"Is there any truth to the claims that video games lead to mass shootings, or are video games a convenient scapegoat for people avoiding the real cause?" asks Bilal Kathrada. Picture: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters
Which country has the most gamers in the world? Most people might say it’s the US - but that’s incorrect.

According to a recent Vox.com article Japan is the country with the most gamers, followed by South Korea.

The US comes third.

In the aftermath of the recent shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in the US a lot of attention has been drawn to video games, which have been named by various American politicians as the primary cause of mass shootings in that country.

Even Donald Trump chimed in, saying: “We must stop the glorification of violence in our society.

“This includes the gruesome and grisly video games now commonplace.

“It’s too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this and it has to begin immediately.”

Walmart also went after video games, probably due to political pressure.

Because the El Paso shooting happened at a Walmart store, the company sent a memo to all stores to temporarily pull down any signage or displays that advertise violent video games.

The irony of this is that Walmart is one of the biggest firearm retailers in the US, but nothing is mentioned of that in their memo.

The big question is: is there any truth to the claims that video games lead to mass shootings, or are video games a convenient scapegoat for people avoiding the real cause?

Although it’s not my intention to defend video games, nor to comment on US politics, as a father of three enthusiastic gamers, my only concern is, will my children be adversely affected by the games they innocently play?

If the evidence proves video games are indeed responsible for violent, homicidal behaviour, then without a doubt serious action needs to be taken.

If, however, video games are not the culprit but a political scapegoat, then I think it will be a highly irresponsible on the part of American leadership to place the blame where it does not belong. This will prove dangerously counterproductive: it will neither solve the problem nor prevent future occurrences, putting many more innocent lives at stake.

A cosplayer at a digital games fair, Gamescon, in Cologne, Germany. Picture: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

Coming back to the question: are violent video games responsible for mass shootings?

If video games lead to violent tendencies, which in turn lead to mass shootings, then based on the fact that there are more gamers in Japan and South Korea than in the US, it goes to reason that those countries should have a similar problem with mass shootings.

Yet mass shootings are unheard of in those countries and gun-related violence is among the lowest.

According to studies by the American Psychological Association, there is a link between playing violent games and aggressive behaviour.

Gamers, especially younger ones, tend to demonstrate more-than-normal aggression levels after playing violent video games.

However, this aggression is temporary, and has never been shown to lead to violence or homicidal behaviour.

Christopher J Ferguson, professor of psychology at Stetson University in Florida, says: “As a researcher who has studied violent video games for 15 years, I can state that there’s no evidence to support these claims that violent media and real-world violence are connected.”

If video games are not the cause of the mass shootings in the US, then what is?

No one really knows what goes on in the twisted mind of a mass shooter, and what causes him to go on a murderous rampage, but there are certain indicators.

In the case of the El Paso, Dayton, and Christchurch, New Zealand, shooters, for example, we know that their motivations were purely racial; they were all white supremacists with a deep hatred for people of colour.

Some claim that these people might have been inspired by unabashed racially-charged rhetoric from right-wing politicians.

Of course, we cannot ignore the strong correlation between the availability of guns and violent crimes, as shown by a number of studies.

In the US, it is easy to buy a gun; the laws are lax, and you can get one at your local Walmart. For this reason, the US has the rather undesirable accolade of having by far the most guns in the world.

In fact, in the US there are more guns than people.

Whereas this is not in itself a probable cause, statistics have shown that where gun laws are lax, there are high rates of gun violence; and where the laws are tight, there are fewer incidents of gun-related crimes.

Are video games responsible for violent behaviour?

I cannot say for sure.

But although there isn’t sufficient evidence to link games to violent behaviour, there is overwhelming evidence that at least two other factors are linked to mass shootings - guns and racial hatred.

* Bilal Kathrada is an educational technologist, speaker, author, newspaper columnist and entrepreneur. He is the founder of CompuKids, a start-up that teaches children Computer Science skills. Bilal blogs at www.bilalkat.com.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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