In an editorial for MCV, Professor Mark Griffiths, the director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, responds to a story that ran in UK paper The Mirror that put the blame on the Washington Navy Yard Shooting squarely on the Aaron Alexis' fascination with Call of Duty.
Griffiths begins by saying that there's a growing body of research that there's a link between playing of violent video games and real-world violence, but he says that most of this research is "cross-sectional," - meaning it only examines players at one particular moment in time. Because this methodology is being used, Griffiths says that this research really doesn't actually show a definite causal link.
He also notes that these studies are carried out in non-ecologically valid settings (a laboratory setting) and that all the methods to measure aggression are "proxy measures" that are not related to actual violent actions on the part of participants. He notes that it would be unethical to induce actual violent acts in a test subject for research purposes.
"The published survey studies – including my own – are mostly of a correlational nature and none of these demonstrate causality (only that, at best, there may be an associative link)," he notes in his editorial. "One of the major problems with all of the research is that studies typically fail to take into account all the other types of violence that individuals are exposed to day-to-day: the violence they see on the news, the violence they see in films and television, and the violence seen in their own lives and local community."
Griffiths also says that these studies never take into account all the different types of violence that a subject might be exposed to on a regular basis such as violence shown on the news, in films and television, and in their day-to-day lives in their homes and in their local communities.. Another problem Griffiths points out is that many academic journals only publish studies that show statistically significant findings. In other words, they are less likely to publish a study that does not show some kind of causal link.
Griffiths goes on to say that people like Alexis are "pre-disposed towards violence to start with and there was probably something inherently wrong with him in the first place (particularly as some reports claim that he often heard hallucinatory voices suggesting some kind of psychosis). "
After talking a bit about the mental state of the Washington Navy Yard shooter, Griffiths says that scapegoating violent video games alone doesn't really work:
"It’s not about putting the blame on the game. At best, playing violent video games is at best a contributory factor to violence. But it shouldn’t be a scapegoat because all individuals have to take responsibility for their actions."
You can read the entire editorial here.
Source: editorial for MCV