Gun Control Debate: Polls Show Americans Have Made Up Their Minds About Video Games

Gun Control Debate: Polls Show Americans Have Made Up Their Minds About Video Games

It has been nine months since Vice President Biden's gun violence task force met with video game makers to investigate any causal relationship between violent video games and gun violence. All we've heard on the subject since then is a brief mention on a recommendation to Congress that Congress "should fund scientific research on the relationship between popular culture and gun violence" in order to "address our culture’s glorification of violence."

New polling since that time has shown that the lack of any definitive action since that time has been exactly what Americans at large want. The opinion that legislative action should be taken to address video game violence, my thoughts on which can be seen here, has proven to be increasingly unpopular.

Research by Dr. Andrew Przybylski of Oxford University and YouGov.com polled Americans on their opinions on three statements: games are a contributing cause in mass shootings; games can be a useful outlet for frustrations and aggression; and new legislation is needed to restrict the availability of games.

While the public is almost as divided on whether games are a contributing factor as the scientific community is, the other two sets of responses were heavily skewed to favor gaming. Nearly three quarters of respondents think that games can be useful to vent frustrations and that legislation restricting games is unnecessary.

More importantly, the data indicated some interesting demographic and political trends.The younger a person was, the more likely a person was to support gaming, through the difference between 18-24 year olds and 25-39 year olds is minimal. Second, despite the fact that nearly half of gamers are female, the stereotype that men are more supportive of the gaming hobby held true on this survey. And, unsurprisingly due to the age differences, conservatives tend to be more anti-gaming. An important caveat, however, is that over 60% of every part of the political spectrum opposed legislation restricting games.

Most telling of results was that anyone who has actually seen or played a violent video game strongly disagrees with any implication that gaming is harmful.

As with most newly mainstream entertainment, it is mostly those who have never even seen a violent video game who think it is to blame for the evil in the world. Like with rock music and movies before it, experience with gaming comes along with the knowledge that it doesn't turn kids into psychopathic killers.

This may just be incentives at work: Gamers don't want restrictions on gaming. But that doesn't entirely explain how stark the difference is in opinion between the initiated and the uninitiated.

The catharsis argument for gaming is mostly debunked. The release of aggression tends to act as a reward system encouraging aggression rather than "venting." Still, the stats alone do not support the idea that violent video games encourage aggressive behavior the same way hitting a pillow does, at least not enough to cause someone to go kill people. The five largest video game markets in the world are the U.S., Japan, China, South Korea, and the UK. The U.S. has 10.2 firearms deaths per 100,000 people per year, Japan has 0.07, China has 0.19, South Korea has 0.13, and the UK. has 0.25. Here's how well that correlates:

Clearly, the issue is with America, not with video games. For the best argument I have ever seen that America has got a gun problem, I refer to this article on comedy site Cracked.com.

While opinion polls aren't always factually correct, and don't fulfill the burden of proof needed for science, they do indicate the direction a culture is going. They can even, indirectly, indicate the direction of public policy. And, if this data is to be trusted, our culture is going to be getting more and more gaming-friendly as we get further into the 21st century.