Video games arrived at around the early 70s, and since then, it has caused a craze all around the world. From the first arcade video game Computer Space by Nutting Associates to the very famous and classic Pong by Atari, video games have grown to be a norm in our lives. Some people even play video games as a means of living, hence the beginning of e-sports.
But with all crazes come some sort of tragedy, and it was a great shock to the gaming community when the Jacksonville shooting came about.
The day of the shooting
During the Madden NFL tournament last August 26, 2018, a gunman opened fire and killed two people in the process, while leaving eleven injured. A gamer, David Katz, was identified to be the gunman. After the shooting, he then turned the gun on himself and pulled the trigger. It’s still unsure whether the shooter knew any of the victims or players personally.
Ronald Casey, one of the attendants of the gaming tournament, was able to escape the shooting unharmed and protected those around him. He selflessly shielded his fellow gamers – Joel Crooms-Porter, 18, and Matt Clark, 25 – from the bullets coming their way.
The other injured victims were immediately attended to and were reported to be in stable condition.
The danger of video games
While playing video games are supposed to be fun and relaxing, most people get easily aggravated because of the games they’re playing. An ongoing and longstanding debate is whether violence in video games perpetuates violence in real life. Recent studies have shown that playing video games can affect a player’s empathy and morality, resulting in a higher aggression level. Because of this, most parents are divided on whether they should let their children play video games or not.
In the virtual world, there are no consequences when you harm another user – anything goes, to be honest. You can ‘kill’ as many people as you want without worrying about the consequences of actually hurting someone. In fact, for some people, doing this is very relaxing for them, especially after a long, stressful day.
Some people, however, take it too far, and that is one of the dangers that video games present. While it may not be directly attributed to the rise of shootings that happened this year, it does play a factor in how people choose to channel their aggression. The recent Jacksonville shooting is a prime example of how video games can bring about gamer’s aggression, thus making the player do irrational, aggressive, and violent things. But, the question remains: do video games cause gamer’s aggression or does something else trigger it?
New findings in gamer’s aggression
In recent studies, most researchers have refuted the previous findings and discovered that gamer’s aggression is not caused by video games themselves but the player’s frustration over failing at the game.
Researchers from the University of Rochester wanted to learn more about the psychological effects video games have on the people who play them. They decided to conduct a study that focused more on user experience than the content of the game, creating seven different experiments that got around 600 college-aged people as participants. They were then asked to play a game of Tetris in different difficulty levels for a length of time. Participants were asked to place their hands in water before playing a game of Tetris, some temperatures of water varying per experiment. After each game, they were asked to determine a time for future contestants to put their hands in water.
Results of the study showed that it wasn’t the story or imagery in the game that was making players violent, it was their ability to master the game and to endure each level’s difficulty. If a player was more frustrated while playing the game, they were more likely to exhibit negative thoughts, making them assign longer times for the future contestants who had to put their hands in water before playing Tetris. When a player has mastered the game, they’re less likely to show negative or aggressive behavior, and actually enjoyed the game.
Are video games dangerous?
The belief that video games are dangerous has been upheld by parents who claim to see violent tendencies in their children’s behaviors. In light of the recent Jacksonville shooting, it’s still unclear what his motive was for the shooting. Media outlets reported that he lost the tournament before he began his rampage, fueling speculations that he could’ve been upset over his loss and decided to release his frustrations out on the people around him.
With this logic, it fuels the results of the study presented above, where gamer’s aggression doesn’t come from the video game itself but the player’s frustration in mastering the game, or in David Katz’s case, in winning the game.
It may be unwise to point the finger entirely at video games though. At the end of the day, it may be the person, not the game that they’re playing.