Global discourse on video games in the last fortnight has focused on perpetrators of violence in public spaces. The incidents in El Paso and Dayton have caused most people to re-examine the various factors that could cause teenagers and young adults to take such extreme steps. As the world debated the heinous acts, the direction of the discourse was sadly a little too predictable.
As we try and fathom why the supposed “global superpower” fails to institute laws about gun control, counter-views blame the violence in video games and other media forms.Several research studies have returned with inconclusive evidence when it comes to finding a correlation between playing video games and violent actions by players.
However, the global grand narrative always seems to link the two. By recent estimates about 1 in 3 people in the world play video games and the ratio is only higher in developed countries where video games have been part of the family set-up for decades. Thus, it is extremely likely in such settings; perpetrators of violence would have played video games at some stage in their life.
Researchers have offered varying perspectives to understand violence and media. One such perspective builds on Aristotle’s catharsis approach where they argue that playing of video games, especially violent ones, could purge any desire of gamers to carry it out. Another approach builds on the fact that images and acts of violence in media forms are not violence but messages about violence (Gerbner), a distinction that is often overlooked.
Most media platforms create content that reflects society and when a country has a defence budget ten times larger than the budget for education ($686 billion vs $61 billion in the case of USA) it is very likely that its society and systems are in accordance with the same disparity.The financial clout wielded by the gun lobby in the US (led by non-profit organisations like the National Rifle Association) and its subsequent influence on global discourse needs to be understood holistically.
It is thus not surprising when instead of curbing the sales of guns, politicians can call for the sale of more guns, fortifying places of education and endlessly blame video games while they protect organisations that fund their campaigns. After all, it is only in such democracies that department stores and malls can stop the sales of action games but continue to showcase and sell assault rifles.