had anger control issues. But it isn’t hard to believe that video game use may have been a contributing factor.
My colleagues and I found that typical college students who played violent video games for 20 minutes at a time for three consecutive days showed increasingly higher levels of aggressive behavior each day they played. If that’s what happens to typical college students, how might someone like Alexis react to playing for 16 straight hours? What if he does this for months or years?