Why Donald Trump and American politicians blame video games for US shootings

Republican Party politicians have continued to try to draw a link between video games and the mass shootings in El Paso and Ohio.

Claiming that video game violence inspires real world atrocities is a story almost as old as gaming itself, brought to a head by the original Mortal Kombat in 1992 but dating back even further than that.

The controversy over Mortal Kombat and, a year later, the original Doom led to the setting up of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) to provide age ratings in America.

This had a knock-on effect on the whole world though as US retail stores refused to stock any game rated Adults Only and console makers (i.e. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) still do not allow them to appear on their formats.

The restrictions for the Adults Only rating are primarily based around sexual content rather than violence, which is why video games today have so few sexual references in general.

That’s despite there being no clear scientific data proving a link between the two – although that’s as much due to the fact that the few studies that there have been are extremely limited and insufficient for proving anything either way.

None of that though has stopped Donald Trump and other Republican Party politicians from trying to blame the recent spate of mass shootings on video games.

31 people were killed and 51 injured in two separate incidents over the weekend, just a week after three people were killed and 12 injured at a food festival in California.

Rather than lax gun laws Trump blamed, amongst other things, video games for inspiring the gunmen.

‘We must stop the glorification of violence in our society,’ said Trump on Monday. ‘This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this, and it has to begin immediately.’

It’s not the first time Trump has tried to blame video games for mass shootings, which led to him calling a meeting with industry executives in March and the White House creating the video above showcasing in-game violence.

At that meeting there was apparently little real talk of new government restrictions, which would face First Amendment objections, but this time a number of other Republican politicians have joined Trump in criticising video games, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.

Patrick seemed to acknowledge that there is no scientific consensus on the possible adverse effects of video game violence but then blamed them anyway. ‘We’ve always had guns, always had evil, but I see a video game industry that teaches young people to kill,’ he said on Fox News.

Although most of the mass shootings (the USA has had 249 so far this year, and we’re only on day 218 so far) have had no obvious connection to video games at all the alleged manifesto of the El Paso shooter does make a brief reference to Call Of Duty.

However, it’s used as an example of what not to do by the gunman, with most of the text being a polemic against immigrants.

The ominous rise in rhetoric amongst Republican politicians has led to the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) and International Game Developers Association Foundation (IGDF) issuing a statement in which they insist that, ‘There is an overwhelming amount of research that finds there is no evidence linking video games to violence. Video games do not cause violence, and we support efforts to discontinue this misguided information’.

It was left to former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime to point out the obvious though, that it’s not video games that enable mass shootings but the easy access to firearms in the U.S. – since the same games are available everywhere in the world and only the U.S. has such a problem with mass shootings.

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