Following recent mass shootings, a familiar, transparent form of finger-pointing has begun, directed at video game makers

People who blame mass shootings on video games are fairly transparent in several ways, but what their position reveals in light of the history of mass shootings is that they clearly know nothing about video games.

Relegating video games to digital shooting ranges doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what the field is capable of, and has been offering for decades. In just the last ten years, some of the best-selling games allow you to delve into all manner of criminal depravity. In one game alone – Grand Theft Auto V (2013) – you can torture a character utilizing a prize-wheel of methods, target police officers, plant bombs, bury someone alive in cement, steal a nuclear weapon, open a cannibal restaurant, randomly assassinate citizens and pretty much commit all of the crimes that we associate with terrorist behavior.

Most violent games deliver all of this and more with the highest level of technology mankind has been able to create, with graphics rivaling cinema and, given the apparent measure of some people’s imaginations, reality. Also, consider that most of the games I’ve referenced have sold millions of copies. GTAV has sold 110 million copies worldwide.

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So why aren’t video games the culprit of choice regarding devastating crimes in other countries? Based on the ubiquity of violent games, there should be more global mass shootings than what we’ve seen. If the causality between video games and violence reflected how video games or people actually worked, there wouldn’t be any of either left.

The issue isn’t whether or not video games are violent. They are a rated entertainment similar to movies, and some of that entertainment is mature. The issue is that people are preternaturally violent and we regularly generate opportunities to play out violent impulses. Sometimes that’s in a video game. Sometimes that’s in language or art. And sometimes – rarely – you acquire a gun and, for any host of reasons, shoot into a crowd of people. But that reason has never proven to be a video game. Video games are violent because people are violent, not the other way around.

This all presumes that you are engaging someone who is actually trying to make a case for video games as deadly muse and not simply trying to argue down random liberals on the internet or clutching their assault rifle in white-knuckled terror. Chances are, you’re not. You’re likely dealing with someone who, in the face of a horrific but preventable series of crimes, sees their political complicity. They know their president is a white supremacist. They like that about him. They like that he doesn’t know what he’s doing from moment to moment. They perceive all of his missteps as chipping away at the establishment, which is way more important than truth or self-reflection or accountability, despite the fact that such behavior has influenced more recent tragedies than any video game.