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The mediating effects of violent video games on violent individuals

kat · 1 · 10397

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Offline kat

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It's inevitable that after another mass-casualty event press coverage would once again question the role violent video games play in causing young men to commit egregious acts of violence[1]. Jacksonville is proving a slightly more different sell than previous events because the game front and centre was from an atypical genre, competitive sports, rather than the more than expected first/third person shooter.

Interestingly, whilst this might disparity seem at first incongruous, the odd man out, the fact this is the case provides a clue as to the role violent games might play in the lives of these young men, not causative as media hopes but instead as one that perhaps acts to mediate otherwise negative behaviour.

Looking at the general profile of mass-shooting perpetrators they are typically loners, those few quiet individuals who keep to themselves, have few if any friends, say very little or rarely interact or engage with others. They frequently have difficulty expressing emotion, often appearing detached, uninvolved or completely disinterested in their environment, or when they do express its often volatile, explosive and uncontrolled. There is often a history of mental illness or at least some degree of clinical intervention or involvement in their lives, which may or may not result in the use of medication - anti-depressants, mood regulators, etc. They often come from broken homes, and are frequently subject to emotional or physical abuse.

The hypothesis; the type of person being described here could be said to have a severely impaired psyche, their emotions appear not to function within a range normally expected of a healthy, well adjusted, individual. To cope, the confluence of their circumstances might then dictate they gravitate towards, and fixate on, controllable sources of stimuli, or those they find reliable or relatable, able to provide a suitable degree of connection to their emotions (however conscious they might be of any of this).
This might then mean the playing of violent games is not specifically because they seek violence in the normal sense that might be understood, or that they want to be violent, or that violent games might make them violent, rather the opposite, violent video games may mediate the broken personhood by providing a degree of what would otherwise be heightened stimulation, enough to keep them grounded, being the only 'thing' to which they can associate.

Needless to say, the limitations of such a relationship is tenuous at best, break the connection and the result is catastrophic.

So, whilst anti-violent video game research, the literature on the subject, salacious media coverage, disingenuous politicians and talking-point activists argue the banning of violent video games and other violent media, or that violent games make people violent so something must be done about it, they may in fact all be missing the point entirely here, in this very specific context violent video games may be mediating the potential of violent individuals because they are the only medium speaking a compatible language, able to reach them.

If this is the case violent video games ironically could be used as tools to develop and foster home and/or educational programs and interventions that reach troubled individuals using a language they speak. Demonising and/or banning violent video games could very well be a colossal missed opportunity.

Further Reading
- Boom Headshot, perpetuating the 'murder-simulator' narrative through bad science.
- Dumb things pop-culture critics say: video games cause violence.
- Digital Self-Harm Among Adolescents, a new phenomena.
- Men harassed online more but like, seriously, it's not about them - Pew 2017.
- Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games is Wrong.
- Kicking ass and chewing bubblegum.
- Assassination Generation: Video Games, Aggression, and the Psychology of Killing.
- Virtual Reality Assault and Developer Responsibilities.
- Normalising/desensitising violence in games. An (initial) study.
- How social context influences violence-aggression relationship.
- Violence against males in games doesn't count... another study that 'proves' it.

[1] Almost without exception the vast majority of mass-shooters are male, typically boys and young men, almost exclusively teens upwards to early twenties.And whilst most are 'white' (Caucasian), the numbers appear to reflect their racial distribution within the general population.