An advertisment for the game Call of Duty Black Ops 2 is displayed at an electronics store Jan. 11 in New York City. Following the shootings of children at a elementary school last month in Connecticut, numerous politicians and activists have begun to focus on violence in video games and films.
“Not a meme. Not a screenshot. Actual news.”
That was Internet giant Reddit’s shocked reaction earlier this month to reports that Vice President Joe Biden was meeting with video game experts to address an issue quickly moving up on the country’s priority list: gun violence.
Spurred by tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Biden offered to meet with everyone from the National Rifle Association (NRA) to Wal-Mart as part of work on a task force commissioned by President Obama.
But some were confused — or angry — that the vice president wanted to further examine video games.
“I can’t believe he is actually wasting his f****** time on this, its [sic] pathetic,” Reddit user osmun wrote. “VP must truly be a useless office.”
Cheryl Olson, a Harvard University researcher who wrote Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth about Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do, was one of five experts to meet with Biden last Friday. Olson told USA TODAY College that the vice president wanted to hear more about children’s gaming habits, which she said likely has no link to gun violence.
“He made it clear up front that in the research he’d seen, there was no link between violent video games and shootings,” Olson said. “But the public thinks there is.”
National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre said during the organization’s first statement after the Sandy Hook massacre that he was concerned about violent media, specifically referencing a little-known online game called Kindergarten Killer.
Then, while reporting on Biden’s task force Wednesday, Obama called for more investigation into effects of gaming on today’s youth.
“Congress should fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds,” the president said. “We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.”
But Olson’s not convinced. She says that for college-aged males, video games — even violent ones — are completely normal. Gaming, she maintains, can even help those with weaker social skills develop healthy friendships.
“There were only a small number of boys who didn’t play video games at all,” Olson said of the children she studied, “and those were the ones that did tend to get into fights and engage in violent actions.”
Craig Cainkar, a member of the Purdue University Gamers’ Group (PUGG), said it would be hard to find someone at Purdue who hadn’t played games like Pokemon, Super Smash Bros. and even first-person-shooter Call of Duty.
“It’s extremely common,” Cainkar said. “Obviously I’ve self-selected my friend circles, so there’s a little bit of sample bias there, but I would be comfortable saying it would be harder to find someone who hadn’t played those games than someone who had.”
The advertising and professional writing junior said gamers on college campuses aren’t particularly concerned with political attacks against their favorite pastime. That’s because for students like Cainkar, gaming is just part of being a 21-year-old male.
“Basically they’ve been part of my life since as long as I could remember,” he said of video games. “It wasn’t even a choice. It’s like reading a book or watching TV.”
So does Cainkar think gaming should have anything to do with gun control?
“It’s a ridiculous question,” he said.
“If video games had that strong of an effect, then I would be a city planner for playing Sim City,” he joked. “The nicest, most passionate people I know are all gamers. Not a single friend of mine who I would call a gamer is even remotely aggressive.”
Powered by Facebook Comments