Once Again, Media Jumps On Violent Video Games Before Knowing The Facts

from the fake-gun,-real-witch-hunt dept

When it comes to linking violence and video games, there is plenty of stupid to go around. The only unifying factor we can typically notice is that said stupid seems to come from someone talking to the media. Whether it's Dr. Oz, cherry-picked citizens, or just your average grand-standing politician, you'll usually get big, scary claims about how a game will turn your child to the dark side, or send them straight to Hell, followed up by exactly no valid evidence. But where does all of this come from? Why do some of our fellow citizens labor under the belief that a link between violence and video games is settled science?

Well, mostly because of equally fallacious headlines and stories, with all the pre-suppositions that should have been beaten out of journalists when they were college freshman. Case in point, you may have heard recently that a young man shot his elderly caretaker in the head after (cue the scary music) playing Grand Theft Auto. Ooooooh! With a headline like "8-Year-Old Intentionally Shot And Killed Elderly Caregiver After Playing 'Grand Theft Auto': Louisiana Police", you know you're going to get equally, if vaguely, scary copy in the piece itself.

"Although a motive for the shooting is unknown at this time, investigators have learned that the juvenile suspect was playing a video game on the Play Station III "Grand Theft Auto IV", a realistic game that has been associated with encouraging violence and awards points to players for killing people, just minutes before the homicide occurred," a statement issued by the Sheriff's Office said.

Experts have long debated -- and are still divided on -- the matter of whether or not violent video games, TV shows and movies trigger aggressive behavior in young people.
Make no mistake, that kind of inclusion sets the tone for the entire story. While the article doesn't specifically come out and say that the game caused the violence, it might as well have. There's nearly as much copy dedicated in some way to mentioning the game as the incident itself. So, the reader is given the framework: kid shoots old lady after playing violent game, there's almost certainly a link.

The problem is the few lines written about how nobody really knows why what happened happened. Those lines themselves aren't the problem, rather the issue is that they're probably the most truthful lines in the entire piece. As the authorities later discovered, the child thought the gun was a toy after getting his hands on it from the woman's purse.
"He's distraught. It's really taken a toll on him. He looks visibly shaken," said East Feliciana Parish District Attorney Samuel D'Aquilla. "It was determined that he did the shooting and it was an accident. He thought it was a toy gun, a play gun," D'Aquilla told CNN.
Oops. So, because the media first rushed the story out with the most eyeball-grabbing headline it could, seizing upon the inclusion of an already controversial game, readers are left with a lie while the truth goes mostly unreported and under-reported where it even saw the light of day. When GTA could be blamed, it was front page news. When it couldn't, not so much.

Thanks a lot, news.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 4:26am

    This is the first time I've read the PS3 with roman numerals rather than the figure 3. Chalk another failure to whoever wrote that article.

     

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  2.  
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    Ninja (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 4:35am

    Does that mean if I save someone's life we'd have to prize Theme Hospital for it?

    Scrap all Health courses, we have everything covered!

     

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  3.  
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    Ninja (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 4:41am

    Re:

    XBox CCCLX ftw!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Akari Mizunashi (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 4:48am

    Rue the day when mass media reports someone was eating a Big Mac while murdering a family.

    Pikmin 3 will get the blame.

     

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  5.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 5:31am

    Re:

    Exactly. So if someone's face swells up because of an allergic reaction, just recall what people with swollen heads in Theme Hospital did - popped them with a needle like a balloon. Works every time! No antihistamines needed!

     

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  6.  
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    Wally (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 6:04am

    Incidentally....

    ""Although a motive for the shooting is unknown at this time, investigators have learned that the juvenile suspect was playing a video game on the Play Station III "Grand Theft Auto IV", a realistic game that has been associated with encouraging violence and awards points to players for killing people, just minutes before the homicide occurred," a statement issued by the Sheriff's Office said. "

    The points system was only ever used in GTA and GTA2. The police have it wrong.

    Also, it's actually an unknown motive which means it could have been the video game or anything else. The situation is that the game was the inspiration, there's this organization called the ESRB, and well the adults should have followed the ratings on their and passworded that rating on the PS3.

    As for GTA IV. The physics in that game are more realistic and the violence in it is much more physics oriented than the rest of the series....this includes GTA V.

     

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  7. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 6:04am

    Re:

    It's almost as bad as some "journalist" saying that Sealand is housed in an offshore oil platform and then silently updating the article when someone points out the mistake.

    You know, failures of basic fact checking and reporting that we are already used to.

     

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  8.  
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    kenichi tanaka (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 6:07am

    Here's a thought: the child was mad at the family member who unplugged his video game experience, so he retaliated. Has nothing to do with video games, only for interrupting his experience.

    The Liberal media always gets it wrong.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 6:28am

    But if we report the truth then the NRA and the gun rights industry will demonize us as being anti-second amendment!

    But there is no video game industry to demonize us, and no video game amendment in the constitution!

    Next up on the news, we'll interview Mr. Smith a mass murder who killed over 50 Muslim American, err sorry, we'll interview a hero who killed over 50 potential terrorists, yet some radicals insist he should be in jail for protecting America!
    *Cameras get turned off for the commercial break*
    Please don't shot me Mr. Smith!

     

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  10.  
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    Greg (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 6:35am

    In the follow-up article they state that the boy found a loaded handgun in a bag within easy reach, and that he "thought it was a toy". Then they still bring up the fact that he was playing GTA.

    What is more likely to have caused this issue?

    On one hand, he was obviously given toy guns, then not taught the difference between toys and weapons. He was never taught any kind of firearms safety, and was then left alone with a loaded unsecured firearm.

    On the other hand, Video games.

    Pretty clear that those video games had to have play a role in this, good thing they kept talking about them.

     

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  11.  
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    georgied, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 6:39am

    Elephant in the room

    I think we're overlooking the obvious here. An 8 year old is playing an adult rated game. Kids do emulate what they see.

    Rational adults can easily differentiate been reality and fantasy, right and wrong and acceptable conduct. This might be trickier for kids if the settings and themes are very realistic.

     

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  12.  
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    Mark, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 6:49am

    Two questions for the adults involved in this.
    1) Why is an 8 year old playing GTA? Do they know the content and are ok with it? Have they explained the context to the kid?
    2) How does an 8 year old get access to a loaded gun in the first place? Were they not watching him or realize what he was getting into?

    Ok, so that ended up as more than two questions. And I'm not saying they are irresponsible parents, maybe they did take all precautions and accidents happen. But how does he even get to the point of being able to act out what is seen in the game (if that had any influence) or any aggression caused by the game in the first place?

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 6:52am

    Re:

    I would say that the gun owner should be charged with manslaughter, for failing to keep control of a loaded weapon.
    Note, to NRA, this is not anti gun ownership, but the gun owner is responsible for gun safety, which include making sure that children cannot pick up a loaded gun.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 6:54am

    Re:

    Well personally if I was going to act out GTA I would put in the tank cheat and wait for to fall from the sky.

    In case you haven't realized that is sarcasm. Not pointing any fingers. "NSA"

     

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  15.  
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    Alt0, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 6:54am

    Why did the "elderly woman" watching the child feel a need to have a handgun with her? Was this a "bad" neighborhood? Was this a "problem" child, that she felt she needed to protect herself from?
    What did the boy have for breakfast?
    Where were his parents?
    There are a LOT of unanswered questions here.

     

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  16.  
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    Jon Renaut (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 6:55am

    This is why we should all carry guns!

    As usual, gun violence could certainly have been prevented if only the victim had been carrying a gun, too!

    Oh, wait...

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 7:03am

    Re: Re:

    It would be rather silly to attempt to charge the gun owner in this case seeing as the gun owner is apparently the dead grandmother.

     

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  18.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 7:04am

    "turn your child to the dark side, or send them straight to Hell, followed up by exactly no valid evidence. But where does all of this come from?"

    This from people whose parents though Elvis grinding his hips would do the same thing to them. Maybe stupid is inherited.

     

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  19.  
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    crade (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 7:09am

    Re:

    Because everyone is supposed to have a loaded gun with them.. Where have you been under a rock? With talk like that, the NRA will come and haul you away.

     

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  20.  
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    Wolfy, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 7:14am

    is there anyone else out there, that thinks we have somehow short-circuited the evolutionary principal of survival of the fittest?

     

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  21.  
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    theOtherDude, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 7:23am

    Capitalist News

    Experts agree GTAV may turn your children into the next Columbine killers!

    or

    Experts agree there is very little evidence of a link between violence in video games and youthful offenders.

    My job on television is to get viewers, which teaser are the home schooling mommies going to stick around through the commercial for? Remember Judge Judy is on the other channel so you need to keep em hooked!

     

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  22.  
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    little terrors, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 7:30am

    > What did the boy have for breakfast? There are a LOT of unanswered questions here.

    I had to laugh. This place is crawling with crazy grandkids, the mother is aware of the link between sugar and bouncing-off-the-walls, but she refuses to replace the corn-syrup offerings with better food.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 7:39am

    Re: Re:

    I'm tired of arrogance and "ignorance by choice" of people who have no knowledge of firearms.
    Anyways, I agree with you.
    What you are suggesting is not new, irresponsible firearm owner would be responsible for any harm caused by his weapon (loaded OR NOT).
    Proper use of "deadly force" with any kind of weapon to save someones life or yours becomes a legal nightmare.

    I think that children do imitate what their parents say and do.
    My wife is a psychiatrist and agrees that we all are desensitized by images of violence in TV and videogames. There are few successful movies which dont have bloody violence, guns, explosions, tortures etc. It's all fantasy but as you know, it takes one psychopath to imitate Joker or Anti Technology Genius to scar our nation for life. Then let news to help government agenda to have our privacies violated, gun ownership destroyed and freedom of speech pissed on!

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 8:08am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Hey, they've already unburied dead people to put their dead body on trial!

     

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  25.  
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    Trevor (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 8:24am

    Oops

    Interesting. I played GTA4 last night (Getting my Xbox [which I hadn't played in months] set up for GTA5 in a few weeks, so I had to make sure it worked!) and didn't shoot anyone afterwards. I was able to drive to work without running over any prostitutes or stealing any of the many, many nicer cars I see every day. So far, I have refrained from pulling out my cell phone, going to the cheats option, and loading up on ammo and armor as well. Today was a good day.

    Also, I didn't have access to a loaded handgun. So there's that.

    /sarcasm

     

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  26.  
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    Zos (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 8:46am

    Re:

    here's a thought, aliens did it.

    here's a thought, anyone can make up a narrative to suit any agenda.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 9:19am

    Stupid people make me want to kill, and there's way more stupid folks than video games.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 9:34am

    I wonder if cannibals watch the Catholic mass in TV before eating people. ;-)

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 10:52am

    Re: Elephant in the room

    That's not the elephant.

    The kid thought the gun was a toy. We manufacture toy guns and give them to children. Children are also given the message that it's appropriate to shoot things with toy guns. That's sort of the point; how many ways are there to play with a toy gun that don't involve shooting things? Insofar as video games have anything to do with this, they fall pretty clearly into the category of 'toy gun', except that it's harder to confuse a gun in a game with a gun in a purse.

    I'm not entirely convinced that children have issues differentiating between fantasy and reality -- most of the studies I've seen suggest that they're at least as capable of discriminating as adults. Shooting people with toy guns == good; shooting people with real guns == bad. Almost all eight-year-olds are capable of understanding this.

    Either way, in this case the child was incapable of discriminating between a toy gun and a real gun. That has very little to do with determining acceptable conduct, and everything to do with determining when a gun is not a toy.

     

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  30.  
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    Ninja (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 11:05am

    Re: Elephant in the room

    Indeed. But that's not the game at fault, it's parents failing at parenting.

     

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  31.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 11:13am

    A Subset of the Decline in American Culture

    Fundamentally, blaming games is politically expedient and has a veneer to populist acceptance (nothing is my fault, I am a victim) that focuses of ever more repressive laws as so-called "solutions". Following the recent deaths of Lane, and Belton; the Fox News pundits finally got one right.

    They have blamed the increased violence on a breakdown in the family with a growing subculture of thuggery. The Fox News pundits, much to their credit, did dismiss violent video games as a cause of increased violence.

    Unfortunately, neither the media nor the politicians will want to or be able sell the decline in American culture as being the cause of increased violence. It would run counter to faux growing need of legislation to protect us from so-called harm and there would not enough votes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    jdub (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 12:15pm

    Give a kid a toy gun in one hand, and a real one in the other, and they'll play with either of them the same way. Even if they've never played a video game, or watched a violent movie, or TV show.

    Any one who has kids know that they are curious creatures, and like to push buttons, flip switches, and pull triggers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 12:22pm

    What I want to know is why is GTA the problem? and not the fact this kid was able to have access to a gun? Again if this about about "protection" get pepper spray and not something that will kill you.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 3:16pm

    "He thought it was a toy gun, a play gun". Oh, THAT'S why it was so much heavier than a plastic one.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2013 @ 1:47am

    Re: Re:

    The pregnancy 'illness' was the funniest, pregnancy epidemics always made me laugh!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    nasch (profile), Aug 29th, 2013 @ 6:17am

    Re:

    Why is an 8 year old playing GTA?

    I talked to a 2nd grader about playing I think Call of Duty, and asked him if his parents let him play it, and he said yes because he knows it's not real. These are parents I believe to be fairly reasonable and invested enough in their kids' futures to send them to private school. That's not enough reason for me to let my kids play violent video games, but apparently that idea is out there.

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous, Aug 29th, 2013 @ 3:44pm

    Re: Re: Elephant in the room

    Children are also given the message that people in uniform who shoot other human beings are heroes.

     

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  38.  
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    Gil, Sep 17th, 2013 @ 3:31pm

    Media doesn't know jack

    Media doesn't seem to understand that usually it's not the content of the video game, it's the person playing it and for how long. A person playing GTA for an hour a day will actually end up being less violent/aggressive than one who doesn't play it at all, or plays it too much. Look up the research people.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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