Written by Yunah Elsner
With the increase of popularity in violent video games and the rise of mass shootings throughout the United States in the last decade, many could suspect a correlation between the two. Debates on whether or not violent video games cause violence has become a large societal and political issue. In 2011, the state of California tried to ban violent video games, and last August after the shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas, President Trump gave a speech, encouraging people to stand against violent video games as they are the cause of mass violence and are the “glorification and celebration of violence.” Due to claims of video games causing violence, gaming industries were put under fire and fought back.
“For video game fans, many of whom have endured a lifetime of defending a hobby that is seen, at best, as a harmless waste of time or, at worst, unsightly onanism enjoyed by the socially bereft, it was the inevitable buckshot of political blamer,” wrote Time Magazine.
Executive Director of the International Game Developers Association, Renee Gittens, commented on Trump’s speech on violent video games saying, “Blaming video games distracts from the broader issues at hand.”
As Christians, is it okay to be playing violent video games? Should Christians be supporting and encouraging these games? This question has been researched and debated on for over fifty years, yet we have no definitive answer. So, what is the answer and why has it not been found yet?
Games Are to Blame
“Playing violent video games is to an adolescent’s violent behavior what smoking tobacco is to lung cancer,” said Senator Hilary Clinton in 2005. Senator Joseph Lieberman referred to violent video games as “digital poison.”
As different studies and experiments were conducted throughout the years, those claims have turned into a national debate. A seven year study published in 2018 of 17,000 adolescents, ages nine to 19, found that the playing of violent video games led to more physical aggression over time. Even with a study like this, it is difficult to say that video games cause violence. Stephanie Chan, a sociology professor at Biola University, briefly studied the correlation between video games and violence .
“There are studies that argue that violent video games contribute to more aggressive behavior, but researchers have a hard time saying it is more than a contributing factor, because there are multiple factors,” said Chan. “It is also unclear which way the arrow goes. Are video games causing children to be more aggressive, or are violent children attracted to those kinds of games?”
Ian Godlesky, a sophomore journalism major at Biola University, plays games of different genres from Rocket League to Call of Duty.
“I don’t think video games directly cause violence,” Godlesky said. “When it comes to violence and people try to tie it into video games, I think it comes from someone else’s background prior to playing the video games.”
A report published in 2016 conducted a cross-sectional experiment that found a correlation between violent video games and aggressive behavior in children. The study looked at a group of children, 49% male and 51% female, and also looked at other contributing factors, such as ethnic background, parental enforcement, parental attachment and other variables. Researchers found that children who played violent video games were more likely to act violently. However, the study also showed that contributing factors added to this aggressive behavior. A correlation between these variables and attraction to violent video games were found as a result. Researchers who conducted this study concluded that social and family variables had more of an influence on a child’s aggressive behavior than a violent video game did.
Christians and Violent Video Games
Is it bad for Christians to play violent video games? There is no ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to this question. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” We are called to guard our hearts as well as our thoughts.
“I think the fact that we are Christians doesn’t have a whole lot to do with it, because for the most part, video games are neutral,” said sophomore business major and vice president of Biola University’s eSports club Mark Gieser. “In terms of how we use them, that’s the part that matters.”
Just like technology, a person cannot say all technology is good or bad. In the end, it is up to an individual whether playing a violent video game will affect you positively or negatively.