In this blog, I’m going to be discussing a horribly tragic event. This week, an 8 year old boy shot and killed his own grandmother. Let me be absolutely clear here…
This event is tragic and my heart goes out to that family. I have no doubt this boy doesn’t understand the significance of what he’s done and I’m equally sure it’s something that will haunt him for the rest of his life. It’ll haunt him and his parents.
So that’s four lives (at least) that were destroyed by this horribly tragic event.
With that said, I’m going to dip into some seriously controversial territory.
Shortly before the boy killed his grandmother, it has been reported that he was playing the video game, Grand Theft Auto IV (also called GTA IV).
GTA IV is well known for being an extremely depraved game. It involves killing, robbery, mugging, and even beating hookers.
That game is catching hell right now because of this recent shooting. People are blaming this game for the death of that poor lady.
I want to take a few moments to clear up some gross misinformation about this particular argument.
1. There is no evidence that violent video games inspire violent behavior.
There have been many studies on this issue, and every study has concluded that there is no evidence to support this claim.
Millions of people across the globe play violent video games. Millions. And out of those millions, less than 1% become violent after playing these games.
“But if someone is unstable,” you say, “they might be inspired by the violence.”
Well, sure. And if someone is unstable, they might also be inspired by their neighbor’s talking dog. That doesn’t mean we should ban dogs.
“Well,” you say, “that might be true, but common sense tells you there’s a connection.”
Leaving out the fact that “common sense” doesn’t really exist, let’s just assume you have a point. Let’s assume there is some kind of connection.
That leads me to my next important point.
2. There is a massive difference between causation and correlation.
Just because there’s a correlation between two things does not mean there is a cause-and-effect relationship.
Put simply, just because two things are connected doesn’t mean one of the things caused the other thing.
All prostitutes have sex. There is an undeniable correlation between prostitution and sex.
This does not mean that sex causes prostitution. It does not mean that people who love sex are likely to become prostitutes.
You see? There is a correlation, but there is no causation.
Of course there’s a correlation between violent video games and violent people. If a person loves violent behavior, that person will likely be drawn to violent video games.
But there is absolutely no evidence that the violent video games cause the violent behavior.
Again, millions of people play violent video games. Almost none of those people commit violent acts.
Now, I’m not saying GTA IV played no part in the terrible tragedy with that boy and his grandmother. It’s entirely possible this game inspired him to play with that gun. But being 8 years old, he likely didn’t understand the ramifications of what he was doing.
The problem isn’t the game. It’s that an 8 year old was playing it.
Which leads me to my next point…
3. Video games have grown up, but Americans refuse to recognize that they’ve grown up.
Not all video games are for kids. Maybe that was the case in Pac-Man’s day, but it’s not true anymore. Some games are designed to only be played by adults. That’s the point of the M rating. GTA IV is an adult game. An 8 year old should not be playing that game any more than he should be watching his parent’s DVD of A Clockwork Orange.
Some entertainment simply isn’t for kids.
Instead of using a nuclear bomb to stop a mugger, we should focus on the mugger. Banning video games isn’t the answer.
Educating parents and grandparents to pay attention to a game’s rating would be far more effective.
Of course, it wouldn’t solve the problem because of my next point.
4. Our culture doesn’t see violence as a big deal.
The story I’m about to tell you is 100% true. It happened. You probably won’t believe me, but that’s your problem. True is true, and this story is true.
This actually happened to a friend of mine who used to work in a video game store. It’s eerie because it involves and elderly woman, a young boy, and the game Grand Theft Auto IV.
A woman and a boy (presumably her grandson) are in a video game store.
They walk up to the register and the boy lays Grand Theft Auto IV on the counter.
“Ma’am,” the worker behind the counter (my friend) says, “this game is rated M. I should warn you that it’s not for kids.”
“Why?” the woman asks.
“Well, it’s extremely violent,” the worker says. “And it’s about a criminal. You play as someone who kills, robs, and commits pretty much every awful act you can think of.”
The woman leans toward the counter and says, “It doesn’t show boobies, does it?”
“No, ma’am,” the worker says, a little taken aback. “I don’t think so.”
“Okay,” the woman says. “Then he can get it. He sees all that other stuff on TV anyway.”
Again, that story is true. If you don’t believe me, just go ask any employee at a video game store. I’m pretty sure they’ll confirm similar situations.
So the problem isn’t that the video game portrays violence. It’s that many people don’t care until it’s too late. As long as it doesn’t show boobies, they’re okay with the “other stuff.”
5. Some of the outrage over this game is manufactured.
Now, I’m sure some people are genuinely disturbed by the violence of this game.
But let’s be honest here… there are some people who are using video games to divert attention from the gun control debate. They claim outrage over this game because they know if they don’t, people will focus on the fact that an 8 year old managed to get his grandmother’s gun and kill her with it.
Let’s really look at what happened here. A young boy played a violent video game, then he obtained a gun and killed someone with it.
I’m not denying the game played a strong role in this incident. It probably did.
And for the record, I’m a full supporter of gun ownership in this country. I’m not using this to suggest we ban guns.
But let’s not pretend GTA IV was the only thing that contributed to this tragedy. I’d say the fact that an 8 year old got his hands on a gun was a pretty big contributor to the horrible events that followed.
And there are people who will do anything to prevent that from becoming the headline.
Look. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t research video games and their impact on society. We absolutely should. And if a cause-and-effect relationship is discovered, we should absolutely respond appropriately.
But if we spend all our time trying to ban video games because of tragedies like this, the real underlying causes will never get addressed.
How about we instead focus on keeping M-rated games out of the hands of 8 year olds. And while we’re at it, let’s focus on keeping guns out of the hands of those same 8 year olds.
It’s heartbreaking that this tragedy happened. We should be focusing on realistic ways to prevent it from happening again.
Instead of jumping on the “ban” wagon, let’s take steps that might actually help address the problem.
In my opinion, proper education is the best first step.
We need to be fighting misinformation… not spreading it.