Data refute President’s linkage between violent video games & mass shootings

President Trump links recent mass shootings with violent video games.

by Larry Magid

Scroll down for podcast interview with Dr. Christopher Ferguson

In his address to the nation following a weekend of two mass shootings, President Trump made a reference to violent video games, suggesting that these games may have something to do with shootings such as the ones that took place in El Paso and Akron.

“We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence.”

President Donald Trump, August 5, 2019

As it turns out, there is a lot of research on this issue and most of it found no meaningful link between playing violent video games and committing acts of violence. Sure, there are murderers who are among the roughly 90% of young men who had played violent video games, but the vast majority of those young men never act out. And there is no clear indication that those who do commit violent crimes were influenced by playing those games.

The American Psychological Association reported  that “research demonstrates a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behavior, aggressive cognitions and aggressive affect, and decreases in prosocial behavior, empathy and sensitivity to aggression,” but “identified a number of limitations in the research that require further study,” acknowledged that such aggression doesn’t typically lead to violence. The APA also said that further research needs to “look at the effects of video game play in people at risk for aggression or violence due to a combination of risk factors. For example, how do depression or delinquency interact with violent video game use?”

But even the APA’s limited findings, according to two leading researchers, Dr. Christopher Ferguson and Andrew K. Przybylski are subject to question.

In a 2019 research report in the journal Royal Society Open Science Przybylski found that “Violent video game engagement is not associated with adolescents’ aggressive behaviour.” In an email interview he elaborated, “We didn’t find evidence that supported the idea that especially high levels of violent video game had different effects than moderate play. Instead we found that both simple and more complex correlations between violent gaming and aggressive behaviour did not exist.”

Christopher J. Ferguson and C. K. John Wang reached similar conclusions in their study, “Aggressive Video Games are Not a Risk Factor for Future Aggression in Youth: A Longitudinal Study.”

Dr. Chris Ferguson

To find out more about the lack of data backing up President Trump’s assertions about violent video games, I spoke with Dr. Chris Ferguson, a professor of Psychology at Stetson University who has done extensive research on the impact of video games on young people. Dr. Ferguson argues that there is not a connection between playing fictional games and committing acts of violence.

We also spoke about general issues of mental health and mass shootings.


Click above to listen to an interview with Chris Ferguson by CBS News Tech Analyst & ConnectSafely.org CEO Larry Magid