Are video games really to blame for the Connecticut shootings?

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The world was in shock following the death of 28 people, including 20 children, at a school in Connecticut, USA on Friday, December 14th. While the finer details are still unknown, within minutes of the tragic event, FOX News reported that violent video games were a factor in the shootings.

John Hickenlooper, the Colorado Governor, also believes violent video games were the reason behind the shootings. He told CNN that the “level of violence in media and video games” may be the reason assault weapons are used in mass shootings.

Another name involved in the debate is journalist Piers Morgan, who took to Twitter to voice his opinion: “The combination of mental illness and addiction to violent video games is a big problem. Stupidly naive to pretend otherwise.”

In reply to one Twitter user, Morgan said that “guns, mental illness and addiction to violent video games” are to blame for the shootings in Connecticut. But have they been too quick to point the finger?

It’s a well-known fact that gamers can’t get enough of violent video games. Call of Duty, Gears of War and Halo are just a sample of the popular game series that continue to dominate the charts.

Nevertheless, this isn’t the first time violent video games have been at the subject of controversy. In 2004, Manhunt was linked to the murder of 14-year-old Stefan Pakeerah by his friend Warren Leblanc (aged 17) in Leicestershire.

Police found a copy of the game, which had players suffocating people with plastic bags, in Leblanc’s bedroom and seized it as evidence. His mother Giselle claimed her son’s “inherently evil” murderer was “obsessed” with the game and called for it to be banned.

Shortly after, the game was removed from the shelves of GAME and Dixons. Elsewhere in the world, the Classification Review Board in Australia “refused classification” of Manhunt and the title was banned in New Zealand, with possession of the game deemed an offence.

Despite all this, there was no solid evidence that the game had been an influence in the murder.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 also caused controversy, with the game being linked to a French terrorist who killed seven. The Daily Mail reported: “The veil-wearing former wife of terrorist Mohammed Merah says the couple played violent video games including Call of Duty together before he gunned down seven people in cold blood.”

Once again, there was no solid evidence that the game had been an influence in the murders, simply a vague link between the two.

In fact, according to PEGI, the European video game content rating system: “The research on the impact of video games has been focused primarily on violence. Numerous studies have been published, but until today there is no evidence that playing violent video games causes any long-term or lasting increase in aggressiveness or violence among players.”

So are video games really to blame for the Connecticut shootings? This lack of evidence suggests that we shouldn’t be.

Millions of gamers play violent video games on a daily basis, yet they’re being associated with a negative stereotype created by the media.

Personally, I believe video games are being used as a scapegoat and that we should be focusing on gun laws and helping those who are mentally ill (especially in the Connecticut case).

University of Lincoln Journalism graduate David Wriglesworth is a Social Media Manager at tgi MEDIA in Darlington and is the founder of What’s On Darlington – a community hub for the town of Darlington.