The few times I have written an article about the possible connection between violent acts and violent video games, I immediately receive responses from readers who say, “I’ve played violent video games for years, and they have not affected me negatively. I’m perfectly capable of distinguishing between fantasy and reality.”
Perhaps that is so, but not everyone is able to distinguish fantasy from reality, and studies indicate that it is the unstable who are most likely to be affected negatively. Tragically, this might have been the case with mass murderer Elliot Rodger.
Of course, Rodger alone is responsible for his actions and none of us have the authority to play armchair psychologists (especially those of who are not psychologists). But we can (and should) look at the larger issues involved and ask if, perhaps, there is a connection between violent video games and murder.
In December, 2012, in the wake of the Newtown Massacre, I noted how video game manufacturers were in denial, despite studies pointing to “a rather clear consensus” that, similar to continual watching of TV and movie violence, “playing violent video games increases aggression.”
Last September, I noted that the latest edition of the mega-popular Grand Theft Auto V was “a reflection on the state of nation.” Even a positive reviewer of the game (named James Delingpole) wrote, “As a middle-aged parent, I like to think I’m mature enough to be able to appreciate the game’s cartoonish, ugly, misogynistic, ultraviolent, pornographic worldview with a certain wry detachment.
“But whether the game’s teenage target market is so readily capable of making such distinctions, I’m not nearly so sure.”
Already in 2008, Reuters reported that, “One of the largest video game distributors in Asia has halted sales of the Grand Theft Auto IV in Thailand after a teenager confessed to robbing and murdering a taxi driver while trying to recreate a scene from the game.”
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.