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.

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Comments on “Once Again, Media Jumps On Violent Video Games Before Knowing The Facts”

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Wally (profile) says:


“”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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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!

Greg (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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!

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Mark says:

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?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: 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.

theOtherDude says:

Capitalist News

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


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!

Trevor (profile) says:


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.


Steve R. (profile) says:

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.

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