Trump Says 'Gruesome And Grisly Video Games' Are To Blame For Mass Violence, But The Reality Is More Complicated

Blaming video games for violence isn’t new, nor is it supported by research.

In the wake of two mass shootings, U.S. President Donald Trump addressed the nation to say that “gruesome and grisly video games,” among other things, were to blame for the tragedies.

This is not the first time Trump has made this connection, nor is he the only one to do so. Other U.S. politicians and gun-rights activists have made similar comments connecting video games and real-life violence, going as far back as the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School.

But a fair amount of research shows that video games affect our brains in complex ways. Here are the most important takeaways.

Many kids and adults play video games – they’re not just of interest to young white men

Many of the high-profile shootings in recent news have been perpetrated by young men. But members of plenty of other demographics play video games, and don’t end up committing mass violence.

According to the most recent data from the American Entertainment Software Association: 65 per cent of American adults play video games, and 75 per cent of households have at least one gamer. The average gamer is 33 years old. Of people who play video games in the U.S., 46 per cent are female (up from 41 per cent in 2017).

Some studies link playing violent games to slight increases in aggression, but that’s not the same as violence

One review of research by the American Psychological Association found that people who played violent video games were very slightly more likely to engage in aggressive behaviours, like playing a loud sound that people they were competing against could hear over an audio system.

However, APA said playing games was not enough to cause aggression. In addition, video games were found in some research to be more likely to cause aggression in people who were predisposed to hostility and less considerate of others.

Other studies have found no link between game violence and violent or aggressive thoughts. Some researchers, like APA member Chris Ferguson, have even disputed findings connecting games to aggression, saying many of the studies that drew such conclusions had methodological problems.

Either way, aggressive behaviour is not the same as violence, and there’s no research linking video games to homicide.

According to a 2015 APA resolution on video games, “all violence, including lethal violence, is aggression, but not all aggression is violence … insufficient research has examined whether violent video game use causes lethal violence.”

Many of the people involved in mass shooting incidents seem to be less interested in violent video games than their peers

Psychology professors Patrick Markey and Christopher Ferguson found that about 20 per cent of school shooters played violent video games, compared to close to 70 per cent of their nonviolent peers.

A 2004 report on school shooters by the U.S. Secret Service and Department of Education found that only 12 per cent of school shooters displayed an interest in violent video games.

In the time period that violent video games have become popular, youth violence has declined

It’s easy to find video games that depict blood, gore, and violence. Yet studies show that youth violence has consistently declined as these games have become available.

One study out of Boston University found that youth violence rates dropped 29 per cent in the U.S. between 2002 and 2014. Youth violence rates spiked from 1980 to 1994, according to the Urban Institute. But those rates started to plummet in the 1990s, dropping 34 per cent between 1994 and 2000.

This is just a correlation – it does not mean that games cause violence rates to drop. But it also doesn’t support the idea that violent games are “creating monsters,” as Trump put it in 2012.

Video games can’t explain the US’s outlier status in terms of gun violence

Various political figures have blamed school shootings on kids playing violent video games. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin said guns were not a problem but that games desensitised players to the value of human life. NRA President Wayne LaPierre said after the Sandy Hook shooting that “Guns don’t kill people. Video games, the media, and Obama’s budget kill people.”

But a comparison of the 10 largest video game markets in the world shows that there are far more gun murders in the US than in other countries that spend a lot of money on video games. That’s even true in countries that spend more on games per capita than the U.S. does, including Germany, Australia, the UK, Canada, France, Japan, and South Korea.

If video games were responsible for violence, there should be more violence in those countries.

Games like ‘Fortnite’ are incredibly popular, but there’s no evidence to connect them with real-life violence.

Playing games can help people relax

People play video games to relax, and research finds games can indeed help with that. Studies have shown that puzzle video games can decrease stress and improve mood. Some of the most popular video games don’t involve shooting at all, but focus on solving puzzles or world-building, like the indie hit Stardew Valley in which players cultivate a farm, take care of animals and befriend their neighbours.

According to research from the American Psychological Association, games can elicit a range of emotions, positive and negative – including satisfaction, relaxation, frustration, and anger. Experiencing these emotions in a gaming context may help people regulate emotions, learn to cope with situations, and challenge themselves, the APA said.

Other studies have shown that kids who play moderate amounts of games (less than an hour per day) have fewer emotional issues and are more likely to help others than kids who don’t play games.

A new generation of games are actively taking on mental health issues, representing topics like depression, anxiety and even PTSD in a way that can help people feel less alone.

Researchers have used video game technologies like virtual reality to help people recover from PTSD, get over phobias, and learn to manage drug addiction

Virtual-reality environments provide safe but real-feeling scenarios in which people can face fears and difficult situations with the support of a therapist. New technology is making these sorts of interventions much more accessible than they used to be.

VR has been used to provide exposure therapy for people with PTSD or phobias, as well as to provide scenarios that help heroin addicts deal with triggering moments.

Researchers have also used VR as an alternative to painkillers, since entering a “new reality” allows someone’s brain to forget the pain they’re dealing with during surgery.

Game enthusiasts test new virtual reality gear at a conference. (Image: Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

The psychological effects of video games might vary depending on how much you play

One study of 10- to 15-year-old children found that kids who played less than an hour of video games per day were more satisfied than kids who didn’t play games or kids who played one to three hours per day.

The groups of kids that didn’t play or played between one and three hours daily seemed to have the same level life satisfaction. Kids who played more than three hours a day were less satisfied than any of the other groups.

From what we know, there are ways that video games can help people relax, challenge themselves, and even push their cognitive abilities. At the same time, it’s quite possible that excessive time spent playing games – as with any hobby – may be unhealthy or a sign that someone is struggling.

But in general, video games seem to be just another form of entertainment.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider, and features additional reporting by former Business Insider correspondent Kevin Loria.


    The fact that people keep writing counter articles to this idea of video game violence is insane. It's not a legitimate debate - there are many clear causes to the US gun problem and the major one is gun control

    I'm not expert but , probably the "President of the United States" telling unhinged people that America is being "invaded" by undesirable individuals, might be the cause of more recent violence.

      Naw it can't possibly be that, world leaders screeching about shit has never lead to anything bad.

      Gotta be them vidya gamez.

      His comments are almost certainly not helping. But I think it is going to take more than just Trump moderating his language to put a noticeable dent in the US's mass shooting epidemic. Maybe it is the guns that are the problem.

    and just like that trump has attacked most of his base without realising it. its known fact that much of trumps base came from gamergate due to Steve Bannon and Milo

      Citation needed - because I’ve also seen boomers, bible belters, and unemployed/underemployed manufacturing industry workers blamed for the rise of Trump.

      Trump won because he pandered to groups who felt HRC was dismissing, and let the electoral college do the work. It didn’t help that HRC supporters were also calling lots of people racist or misogynist if they didn’t support her - a lesson they still haven’t learned.

        Trump won because the DMC were so goddamn incompetent, that they only cared what they wanted and not what the people voting wanted. I'm still mad.
        If they don't get their shit together by next year we might still have another 4 years of madness and an utterly divided America.

          I'm worried that the DNC are going to repeat one of their mistakes from the previous election by having a female running and then going with the whole schtick of "If you don't vote for a female president you are sexist, All women must vote for us because she is a woman"

          It failed miserably with Hilary, It won't work again.

      Yeah no.

      I would class myself as on the other side.

      But don't like Bannon or Milo. Nor would i ever vote for Trump.

      Don't lump people into sides based on your prejudices.

        didnt say everyone who was part of gamergate, i said just said his base came from gamergate. remember there were at least 3 groups to gamergate, the incels and trolls who hid in the pro-gamergate side, the fucksticks like phil fish and trolls who hid in the anti gamegate side and the rest who actually did have legitmate issues with the lack of disclosure in games media.

      'The Great Hack' on Netflix is an interesting watch to see how they effectively targeted voters that were likely on the fence due to analytics on their personal data. They pretty much launched a smear campaign against the opposition towards this demographic, which probably spreads itself across many socioeconomic groups.

        This... exactly this. It is also the reason we have Brexit, Boris Johnson and the despicable Scott Morrison government here. Im afraid it could be the no more left leaning governments ever again. Targeted algorithms that focus intensely on the lazy disinterested voter in the last few weeks of the election. It will just become those with the biggest warchest to spend on political algorithms who will will from now on and we all know which side has the most money. For example the Liberals had a combined political spending with the help of the banks, the minerals council and clive palmer of over 300 million dollars. Labor had 80 million end of story.... did someone say Cambridge Analytica

    And yet, every other country in the world has access to these exact same games and yet don't have mass shootings like America does.'s something else? Like...oh, I don't know...having too easy access to guns? Nah, that can't be it.

      Gotta be something else, too, given that other nations with gun ownership rates that rival the US are largely mass-shooting-free.

      I figure it's like alcohol. Not everyone can handle it. Some people are chronic alcoholics who can't behave responsibly when drunk, or drink in moderation. America is like that, as a nation. The nation is addicted to their guns but can't handle them responsibly.

        Yep, just comes down to their regulation of guns. They hand them out like lollies, you want one? Alright, here's and handful of guns, go have fun.

        The other nations that have high rates of gun ownership like Canada and I think Sweden? also have stronger regulations in place to help prevent unstable people from owning guns.

          You know what else they have? Extensive public healthcare systems with integrated mental health support networks and treatment options.

    And ot has absolutely nothing to do with the NRA fully funding anti-video game lobby groups and "tv experts" for the last decade.

    A retard says something retarded. Not surprising. I'd like to see him answer the question of why violent video games apparently only affect americans in that way.

    When this came up a while back, I was stumbling about looking for some info and found some interesting things. Fun fact: there are more guns in Australia today than there was at the time of the Port Arthur shootings. I found that interesting, so was digging around a little.

    And found that in the 18 years before Port Arthur, Australia had 16 events you'd call mass shootings. We werent too good in the area ourselves (and not squeaky clean now like people think), PA was just the catalyst for change given how brutal it was. 1987 was a bad year for example.

    In the time since Port Arthur, there was two - the Hunt family killings in 2014, and one in WA last year. Now 3 after Darwin in June. Two of those (Hunt family and Darwin) were just into the classification range as well with 4 deaths, not 10, 20, 30 plus like the US.

    That doesnt mean its reduced to nil, but 0.1 a year is a hell of a lot better than 0.9, and a completely different debate to 1 a day like the US. Gun control works. Maybe its time to review it again though, the number of events seems to be climbing again. Perhaps its gotten too easy to get a gun again.

    Simple source, wikipedia. lists all multiple death situations here, so need to look a little closer to compare to US. Base for mass shooting is 4 shooting deaths not including the shooter.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now