Don't blame the video games
January 12th, 2013
12:29 PM ET

Don't blame the video games

By Fareed Zakaria

Vice President Joe Biden was meeting video game representatives yesterday as the Obama administration and the U.S. public grapples with the question of gun crime – and why it is so much more prevalent in America than other rich countries.

The oft-debated premise behind such talks is clear. Young males weaned on a diet of violent and graphic images, it is argued, are more likely to engage in deadly violence themselves.

But the actual data suggests something quite different.

Last month, The Washington Post compared spending on video games and gun-related homicide rates in 10 countries.

“The search for meaning is a natural response to any tragedy, and the latest U.S. mass shooting is eliciting questions about, among other things, the potential role of violent video games. After all, with kids and increasingly teenagers spending so much time hammering away at simulated shooters, is it any wonder when they pick up actual guns?” wrote the Washington Post’s Max Fisher. “Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod lamented on Twitter, ‘In NFL post-game: an ad for shoot ‘em up video game. All for curbing weapons of war. But shouldn’t we also quit marketing murder as a game?’”

Presumably, then, if violent video games somehow translated into more deadly gun-related behavior you would expect the United States – which has far and away the highest levels of gun-related murders per capita – to be the biggest spender on such games. But this is not the case. In fact, according to the Post’s figures, U.S. spending per capita is ahead of only China. The Netherlands and South Korea spend more than twice as much per capita on video games, yet gun murder rates in these two countries are far, far lower than those in the United States. Japan, which has some of the most graphically violent games and animation in the world, has violent crime rates that are a fraction of those in the United States.

Yes, the relationship between popular culture and violence is complicated. And yes, we can quibble with the way different countries report crimes. But neither of these facts gets anywhere near explaining the differences between gun murder rates in the U.S. and those in its peers.

As with almost everything relating to this conversation on gun violence, it is extremely helpful to start with facts.

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Topics: United States

soundoff (473 Responses)
  1. Karac

    I feel that it isn't the game's fault. I've been exposed to some very, VERY violent, bloody, gory and downright regrettable images while growing up, along with games. Yes, I do enjoy a violent game on occasion, but not as thoroughly as the next guy. Nor do I have the impulse or urge to go out and shoot a bunch of people because a game gives me a rush. It's the mental health of the person, and the parent. A child should not be playing a game that's specifically rated based on it's content to be 17+/Adults Only. There's a reason the ESRB exists, and it's to protect people from these types of things. There are parents that beat their kids, curse at them, let the child do what they like because the parent doesn't care/doesn't want to deal with the problem. They're irresponsible CHILDREN, not adults. If they had any brains (which they don't), they wouldn't have had a kid. If they had any sense, they would guide their children, keep them away from the things they should NOT be exposed to and be a parent. I grew up with strong guidelines and a good sense of myself and a knowledge of right and wrong, and in my early childhood/teen years I did play a LOT of violent video games, but I did not obsess on them because it wasn't a focus of mine. It was not a getaway from life. There are children (mind you, 3 years old) that grow up in ghetto and poverty ridden communities that have knowledge of the topics 15 to 20 year olds have. They curse because their parents let them and because they think it makes them grown. If anything, games are not the problem, it's the person playing it, and it's the parent that is allowing content that should not be exposed to the child to be interacted with.

    March 6, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Reply
  2. joey reichard

    i dont think video game violence is the problem its bullying and the result of that is some people think there better then someone else i dropped out of high school in the start of the semester because of what clothes i was wearing no matter what i wore somebody always had a opinion or a remark that even has to do with latest or old technology such as phones or games if we as humans look at video games as a issue for violence then we are doomed but think about this as a solution instead of having just violent negative games how about some positive ones that have education integrated into the systems or games themselves like sony playstation home for example you could interact with other gamers around the world via internet and its free all game developers should put something like that on there systems to encourage education think about it if students attended class at home on gaming systems the rate of bullying would drop and attendance will increase and schools would save money and the number of classmates will decrease in the schools building therefore saving money on accommodations at schools like lunch hours or numbers of teachers and so on i believe everything would balance out in the end if we just give it a chance its the parents job to make sure there children are well educated i admit that i never graduated or got a ged but if there was more games like that i probably would have everyone should rise up and put there foot down for more academics on games for all ages and all levels try to have a more open mind and realize that this kind of vision could help people even if they have learning disability's and anyone could benefit but everyone does have an opinion and is probably gonna be negative to this post but i dont care what anyone says we just have to be positive

    July 1, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Reply
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