There continues to be articles written by concerned people (some very influential) blaming violent video games for the cause of teen violence and the increase of school attacks starting in the 1990’s. I understand why this connection is proposed, but violent video games do not make people murder or commit a school attack.
How do we know?
Because 40 million people play the first person shooter game Call of Duty II and 40 million people do not then go out and murder anyone or attack our schools. If the game was to blame, we’d see an epidemic of murder and school attacks occurring every day in America.
For the record, this is not a plug for or an argument against violent video games. This is a warning not to get sidetracked and attach too much importance to a teen playing a violent video game.
What do I mean?
A teen playing Call of Duty does not mean they are a threat to attack our schools. If you have this type of perspective, you’re going to be expending too much energy and resources watching 50-60% (or higher) of the male students in your school for no reason. The teens we have to really watch are the ones who play the violent games and are obsessed with the violence. It’s not that they just like the graphics and the cool uniforms, but that they love the violence. They are obsessed with the violence. That’s the real fear.That they only play it for the violence.
These are the teens that are using the game to meet their need for experiencing, seeing, and participating with violence. Eric Harris, Columbine murderer, played Doom because he loved and needed the violence. He even created his own Doom levels so he could craft the violence to his own specifics. Doom didn’t make him murder—he used Doom to release his obsession with murder. Much in the same way that Andrew Golden, 11 year old Westside Middle School murderer, massacred animals to meet his. It’s not the game or the method per se, it’s the intent behind the behavior.
That’s what we have to focus on—what are they getting out of it?
If you find yourself with a student who has made a threat, and you’re concerned about whether the student poses a risk, one indicator may be if he plays violent video games. But don’t automatically assume that it raises the threat level. Instead, figure out exactly what it means to the student and why he plays it. Knowing his true intent will give you a much clearer view as to the real risk he poses.