Washington Navy Yard Shooting Caused by Violent Video Games

The Navy Yard Shooting Was Caused by Violent Video Games

There is one rogue scientist out there, roaming from media outlet to media outlet, who has performed his own studies on violent video games and has concluded that they don’t cause violent tendencies. He has been very vocal about his findings in the media, and has confused and befuddled the national conversation about the link between video games and violence. His name is Christopher Ferguson and it is easy to find his name linked to almost every study ever performed on such games in which the outcome shows no link between playing them and actual violent behavior. The fact is, violent video games have been studied over many years; there have been meta-analysis performed on those studies, and violent video games have been proven to be causal in violent behavior in some people, specifically people like the Washington Naval Yard shooter, Aaron Alexis. The Navy Yard shooting was caused, in part, by violent video games.

Because this is a controversial subject (thanks to Christopher Ferguson,) it is important to examine the facts about the vast body of data which proves causation between violent video games and violent behavior. First, there have been thousands of studies conducted on violent video games which show a causal link between violent video games and aggression. The “evidence” that proves otherwise is scant at best. Every major medical and psychological association has issued a statement to this end. For example, The American Academy of Family Physicians states:

That media violence leads to increased actual violence has been borne out by a massive body of literature. More than 1000 lab experiments, cross-sectional analyses, longitudinal studies, and epidemiologic studies support this hypothesis, as do meta-analyses… Media violence has also been shown to desensitize humans to violence… fear and a feeling of victimizatiom.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states:

Exposure to violence in media, including television, movies, music, and video games, represents a significant risk to the health of children and adolescents. Extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed.

The Navy Yard Shooting Was Caused by Violent Video Games

There are at least five other similar statements that have been issued by major, respected medical and psychological associations that say violent video games can directly cause violent behavior. They do not say that there is only a correlation; they say that there is absolute causation.

Why do people deny that violent video games cause aggression?

If all major medical and psychological associations are convinced by a “massive body” of studies that prove such causation, why do people continue to deny it? Well, it turns out that the psychologists have, for the most part, now stopped examining whether violent video games cause violence and are now focused on why people deny their violent effects. The American Psychological Association says it is because people have linked their own identities to the video games, and looking negatively upon video games would be like looking negatively upon themselves.

Another reason people have so much trouble accepting the facts is because they turn to anecdotal evidence instead of science to explain the relationship between video games and themselves, often saying, “I play a lot of violent video games and I am not violent, therefore, violent video games do not cause violence.” Unfortunately, they don’t realize that a statement like that is similar to saying “I smoke and I don’t have lung cancer, therefore, cigarettes don’t cause lung cancer.”

Violent video game deniers share many characteristics with global warming deniers and evolution deniers. They look away from the large, established bodies of evidence and toward anecdotal or fringe evidence to solidify their belief systems.

Not only can violent video games cause violence in mentally stable, healthy people; they are particularly dangerous when they get into the hands of people who are actively mentally ill or who have a propensity toward mental illness. Where a shooter might otherwise have refrained from shooting, playing hours and hours of violent video games as did the Washington Navy Yard shooter could propel them to commit a heinous act. Studies support this and have shown that violent video games in the hands of a mentally ill person can create a “perfect storm” of danger.

Aaron Alexis was mentally ill and addicted to violent video games

In the case of the Washington Navy Yard shooting, Aaron Alexis was known to be addicted to violent video games. Friends of Alexis describe his sitting on front of violent shooting games for hours and hours at a stretch. Now it has emerged that Alexis also had a history of mental illness. Studies show a direct causal link between violent video games and aggression, especially among mentally ill people, but yet, the media had immediately jumped on the “violent video games didn’t cause the Washington Navy Yard shooting” bandwagon.

The Navy Yard Shooting Was Caused by Violent Video Games

One of the causes of this media bias is that video games and technology companies are frequent advertisers of many major newspapers. These video game companies also conduct and publish their own studies, similar to the way tobacco companies have published many studies showing that cigarettes don’t cause lung cancer. Not wanting to lose advertising dollars greatly informs the media coverage on this issue, and that is why so many articles come out which point to these fringe studies and the studies done by Christopher Ferguson.

Examining the evidence and the wealth of data available on violent video games makes it abundantly clear that the Washington Navy Yard shooting was caused by Aaron Alexis’ addiction to violent video games in combination with his mental illness. Had Alexis not ever played a violent video game the shooting most likely would not have occurred.

We need to talk about direct causation

Being able to establish direct causation in this way, and discussing it openly in society, is the only way to combat further shootings like the one at the Washington Navy Yard. But the constant pushback from the video games companies, Christopher Ferguson and the dollar-fueled media makes it very difficult to establish a reasonable, informed conversation. Video game proponents never show huge meta-analysis studies that prove their position because there are none available. Instead, they resort to ad hominem attacks on the observer in order to corral the focus away from the scientific evidence and toward a gang mentality of attack. Not surprising since they are generally addicted to the violent games as well.

The Washington Navy Yard shooting was caused by a combination of violent video games and mental illness, which studies show create a perfect storm of extreme danger. When is our society going to look toward science and do something about it?

By: Rebecca Savastio

(Op-ed)

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16 Responses to "Washington Navy Yard Shooting Caused by Violent Video Games"

  1. Eric   December 2, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Your quotes aren’t specific to video games, they point to media in general (TV, movies, music, AND video games) as the cause of increased aggression.

    He was mentally-ill. Saying that violent video games are bad because he did what he did is like saying that subways cause violence in everyone because someone with schizophrenia heard voices telling them to kill the people on the subway at that time.

    Video games (violent or not) have been shown to improve cognitive abilities and slow the mental aging process. They can very easily be good for people. In addition, to most gamers, video games are simply a way to relieve stress and have a good time.

    Reply
  2. wordswithfriends   September 24, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Video games are very popular and has major influence on human life. For example violent video games can directly cause violent behavior. Video games in the hands of a mentally ill person can create a perfect storm of danger.

    Reply
  3. Simon   September 24, 2013 at 8:10 am

    So where is the evidence directly linking violent video games with the Navy Yard shooting?

    I have been playing video games, watching violent films, watching violent TV and reading violent fiction for well over 20 years. I have not once thought… “I know what, I will go out and act out these violent incidents in real life”… I would say that i was the norm rather than the exception.

    Reply
  4. hsmiller   September 19, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    oh shut up rebecca and stop pointing your finger at an easy scapegoat.

    Reply
  5. NintendoLegend   September 19, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Blaming video games for gun violence is like blaming your hair stylist for a flat tire.

    Reply
  6. Luke   September 19, 2013 at 10:09 am

    How many of these liberal politician a actually play videogames? Who on here can explain the difference between correlation and causality? 97% of kids play videogames. And violent forms of art and expression have been around for thousands of years. There’s no PROOF of connection. There are CORRELATIONS and that isn’t accepted as PROOF by any reputable statistician or sociologist.

    Reply
  7. Jeff Fincher (@SwiftNinjaFox)   September 19, 2013 at 5:51 am

    The FBI has released reports showing less involvement with video games than other forms of violent media in correlation to these acts of violence. The FBI!!!

    Reply
  8. Patrick Scott Patterson   September 19, 2013 at 4:51 am

    I’d like the know the author’s first-hand experience with video gaming and video gaming culture.

    I’ve gamed for 32 years now and make my living as a media personality in the world of video games… and I find her “op-ed” full of more holes than a block of swiss cheese in a gangster shootout.

    I guess it’s easy to “back up your claims” when you pick and choose the “studies” that agree with you. Bottom line: there has NEVER been a peer-reviewed study that gives scientific evidence of what you claim.

    Reply
  9. let no crisis go to waste   September 18, 2013 at 9:45 am

    lets see: he was mental. heard voices in his head. and thought people were following him.

    nope has to be a video game.

    what are you going to tell me next rebbeca? that he learned to shoot from a controller and not the navy?

    great for ratings huh?

    Reply
  10. LianneM   September 18, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Absolute BS. Well done you ill informed, petulant little child.

    Reply
  11. John Hong   September 18, 2013 at 2:54 am

    Forgot to put in my other comment, but if you actually read the 13th source. “Vulnerability to Violent Video Games: A Review and Integration of Personality Research” it seems to directly contradict the conclusion you reached that violent video games directly cause real world violence. “A direct translation of these findings to a “profiling” of school shooters needs to be done with great caution.” Then the study goes on to say that the real question we should ask is why are some people effect by violent video games and others not?
    I still do not see why you think violent video games are the main cause of shootings like Navy Yard. While it may be true or untrue depending on what study you read that video games cause aggression; there is no study that shows violent video games cause real world violence.
    …. Please respond.

    Reply
  12. John Hong   September 18, 2013 at 2:35 am

    Do you realize, Rebecca, that “media” also includes things other than video games? Yet you say “Video Games” are the main cause of aggression. Also it’s great to disparage Christopher Ferguson as a quack with the logic that ” First, there have been thousands of studies conducted on violent video games which show a causal link between violent video games and aggression. The “evidence” that proves otherwise is scant at best” (Rebecca 2013) The fallacy is here is that you did the attack the logic of Ferguson’s study but rather the fact that there are more studies linking violent video games to aggression. Just because there are more does imply that it is right.

    Reply
    • John Hong   September 18, 2013 at 3:02 am

      not attack the logic of Ferguson’s study*

      Reply
  13. Rebecca Savastio   September 17, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    Did you not realize, Ryan, that video games are included in “media?” And, almost all of the sources specifically mention video games as well. You don’t offer any peer-reviewed meta analysis of your own but you feel free to call the article “trashy” although there are 13 solid sources listed. Interesting.

    Reply
    • Eric   December 2, 2013 at 9:23 am

      You do realize, Rebecca, that TV, music, and movies are also included in “media”? That’s what Ryan was trying to point out.

      When reviewing an argument, pointing out fallacies does not require sources. They are fallacies and that’s it.

      Having 13 sources does not necessarily mean the argument is correct. In the end, everything is biased. What I say in this reply and my comment about the article itself is biased, what the article is preaching is biased, even the sources are biased. The way the human mind works is that it will actively look for things to support its own perspective and leave out the opposing sources. This is also a fallacy, though a difficult one to counteract and one that I don’t care to point out because of said difficulty. There are sources on both sides, though they are both, in their own ways, correct.

      Reply
  14. ryan   September 17, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    ….I like how the sources you cite say violent media but the creep factor of the trashy article is only spouting game nonsense. Garbage.

    Reply

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