There have been more mass shootings in America in 2019 than there have been days in the year so far. Read that back to yourself. Roll it around in your head for a little while and try to get to grips with the weight of it.
We’ve all become seasoned pros to these tragedies in the States by now though, haven’t we? It doesn’t matter if it’s people being gunned down in a Walmart in Texas, a cinema in Colorado, a food festival in California, or a school where children are supposed to be able to go to laugh, learn, and feel safe – a shooting can happen anywhere in America, and we seem to have grown numb to it.
2019 mass shootings:
— Keith Edwards (@keithedwards) August 3, 2019
We’re so past being surprised these days that we go through the exact same motions every single time. Thoughts and prayers to start, of course. Not long after that, we’ll start to learn details of the shooter.
Maybe he was a troubled youth, or a radicalised maniac (it tends to depend on the colour of the skin). There’ll be a quick round of debates on whether or not we should even be naming the shooter because that’s what they want, before we move onto mourning the victims: teachers, doctors, veterans, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters – all tragic, senseless, preventable wastes.
Somewhere in between learning the motives of the shooter and discovering exactly how many lives were lost and where the shooting ranks with the literal thousands of mass shootings that America has suffered in the last few decades alone, we ask ourselves how this happened, and what can be done to prevent it.
The obvious answer to me, you, and the vast majority of the rest of the world is that America needs stricter gun control laws. I probably don’t need to tell you that trying to argue that point to someone who truly believes the right to bear arms is a basic freedom is about as futile as hurling your shoes into the sky to try and knock down a passing cloud.
So I won’t try to argue that, because I’m bored of arguing the point. Besides, other, better writers have already done so more eloquently elsewhere. I could point to stats and statistics and actual facts that show tighter gun control would be effective in the US and has been effective in other parts of the world, but it won’t come to anything.
The politicians and lobbyists will always point the blame away from guns and onto whatever else they can think of. Usually, it’s mental illness and the way violent video games warp the minds of impressionable youths.
It probably hasn’t escaped your attention that President Donald Trump, along with a number of other politicians, have decided once again to hit out at “gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace” in response to the awful back-to-back shootings that took place over the weekend in Texas and Ohio, leaving at least 31 dead and many more injured.
There are more than 5 million assault weapons out on the streets of America, which is more than the U.S. military has. That is insane. We must ban the sale, distribution and transfer of assault weapons in the United States.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 4, 2019
I could point you to one of the many, many, peer-reviewed studies that have found no proven links between violent video games and real-life violence. I could also direct you to the comments of industry insiders who have a much better understanding of video games than Donald Trump would ever hope to have.
I could even, as many others have already pointed out, show you that every country in the world has violent video games, and only one has mass shootings on a daily basis, but there’s little point.
I genuinely believe we’ve reached a point now where the majority of us know that violent video games don’t have a role to play in the atrocities that hit America every day.
There’s so much evidence to the contrary these days that it would be impossible to deny… if we didn’t live in a world where gut feelings and knee-jerk reactions consistently win over facts and hard proof.
The problem is that the people in charge will never admit that video games aren’t the root cause of the problem that infests America, because that would mean them admitting they’ve been shifting the blame for the past few decades for their own self interests, and that would never do.
Believe me when I say I don’t think Trump knows much, but he knows video games aren’t to blame here. Trump, like so many others before him in the mainstream media and politics, will never care.
These are people that know showing footage of Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Grand Theft Auto to a large audience of (typically older) voters that don’t understand video games is the easy way out.
To be clear, I’m not trying to be patronising, or bash older folk who might not be as familiar with games as you or I. I’m also not saying that every single older person in America doesn’t understand what a video game is, because that’s obviously just not true.
Video games don't make us violent. Pass it on.Turn 🔊 on
Posted by UNILAD Gaming on Saturday, May 12, 2018
What I am saying is that the vast majority of this group will, just like us, be desperate to make sense of senseless tragedy, and they’re being shamelessly manipulated by a media – by leaders – that know exactly what they’re doing.
This lack of understanding, not helped by the mainstream media’s refusal to bother to explain video games accurately to an audience who don’t “get” them not only continues to point away from the real cause of the gun violence (AKA; guns), but it causes yet another split in a country that’s already divided in a staggering number of ways on an unending number of issues.
For so many of us, video games are more than a hobby or a way to waste time on a weekend – they’re a passion, an all-important escape from problems in our lives.
To have a good chunk of the world look at an industry that we know can inspire the best in us, birth entire communities, and make genuinely positive change in the world as nothing more than mindless violence, responsible for real-life death and destruction, well… it’s heartbreaking, and it’s insulting, and it’s simply not accurate.
That’s to say nothing of the people who make video games. The developers I’ve met are passionate, incredible human beings that just want people to enjoy themselves with the products they’ve made.
They don’t make games that have violence in because they want to encourage a racist with an assault rifle to shoot up a Walmart, but one has to wonder what those crowds of MAGA-devotees chanting anti-immigration vitriol at Trump rallies thought would start to happen if they continued to peddle their hate.
I can’t imagine how it feels for developers to have to sit there and watch the President lead the charge to blame an industry they work so hard for. Meanwhile, members of the NRA continue to sleep soundly in their beds every night. How does that work?
Video games, like mental illness, will continue to be used as a scapegoat for as long as the people in charge can get away with it. As long as we continue to allow those people to point the finger away from the blindingly obvious root cause of America’s gun violence problem, then the number of shootings, of lives lost to pointless tragedies, will continue to soar to disturbing new heights.
A ridiculous lack of reasonable gun control, coupled with a disturbing rise in hateful, racist, misogynist, classist ideologies. These are the things America needs to look at if it truly wants to combat the terrible gun violence that continues to sweep the nation.
Are violent video games entirely blameless? Probably not. Could we do more to stop mature-rated games getting into the hands of minors? Absolutely. But continuing to point to games as one of the main causes of the problem is like trying to fight a forest fire with a water pistol – eventually, the flames are going to consume us all.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.