What’s in a number? As it turns out, quite a lot. With the storm surrounding Donald Trump’s meeting with video game execs still swirling, discourse about violent video games and the effect they have on troubled individuals, particularly mass shooters, continues to rage. One academic, Patrick Markey, Professor of Psychology at Villanova University, has conducted research which disputes that train of thought.
Fresh from a White House video that collates various violent video games (one that includes the conspicuous absence of a certain US Army-certified game), Markey believes that 80 percent of mass shooters did not show any interest in violent video games.
“It seems like something that should make us safer so it’s a totally understandable reaction,” explains Markey (via CBS News) “The problem is just the science, the data, does not back up that they actually have an effect.”
Data? Science? Surely, these things can’t disprove inflammatory opinions? The President of the United States and his need to fuel a moral panic as a scapegoat for the epidemic of mass shootings in America (eight school shootings in the first 7 weeks of 2018 tells its own story) has extended to an ill-advised meeting between POTUS and a sprinkling of hand-picked candidates to ensure the conversation doesn’t move beyond whooping and hollering about how little Timmy might be influenced by the next Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty.
But now there are cold, hard statistics. Four-out-of-five instigators of mass shootings do not show any interest in violent video games. Even a basic understanding of data would help draw the conclusion that the remaining 20% are anomalous, or involve other external factors. Cases are never as clear-cut as either side wants them to be but, in this instance, violent video games are not (and probably never have been) the leading catalyst for mass shooters.