On School Shooters – The Huffington Post Doesn’t Want You To Read This

After the Huffington Post signed me on as a blogger and allowed me to write op-ed pieces on any topic, for two years, ranging from books to sports to reviews to pop culture, something changed in our relationship. It was sudden.
I wrote this piece for Huff Po in late December, 2012.  For some reason, the editors wouldn’t print it. Like every other article I’d written, I submitted the piece on their backstage for signed bloggers, but nothing happened. It didn’t go up on their site. I waited, and it didn’t happen.
A few days went by. Then a week. I contacted the editors, and they didn’t respond.  Then I contacted again, and they let me know that they wouldn’t publish the piece.
I asked why.
No response.
I emailed again.
No response again.
And now they won’t let me write anything at all. I’m off the blogroll.
So I must have touched a nerve. And that made me ask, who’s paying salaries here?
Why is the Huffington Post’s Tech section so popular?
Who is advertising?
Who is vetting content?
What follows is an op-ed article on a piece of the school shooter puzzle. I don’t pretend that this covers everything, but here is a key component from my point of view. And as a current high school teacher and a former troubled teen, I have a strong opinion on the topic.
This is what the Huffington Post doesn’t want its readers to see.
My junior year in high school, I was caught with a loaded, stolen handgun on school property at my school in East Tennessee.  Since the owner of the pistol didn’t want to press charges, I simply forfeited the handgun to the local sheriff’s deputy, then was promptly expelled from the school.  No arrest.  No counseling.  No follow-up.  I was never required to see a psychologist or explain my intentions.  This was 1994, long before the famous shootings at Thurston High School, Columbine, Red Lake, Aurora, Clackamas, and Newtown.
Although I had some loner tendencies, I was also what psychologist call a “failed joiner.”  I tried to fit in at each school I attended.  I tried to be cool, but I usually failed.  I was gun obsessed.  I considered killing myself, but more often I thought about killing others.
I carried a loaded pistol my junior year in high school. I stuffed it in my belt, ready for use.
The next year, I carried a sawed-off shotgun in my backpack.  I liked guns and I had access to them.  But I also carried a sheath-knife.  I was obsessed with weapons of all kind. For a while, I carried a framing hammer.
Thankfully, I never shot or stabbed or bludgeoned anyone.  Although I got in many, many fights, and although I thought about seriously hurting people with the weapons that I carried, I never did. And eventually, with the support of some incredible adults in my life, plus some maturing experiences, I moved past my tendencies toward violence, matured, got back into school, and grew up.  After three high school expulsions, I have now – ironically – become a high school teacher.
As a teacher, I’ve spent a lot of time this past week [December 27, 2012] thinking about the Newtown shooting, school shootings in general, their causes and possible preventions.
It’s scary now to think that I ever had anything in common with school shooters.  I don’t enjoy admitting that.  But I did have a lot in common with them. I was angry, had access to guns, felt ostracized, and didn’t make friends easily. I engaged in violence and wrote about killing people in my notes to peers.
But there is one significant difference between me at 16 and 17 years of age and most high school shooters: I didn’t play violent video games.
As a child, my mother taught me that all video games were “evil.”  That’s the word she used.  And although that word might be a little extreme, I grew up thinking that there was something very, very wrong with pretending on a video screen.  My mother  also called playing video games “wasting your life” and “dumbing yourself down.”  I thought my mother was ridiculous, but her opinions stuck with me anyway.
Thus, when it came to high school, when I was a social failure and very, very angry, I had no practice with on-screen violence.  “Call of Duty” didn’t exist yet, but even if it had, I wouldn’t have played it.  I wouldn’t have practiced putting on body armor and I wouldn’t have shot thousands of people with an AR rifle. I have likewise never practiced “double-tapping” people. I have never walked into a room and killed everyone inside. My students tell me that it’s possible to “pistol whip a prostitute” in Grand Theft Auto, but I haven’t done it.
But Jeff Weise did.  He played thousands of first-person shooter hours before he shot and killed nine people at and near his Red Lake, Minn., school, before killing himself.
And according to neighbors and friends, Clackamas shooter Jacob Tyler Roberts played a lot of video games before he armed himself with a semi-automatic AR-15 and went on a rampage at the Clackamas Town Center in Portland, Oregon last week.
Also, by now, it is common knowledge that Adam Lanza, who murdered 20 children and six women in video-game style, spent many, many hours playing “Call of Duty.”  In essence, Lanza – and all of these shooters – practiced on-screen to prepare for shooting in real-life.
Now I am not anti-video game crusader Jack Thompson.  I’m not suggesting that everyone who plays a video game will act out that video game in reality.  But I am saying that it is very dangerous to allow troubled, angry, teenage boys access to killing practice, even if that access is only virtual killing practice.  The military uses video games to train soldiers to kill, yet we don’t consider “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” training for addicted teenage players? A high school boy who plays that game 30 hours per week isn’t training to kill somebody?
I am not surprised that school shooters love violent video games.  As an angry, troubled teen, I would’ve probably loved to shoot hundreds of people on-screen. That might’ve felt nice.
But now, as a teacher, I worry about my most troubled male students playing games like “Halo 4” and “Assassin’s Creed 3,” bragging about violent actions that they’ve never done in the real world.  A scrawny, angry boy’s who’s failing socially is a scary video game addict.
I was walking behind two teenage boys in the hall at my high school the other day and I heard one talking about slitting someone’s throat.  He said, “I just came up behind him, pulled out my knife so quietly and cut his throat.”
The other boy said, “Yeah, then I killed everyone else in less than, like, 10 seconds. Just slaughtered them.”
I looked at these two boys: Tall and awkward.  Unathletic. I knew that they weren’t tied-in socially, that they both struggled in classes and with peers.  Yet they were capable of incredible and sudden violence on screen.  Together, they could slit throats and shoot everyone.  I asked one of them later, and he said that he played Call of Duty “an average of 40 hours per week, at least.”
Is this what we want angry, adolescent boys to do?  Do we want to give them this practice?  Do we want them to glorify violent actions, to brag about violence in the school’s hallways?  Or even worse, given the perfect equation of frustration + opportunity + practice, do we want them to do as Weise, Roberts, and Lanza did, and act out these fantasies in real life? Do we want them to yell, “I am the shooter” as they enter a crowded mall – as Roberts did? Or dress like video-game shooters – as Lanza and Roberts were – before heading into a murder spree?
Especially with teenage boys, we have to decide what we want them to do, what we want them to love, what we want them to emulate.  Even if they don’t end up shooting people in a school, if they’re practicing car-jackings, knifings, and putting on body-armor as first-person shooters, what are they preparing to do with the rest of their lives? Will these video-game practice sessions make them better husbands or fathers? Will these boys become patient and understanding friends? Better co-workers?
Please support the bill introduced Wednesday by U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, directing the National Academy of Sciences to examine whether violent games and programs lead children to act aggressively.  Please lobby with your local representatives as Rockefeller presses the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission to expand their studies.
But I have another idea beyond important political action. Something positive to think about:
Get kids outside. Take them out and let them wander around in the woods. Let them canoe across a lake. Let them backpack  through a mountain range. Give them a map and compass assignment. Give frustrated youth an opportunity to challenge themselves in the natural world.
Have you ever heard of a school shooter who’s hobbies are kayaking, rock climbing, and fly-fishing? If that seems absurd – and it does seem absurd to me – we might be onto something.  I don’t think that those hobbies can create a school shooter. There’s just something abut the natural world that defuses anger.
I know this because the outdoors helped saved my life. An outdoor diversion program for troubled teens started the process when I was sixteen. Camping and hiking and climbing helped me mature further as a nineteen and twenty year old. And now, as the director of a high school outdoor program, one of my student leaders said recently that “the outdoor program saves lives.”
That’s not me. That’s nature. Kids need the outdoors.
Help the young people. Get them outside.

1,015 thoughts on “On School Shooters – The Huffington Post Doesn’t Want You To Read This

  1. Interesting take Pete. Given your back ground, I do see you as qualified to state an educated opinion on this important subject. I even remember you getting into my car for a trip to the grocery store (almost 20 years ago) with your backpack and the sawed off shotgun stuffed inside. I told you to take it back inside, and that we weren’t taking a gun to the grocery store. You response was, “You never know what might go down”. You then took the backpack and gun inside and we went to Safeway without incident.

    i used to look back on that interaction with some sense of pride that I didn’t allow you to bring the gun. But, now I look back on it differently. I’m actually very disappointed in how I handled that situation. I simply told you to take the gun inside. But, it never occurred to me that you would be a significant danger to others. I should have taken the gun, told your parents, told police, told somebody. But, just to let it go was irresponsible on my part. I was only 20, I wanted to be your friend and I wanted you to think I was “cool”. So, I didn’t do what an adult should have done. Obviously, we have a new lense with all the school shootings. But even without those events, adults should be alarmed when they see a troubled teen carrying a dangerous weapon.

    I do tend to disagree with your point about violent video games. I think you may be confusing correlation and causation. It may be true that these school shooters had this trait (of playing video games) in common. But, that is not the same as that trait “causing” the bad behavior. Of course, whether it’s causal or correlation is ultimately unknown. So, I would support the idea of research to see what the exact role is. And I definitely agree with your conclusion about getting kids outside more. No downside there.

    • Jay Man -Thanks for writing a thoughtful reply. First, you were 20. TWENTY. I can’t even count how many mistakes I made at 20. Yeah, you should’ve turned me in. But by the grace of God, nothing happened with that shotgun.
      On “causation,” you may be right and you may be wrong. I’m just thinking about it. Not sure. But I do know that all of those shooters have that trait in common, and that’s interesting.

      • I am not entirely sure one can have such thoughts of violence and,ever, completely, run them off. In my humble opinion, they still exist within you, as a part of your chemistry. Although i am certain this point will meet with disagreement, and perhaps seen as negative, i feel they have a very good chance of reccurring. If a life could be graphed, it might best be shaped like a bell, or an upsided wok, where there is a slow grade up to a peak and an equally slow grade down to the end. In my experience, all the things i felt, enjoyed, suffered in youth, returned to me in the ascent, as if took me backwards through time until i was rendered helpless as i was as a very young child.

      • That’s interesting. I don’t know if that’s true or not. They haven’t come back for me yet, but I’m only 36.

      • When i was in HS 1999 a friend was violently murdered. I went on a rampage of reading everything i could about violence and how people are programmed to kill. I remember reading how the government used video games to train soldiers to kill. I read many more book to back up the evidence of de-sensitize through games, tv and movies. It radically changed my life and what i chose to watch and participate in. I agree with you whole-heartily. It doesn’t not take a genius to realize the effects of these ‘games’ yet nothing has been done to stop it.

      • Terribly sad story. I’m sorry about your friend. Thank you for supporting this idea and asking that we at least look into it.

      • Although I realize there are many kids out there who log a lot of hours playing these games, there are also 5 times as many who… also play who do not have murderous tendencies. My grandson plays those games, he is 13. He also is a Boy Scout first class, and enjoys the outdoors. He and many of his gaming friends can walk away from the console and have conversations other than gaming. Please don;t label everyone who plays these games. The root of the problem is that kids feel they won’t be held accountable for their actions! No fear, no respect. I attended school in an non video age where boys wore their knives on their belt loops and could do so in school. no one died….. but if we got in trouble in school, we got it when we got home. That does not exist now. Put the responsibility where it belongs… on the government for taking our rights away! Then and only then can we get the kids back in line!

      • your story is great…I hear my little neighbor boy who is 6 tell my daughters that he is going to slit their throat…sneak up behind you and slit your throat is what he says…he kills any animal he can find and it a disturbing child…scares me I will not allow my children to play with him anymore…he plays death ops? and call of duty and some game about prison…all the time…we have reported his behavior but nothing happens…I have talked to his parents but they are anti social and the dad it scary….I worked in corrections as a corporal for 2 years and saw some scary stuff…we call kids like him inmate larva…with out intervention he will be another Lanza and it makes me sad…while I don’t think games make you do things I do believe that they can influence decisions…kids do not understand the repercussions for actions anymore because they live in a virtual world where there are none.

      • One major thing stands out to me in this piece–which I think is fabulous, by the way–and that is the impact your MOM had on you when, if allowed to, you probably WOULD have been one to get into violent video games.

        PARENTS have the authority and should have the foresight to set boundaries for their children that are healthy both mentally and physically, educationally and spiritually. On a parental level, we reap what we sow. Government shouldn’t need to get involved except that so many young parents are hooked on violent games themselves.

        Parents hold in their hands the keys to their children’s future.

        Joanne Calderwood

      • The ‘video games’ the government uses are nothing like the video games sold in stores. They are mostly rifle range simulations with really rudimentary graphics and use light rifles instead of a game pad (think duck hunt but much more accurate). They do a great job of showing how to correct your trigger pull, or control your breathing better, but they have nothing in common with Call of Duty. A parents first responsibility when it comes to video games its to insure their child understands that things that are acceptable on a game are not acceptable in real life.

      • I really don’t think it’s the video games, after all you were a high risk back in those days yourself and never played. You did hit on an interesting point though — kids need to go outdoors more. Video game escapism is a dangerous thing for a teen not fitting in, they need to go out and get some fresh air to create a happy life rather than killing time by playing hours of video games.

      • Aaron, if something isn’t acceptable in real life, why is it okay or acceptable in a video game? I believe that sends a huge mixed message to children.

      • You are an educated man and, I hope, have had a good grounding in statistics. There were over 27 *million* copies of the latest Call of Duty game sold. If only one percent of the players would be considered ‘addicts’ to the game, that’s still 270,000 players. You mention 4 school shooters in your article. 4. Out of 270,000. I’m sorry, but that number vanishes in any computational margin of error.

        You might as well say that Big Macs cause school violence. Is there a link? Possibly, but I think it’s in the other direction. Games don’t *cause* kids to be violent, but the mental issues, home life issues, social issues, and biological issues that do lead to violent tendencies also make the games more appealing. They are as much an outlet for aggression and violence as physically demanding sports or outdoor activities are.

        You are right in that more study needs to be done, but to limit it, or even focus on video games is both misleading and ultimately more harmful than doing nothing. Legislating (and hence pushing tax dollars) where research needs to go is creating a system that reinforces a prejudiced belief based on anecdotal evidence and pure emotion; not science.

        I suggest anyone, teachers and legislators especially, study Root Cause Analysis techniques and learn to apply them to cases like this. In any major catastrophe, be it a data center outage for millions of Netflix viewers or a kid shooting up a classroom, you have to eliminate all of the commonalities first. To get to the root cause, you have to find that one event or state, or series of events that led to the final break point.

      • I don’t believe a diet of video games is good for anyone. However it is not the external things that determine what a person does, but the internal. It is a decision of the heart. What we see young people and old doing is a result of deciding not to forgive those who have hurt us and choosing to allow anger and bitterness to grow in ones heart. it is a matter of helping them to be able to forgive. You are right that you needed counseling at that age. And I’m not saying that it would be alright for troubled teens to watch violent video games.It needs to start with parents recognizing their child’s need for help. Thank God someone saw your need and invested in you. We need to as a society to see the needs of our neighbors and help where we can.

      • I agree 100 percent with your right up . Violet videos and movies do not bring a calm to a troubled person, but a walk in Nature that God has created does. Thank-you for sharing. God Bless You.

      • It may not be causal: of course not everyone who plays violent video games will go on a school shooting spree. But when you have easy access to guns and games which train a child to shoot multple targets in rapid successsion without thinking about it, its a very dangerous mix. Semi automatic weapons and shooter games didn’t cause the kids to resent their life and peers, but it is certain the death toll would be lower without them.

      • I am so glad you have been so candid about your past and opinions. I really support your statements and fully agree with your assessment. Too bad the The Huff Po couldn’t find the intelligence to publish the truth. Don’t stop your education of the public. Find other venues, and use as many words as it takes to make these waves wash us awake..

      • I appreciate that you are both respectful of the other and would only like to add that I didn’t get from your original post that you believe the video games “cause” the violent behavior, but instead practice the violent behavior to the degree that it crosses from fantasy to reality. It seems that anything you engage in for ” at least 40 hours a week” as one young person claimed to have played the games, that you would become proficient at. I hope many read your post and act on the wise counsel you shared.

      • Don’t ever let anyone tell you are wrong when it comes to video games. You are not. They can destroy lives . If a kid has the right personality, the right exposure, and the right family and school life, those things can turn a kid into something very dangerous.

      • If u had turned him in then u probably would have ruined his life. Set him on a totally diff course if he had jail time with him. But nowadays to prevent something horrible like the school shootings do we sacrifice one for the many. Most likely, even if the one may never harm anyone.

      • I think the shooters have a lot more in common than video games…more like the rejection and isolation each of them felt. I would rather see our tax dollars be used in couseling or to bring back gym class, so kids can go and run around outside. How about pouring money into public parks, or facilities that attract teens to the outdoors. Personally, supporting a bill asking science to study the effects of video games seems misguided.

      • Not sure Jay Man “Turning you in” would have done anything to help the situation given that fact that you grew up! You are obviously a better person now that cares for our youth. So would telling the cops be the best thing in that given situation? I like the fact you told him to put the gun away, take it back in the house… as a peer I think that in itself was cause for the change! You didn’t say “yea take it nobody will mess with us”! Jay man didn’t like the idea and he wanted no part of it. By not going along with it I think you helped him realize that guns can be dangerous to play with… to take to the store, to school… and that is a good peer in my opinion! Instead of turning him into police giving him a record which could ruin any chances of becoming a Teacher, even before he grows up to become a Teacher!

      • I work in a setting with public computers. Kids mostly in the 9-14 age range…mostly male, race there after school to get a computer. For the most part, they play first person shooter games. They don’t need to purchased and can be downloaded and played for free. They will sit and play these for hours on end if they can. Just as you stated in your article, these are not kids who are involved in activities outside of school. They are often the outsiders of their age group, many with family issues and oftentimes ones with control and anger issues. I don’t have the authority to block or limit their use of these games. Their parent or legal guardian signs a permission form that says they are responsible for what their kids access. None of them ever check or watch to see what their children are doing. It’s just a free babysitting service to them. Thank you for shining light on this subject. I firmly believe this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. I will be contacting Senator Rockefeller’s office to add my support for his bill.

      • Causation, perhaps not. Desensitization, most definitely. As to why they would not publish this and deftly removed you from their professional lives is because someone became disturbed, then scared, then illogical. To them, you are now the young man carrying a shotgun in your backpack, not a role-model with a valuable and unique perspective.

      • No, actually almost all children, especially boys play these games-all of them. So, it’s not that shooters play them-but that ALL BOYS PLAY THEM.



      • I challenge you to post the link to such study and I can post links to studies that do show a correlation. It would require an academic unbiased peer review of the actual statistical validity of each study. Consider drug approvals. Scientific product testing and trials are required before a drug reaches market, then once released into the real world,only then do we learn of the side effects (look at all the drug law suits). GMO crops are similar, as we see an increase in Gluten allergies over the last 20 years, might that be related. Studies show both for and against that conclusion. My conclusion, humans suck at objectivity, and most statistical studies are flawed.
        IMHO the link of video games and real world violence is not causal but synergistic and only an issue in certain cases.
        That means we don’t try to ban violent games, we study the much more complex human elements.. It seems like in most if not all of the recent cases of mass violence, the person had a lack of empathy. How do we test for that without violating family privacy? Parents are often ill-equipped to diagnose their children.
        So perhaps this like so many things is part of life in the human experience and those trying to “save-us” and make life safer, are trying to “push the river” at best, or just posturing for control at worst.

      • Gigi, that is a dangerous lie you are helping to spread. Those who create the games know that they are addictive; that alone is not healthy. It is that addiction that makes the creators of those games rich. What you put into your mind affects what you say and do. That is why commercials are so effective. What you daily ingest affects who you are and what you believe. Hitler knew this fact all too well and used such knowledge in his propaganda against the Jews, especially in the training camps for the Hitler Youth. If violent games did not affect the mind and help to desensitize individuals to violent acts, then the military would not use certain games in some of their training. Kids that diet on violence will be affected in some negative way by it, some to a more extreme than others. As far as being useful, the games are a good training tool for soldiers going into combat; however, kids do not need training to this extent. Regarding your comment that these games help to relieve violent feelings – this may be true during play, but that statement is false on a broader spectrum. Daily doses of violent video games increases violent feelings, otherwise gamers would not get so good at them. One has to be aggressive to move to each new level. Aggressive play in balance is not a bad thing, but it has to be kept in balance. That is why monitored sports with regulated rules are such a healthy way for kids and adults to expend energy and competitive or aggressive feelings.

      • Careful what you call a lie (and who you call a liar). Too many people here are throwing out accusations, just insulting people left and right. If you think about it, you might find that he is right. I don’t suppose that I’m the only kid that was told to go hit a pillow if I’m really angry! This actually helps. This is true of many things, and, I think, it is true here, at least for me. Violent video games do sometimes help me calm down. The problem here is not the video games, I think, but the people – my assertion is similar to the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. This is true, because before there were guns, brutal murder still happened. My assertion, then, is that the video games aren’t the problem. People are the problem. These kids are diagnosed with mental problems left and right. I wonder how much of that is due to their parents? Or their lack of moral behavior, or the lack of God in their lives. I assert that if we bring God back to America, along with parental responsibility, we will see drastic decrease in brutal killings.

      • Nick, I don’t know how old you are, but you are very wise. These days no one is willing to take responsibility for their own actions or their children. Somehow parents these days have this idea that once they birth their child, they are done. My son is twenty-one, he has played all types of video games since he was seven or eight. This includes violent Rated M games. Some people will chime in here and tell me what a bad parent I am, but I don’t agree. Every game my son played we talked about. i would sit with him and watch him play in order to learn the premise of the game. He had activities other than his games so he wasn’t on them 8 or 10 hours a day. But he loved his video games. In fact he is majoring in Radio, Television, and Film with a minor in Video Game Design and Development. One person I read said that video game creators know the games are addictive. The CAN be addictive, but so can just about everything else. The key is having common sense in playing the games, or having a parent who has common sense to regulate video game time. But many parents think its too much effort to pay attention and talk to their child about the games they are playing and make them realize it is just a game and not real.

      • Nick, I agree with most of what you are saying. The problem overall is with the people; however, what anyone chooses to put in his/her mind does affect that individual’s thought process and ultimately their actions. The creators of these very violent video games are in it for the money. They need to be held accountable for what they are producing, just as much as those who are purchasing and using the products. Since you brought God into the picture (and I agree with the need to bring God back to America), let’s focus on what He said: Philippians 4:8 “Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” This kind of focus is what will bring about peace of mind and a calm spirit. You have to admit that there are some video games that should never have been created and should never be played – games with the content of rape, murdering prostitutes, mutilating, car-jacking….. What redeeming value is there in any of those? All acts of violence or kindness first begin in the mind; thoughts and actions cannot be separated. Those who are consuming daily doses of violent video games are filling their minds with the opposite of pure and lovely. There is a time for aggression. There is a place for guns. I support the use of guns in our military as a means to protect our nation and her people. I support the use of guns as a sport in the Olympics. I support the use of guns for self-defense (every law-abiding, healthy-minded American should be able to protect themselves). I support the use of guns in hunting (for food). I do not support the use of guns in unnecessary violence, and yet that is what is encouraged in some of these very violent video games. These games are not like the old-fashion play of “cops and robbers”, “cowboys and Indians”, “war”. Rather, these modern video games perpetrating very violent acts give a negative and narrowed focus. Fathers should get outside and play with their kids, work with their kids, build and create with their kids. Or, when choosing to stay indoors – read and play games with their kids. Enough of this perpetual adolescence. Young at heart is one thing. Young in mind and intellect is a whole other matter. Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; it should not be bound up in the heart of a grown-up. Knowing many who maintain a steady diet of video games – this is what I have witnessed – perpetual adolescence and an inability to carry on a conversation in any depth, a lack of creativity and very limited interests. Now add to that the extreme violence in certain games that are ingested, and you have individuals whose thought process is geared in one direction. There may be a few who can be unaffected to the extreme, but they will not fall into the norm. Nick, It is a lie to say that there is no association between violent video games and violence. Just because not every boy who plays those very violent video games will go on a shooting spree, does not negate the fact that violence it encouraged by the playing of those games. Again, what redeeming value is there in some of that video violence? Some productive steps have got to be taken and excuses set aside. The health of our children and the health of our country depends on it. There is a time and place for aggression; a daily dose of hours on end spent playing violent video games is not the time or place.

      • You are right, of course, in your use of the scripture, but I can argue with the assertion that playing shooters make killers. Because of my conscience, I CAN control the effect of what I see. I can choose not to do violence to other people through God’s power, and I DO think that violent video games, or punching pillows, DOES help with releasing anger.

      • I just don’t see that reaction in myself, or my siblings. I don’t believe that blanket statement. It is a generalization, one we have yet to see whether its good or bad.

    • Jay,
      I guess the way I was reading it (and that’s not to say that’s what he meant) was that the video games didn’t cause the violence but what they did do was provide an opportunity for the person with the violent tendency to practice putting into play what he (or she) is planning in their mind. Rather than diffusing the anger, I think the games act to heighten the adrenaline and in effect pump the person up further. And with the level programming has reached nowadays, they really do try to make the experience as close to reality as possible.

      • I agree with you 100%. These video games only help exacerbate the violent tendencies of the population of kids that are already feeling socially disconnected and angry. I know I hated high school because I didn’t fit in. I was picked on a lot and if I would have had access to weapons besides my two fists horrible things could have happened. I came from a troubled home and didn’t have that many friends. Good thing I took out my frustrations in writing dark poetry and reading a lot of books, instead of playing violent video games. That would have only fueled the fire I felt inside of me. Of course no one is trying to label everyone that plays violent video games, we are talking about troubled teens. I agree with other comments that have been made here that video games desensitize you and futher disconnect you from reality and the repercussions of violent acts. For anyone who may think that all kids need is corporal punishment to keep them in line, you are mistaken. I grew up this way at home and it made me into a very angry person with a lot of trust issues. It has taken many years of therapy to lessen the anxiety and depression from the PTSD it caused. I am glad parents are not allowed to hit their children anymore. Violence breeds violence. Hitting a child teaches them that in order to get people to listen to you, you hit them. I would like to think we can evolve past that and use reason and communication.

      • I agree with you Ana. And it bothers me how realistic these games can be now. My brother in law is in high school and likes to play X-box games like Halo and Call of Duty. He told me that he rented a new game and that the people in it were so realistic, it made him uncomfortable to play the game. When they became too real looking, he didn’t want to shoot at them. I’m not crazy about first person shooter games, but they were a lot less disturbing on N-64 just because they were so much less realistic.

      • Ana,
        That’s how I saw it too. If someone is troubled, or already having these thoughts, games like Call of Duty will give them the access to ‘play’, and at some point it won’t be enough. There have been studies that have shown that young men that are addicted to pornography escalate from magazines to movies, then eventually to the real thing. I’m not saying it’s the magazines, or the movies that have caused the young man to do what he will do. It is the stepping stone in between, just like any addiction, they will want more. If these children aren’t given the option to ever get addicted to these video games they may have a chance. But as adults and parents we must be involved in our childrens lives, and if outdoor programs like Pete has suggested will work, then lets go for it. We have become too much of an indoor society, and I think we’re beginning to suffer.

    • Thanks for an excellent and thought-provoking article! Just last week, I saw a post on msn.com regarding the psychological benefits of playing video games. It especially highlighted positive outcomes for older folks (like me!) such as lower depression levels, sharpened brain function, lower blood pressure, and generally more happiness. In games which require positive social interaction, a sense of connectedness develops which helps relieve loneliness. I actively pursued playing video games as a way to rehabilitate my brain after a long siege of depression and while recovering from alcoholism. Following some mental testing recently, my neuropsychologist said, “Whatever you are doing, keep it up! It’s working!” This is a socially accepted way of Escape, as opposed to drugs, alcohol, sexually dangerous behavior, and gambling. All things in moderation is the key! I am a WOW player, but avoid the shooter games as they never appealed to me. I don’t want to kill anyone. My former husband and i struggled over a gun one time, and when it went off (into the ceiling,) that was the last time I hope I ever have one in my hand. There is a massive number of people who play video games; a few of them are also mentally ill people who end up using their rage to shoot and kill people. Yes, I think radically violent games may confuse their perception of what is real — real people die when shot, they don’t disappear and then respawn later. I think the real problems that need addressing are much stiffer gun control, and instead of cutting programs for mental health we need to be making it more available and affordable. The stigma of mental illness needs to be eradicated. Teachers and employers need to be better trained to be aware of a person who needs help and the resources to help that person. The increase of children with ADD, ADHD, autism, Aspergers, and other mental disorders is going to increase the numbers of people who need mental health care. Gotta go now and fly off on my winged mount to pick flowers for my herbalism skill–saving the world, one flower at a time!

      • Kathleen,
        I am excited to hear how you are using the positive effects of video games to help your recovery. We have depression in common and a love of WOW. I had to quit because it was getting to be an addiction and impact my marriage. As a pastor, I have counseled several couples where WOW or another video game is getting in the middle of their relationship. It is a problem of moderation for the couples and immature people getting married to soon. But that is another blog. PB is right on that gaming can be a part of the issue. But so are the parents, even more than stiffer gun control.
        My son – 16 and my daughter -14, enjoy playing games like minecraft, world of tanks and World of War planes together. I am also a hunter with both bow and rifle/shotgun. I have weapons in the house. My kids both have been trained on the guns and hunt with them as well. We do this together. That is the key – we do this together. We spend hours playing right next to each other on two separate computers and we have a ball. We also talk about all kinds of stuff when we play. I play these games for those times as much as I do because I like to play.
        My wife and I are very involved in what our kids do and what they are learning. Not only do we stay involved in their lives but they are involved in ours. They have walked with me through depressive bouts, my wife and I talk about what is going on and they have been a big help.
        The point I am making is that the parents must be involved and active in the kids life. PB, your mom was a big influence as was mine. Do I know what my kids are doing 24/7? Nope, but I know that I can trust them and they will come to me or my wife with the stuff that goes on. This communication and trust doesn’t begin or end because we play games together – it has been a functioning system that began when they were little. It is not always easy either.
        A question I have is how many of the kids who committed these violent acts had dinner with their family around the table with the T.V. off? That is a great place to start.

      • I think may be there is a difference between games like WoW and games like Call of Duty. For one thing, your perspective as you play is different and the speed of the game is different. WoW and CoX (my personal poison for many years until it was shut down) are MMOs and you play in a third person perspective through your avatar. The game has a measured pace, not a twitch pace, so even though there is violence, it isn’t very realistic feeling.

        Contrast that to FPS (first person shooters) like Call of Duty where the interface is designed to make you feel like you are the one directly doing the actions. There isn’t much of an avatar. Also, the action is based on twitch reactions and is much faster-paced and more immediate – more realistic. I’m guessing that the shooters we’re discussing were much more into FPS games.

        Myself, I don’t like FPS at all although I do enjoy the challenge of a good TPS (third person shooter) where I have an avatar to act for me and there is a good story in the game. I play for the story, not the violence, and if there is no story, I rapidly lose interest in the game even if everything else is “awesome.” And sometimes, I like to work out my frustrations on pixels that can’t be hurt because they don’t have feelings or feel any pain.

        But then, my parents also did a bang-up job teaching me about the differences between reality and fantasy, and even though I never fit in anywhere in school, I also never had any desires to actually hurt anyone. I had books and stories where I was the main character. That’s probably why I have such a liking for games with strong stories today.

    • “Get kids outside. Take them out and let them wander around in the woods. Let them canoe across a lake. Let them backpack through a mountain range. Give them a map and compass assignment. Give frustrated youth an opportunity to challenge themselves in the natural world.” — in my opinion this is almost the only segment worth reading in the entire article. I gotta say my eyes haven’t rolled so hard in years as they did while reading all the hand-wringing nonsense about “violent video games”. (What’s next, backmasked Satanic references in our mp3 downloads?)

      A premise like that one (blaming video games for real-world violence) commits the typical error of focusing upon an egregiously narrow sub-slice of the gaming population as a basis for overgeneralization and then conflating correlation with causality (as one commenter has already pointed out). It also completely overlooks the benefits to be gained by having a harmless and surprisingly satisfying outlet for long-standing pent-up frustrations and social deprivations.

      In general I think it is not only just WAY too easy to point the finger at a red herring of this nature but that doing so is a blatant distraction from the real problem staring us all in the face: a world and a society which is systemically predicated upon harsh, unyielding, and exclusionary taxonomies for establishing notions of value and worth at the individual level, while predisposed to simultaneously deprive of proper emotional nourishment and aggressively sicken anyone who deviates noticeably from “the norm”, even slightly. This, not the otherwise harmless pasttime of millions of relatively healthy and functional citizens, is where we really need to be focusing attention and directing “reform” efforts. Part of the success factor inherent in the outdoor programs you mention is directly due to the healthier and more inclusive group dynamics typically demanded by such endeavors. When people are depending upon one another’s trust for their lives, safety and well-being whilst exploring raw caves, white-water rafting, or rappelling down a cliffside, nobody has time for the sort of ludicrous and toxic crap which permeates your average high-school pseudo-caste-system social structure.

      • AMEN. Exactly what you said. I was struggling to articulate this to the world of Facebook; apparently, I should have just scrolled down in the comments, which have finally proved constructive instead of destructive for once.

    • I don’t think Peter is making a correlation/causation error. As I read his article, he isn’t as much blaming the video games for causing the violence as he is saying that video games make “expert killers” out of those who play them. Many/most teenage boys I know love weapons. And very many teenage boys struggle to fit in and find their place in life. Combining all three of these factors makes for a dangerous combination should a teenage boy decide to take violent action. Love of weapons + social awkwardness + videogame “killing skills” = ???

      • Exactly. Thanks for the equation at the end. THAT is what I’m talking about. – PBH

      • Let me just add in that video games to do not make one an ‘expert killer’. Most shooters on Xbox and PlayStation have very little to dl with actual marksmanship training. I’ll agree that the glorification of violence can lead troubled youths who don’t have a lot of friends down a dark path, but if they were ‘expert killers’ they wouldn’t stop and kill themselves when the police arrived. It doesn’t take skill to kill unarmed people, regardless of what weapon you choose.

      • “videogame kill skills”

        Interesting phrase. Have any evidence (aside from your hunches, as a non-videogame playing adult) that such a thing actually exists?

        Massive red herring.

      • I’ve played a lot of first person shooter games and I’ve fired actual guns before, and I can say with 100% certainty that being a crack shot at Halo or Call of Duty does not in ANY WAY make you good with a pistol, shotgun or rifle. I might be able to see the desensitizing someone to violence argument, but again, that has more to do with absence of parental involvement and teaching kids right from wrong than it does with violence. How many times did previous generations see Wile E Coyote fall off a cliff or blow himself up with his own TNT? Or Tom and Jerry violently attack each other? Larry, Curly and Moe were violent jerks to each other and they were best friends. But you didn’t hear about this kind of thing that much before. Hell, even growing up in the 80’s with slasher movies and epic violent blockbusters becoming mainstream, as well as the rise of violent video games shortly thereafter, you STILL didn’t hear about school shootings and mass killings very much. The only thing that has really changed is parental involvement in the lives and development of children. When parents depend on the TV to raise their kids, the kids emulate the TV. I was raised by my parents, so I tend to emulate them instead. And I can separate what I see on TV or play in my video games from reality BECAUSE I had parents that cared enough to get involved. And discipline should not be a criminal act. I don’t think abuse is right, but a slap on the butt when a kid acts up is going to do more good for a child than the timeout chair ever will.

      • Actually that’s not a very good point either. Picking up a controller and aiming with a joystick is a very different experience from actually aiming and firing a rifle or pistol. Therefore the skill of being able to play first person shooters does not make you skilled at being able to shoot with accuracy in real life.

      • I don’t think pbhoffmeister is inferring that playing these games makes you a skilled shooter, he is implying they make you believe you are a skilled shooter.
        I am a rock star at Wii bowling. Imagine my shock and dismay scoring my typical under 100 upon visiting a real bowling alley for the first time post Wii bowling glory. My point is I was pumped to find out if the two were realted in any way and there was only one way to test it out. And for the record, Wii bowling is about as dangerous as I roll- no pun intended.

      • Sorry, but your equation is a little off. It should actually read…

        “Love of weapons +
        social awkwardness +
        videogame “killing skills” = EVERY BOY EVER!”

        As has been stated several times in the comments above, HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of people play these games and NEVER EVER go out and murder anybody. Only a very, VERY tiny number of people do that. The percentage of “hardcore” gamers who go out and shoot up schools and malls is so small that it is statistically insignificant. Video games don’t cause mass shootings.

        Want to put an end to school killings? Spend more time with your kids…

      • Your equation was hilarious even if you and I aren’t in perfect agreement. And yes, you’re right, loving and spending time with your kids is the key. True. Thanks for reading.

    • I am convinced that there is a causal relationship between school shootings and the rise of violent video games. Dave Grossman the Author of “On Killing: The Psychological cost of Killing in War and Society” says evidence points to the fact that during the first two world wars soldiers would not fire their weapons at human targets. He says “there is within most men an intense resistance to killing their fellow man. A resistance so strong that, in many circumstances, soldiers on the battlefield will die before they can overcome it.”

      He notes later in his book that the military saw this as a Major problem and began to solve it when they replaced the bulls eye targets historically used to train soldiers with human silhouettes and images of humans as targets. Not unlike the demonizing of the enemy through attaching some slang name to them that relegates them to boogeyman status, practicing with human looking targets and experiencing the consequence-free environment of video games desensitizes people to killing another human and the gore it produces.

      I think you are right, I believe that David Grossman’s assertions support your hypothesis. I have personally witnessed as a martial artist and teacher that part of my work with a student is to help them overcome their aversion to causing injury to another human being. Their aversion is in many ways stronger than their fear of their attacker. Killing is for most a learned behavior, and video games provide the perfect “danger room” (homage to X-Men) for learning to kill without empathy, remorse or aversion. Well written Peter, thanks for your insights.

      • thank you for your perspective…I have 1 grandson that is 7 and he loves cod halo etc….I have been very concerned about him playing these games. His parents are divorced and he has a lot of anger even before that. I am concerned that these games are not helping him but they are hurting him. After reading this article I am going to talk to both of them and have them consider not having him play these games. I also think that gun control is not the problem. Mental health issues are the problem. There are so few mental hospitals and regular hospitals with Pysh wards now. The problem for hospitals is that the government does not want to pay for their care anymore and the hospitals lose money so they close the wards. Government is relying on jails to handle the mentally ill. That is exactly what they are doing is handling not helping these poor people. We as humans need to take the stigma of being crazy away from people who deal with depression etc so that people feel that they can ask for help and get that help and not be judged.

    • If it hadn’t been for my father I would be in prison or dead. He always took me fishing and camping, anything outdoors. I was also not the best kid. When I was younger I used to play those games, in the 90’s. I didn’t play them much but I had a lot of friends that had them. That’s where I played mostly. Yeah, they do make you aggressive. Give 2 11yr olds a fighting game and watch what happens when the other beats the other numerous times. But I fished and was and outdoors kid growing up. I still got in trouble and did some wild stuff like kids and teenagers do, but fishing and camping and sports bring out the best in some. Gives them an outlet to release any problems. Whether it’s a baseball or a fishing rod. When you have other things to do like fishing and you have a pop that does it with you it does grow you. Most of the times it was a few kids and their fathers with us. So, you were taught different things from different influences. A lot of kids don’t have this opportunity or their parents were never raised with it. Broken families and the electronic babysitters. It’s a disconnect from reality, these games. Have you ever seen the movie Toys?
      It doesn’t make you perfect but it can help. I’ve been arrested three times but always for dumb stuff like drunk and peeing on a building. It always happened after I got away from doing what I love to do and that is fishing.

    • 100 million copies of Call of Duty sold. If even .001% caused violent actions that is 100,000 school shooters. Which has not happened. I have personal friends who were traumatized by the Red Lake shootings, but I still play Black Ops. I play BO2 with my 18 year old brother who goes to high school 10 miles away from Red Lake. Does not make either of us a killer or even a potential killer. The most telling part of this article is not video games, but that when you were caught with a gun there was no real punishment, nor counseling. The failure of our system is not the violence we imagine, but the mental health issues that we ignore. Whether or not video games feed mental illness isn’t an issue. It is treating the symptom but not the disease. All of the shooters also listened to rock and roll. Are we going to go back to the tired and useless excuses, or start addressing the real issues? I can see why this was not published, and it is because it is based in failed logic. Not because it exposes some vast conspiracy of silence, but because it pins a complex and difficult problem on something as benign as a game.

    • When I was going to school in the 80’s and early 90’s, the worst thing that happened was a stabbing…no deaths. Even then, there was no video games that were really violent and many hurts and pains were mainly from fist fights and arguments. No killing whatsoever. Back when I was growing up, people played outside and enjoyed it. Sure, there was some ostracism, but the reactions of the ostracized was far different than today.

      What perplexes and perhaps, galls me is this: Huffington Post’s refusal to post this article. It shows positive alternatives to raising children and especially the teens. What could be so wrong with that? Is there a dark underbelly to Huffington? Would they like to see violence deep down…and watch on by with eating popcorn? I certainly hope not…but if we want true peace, peaceful activities are required. One can’t expect peace, yet let children play violent video games.

      Also, the latest generations are getting dumber and I’m not here to be harsh, but to say that besides watching violent films on TV and playing violent games, they’re wasting their valuable time not studying for the next test or doing their homework. Without learning vital skills to become productive citizens, they’ll graduate into life being useless and in the adult world, we can’t wait up until they mature. That should’ve been taught both in the home stressing the importance of studying and homework, as well as in school stressing the need to study and do homework to be able to get an A and reach adulthood with an A attitude and performance.

      Huffington Post’s refusal to see positive alternatives for our children baffles me to no end.

    • Thank you. My son, who just turned ten, saved his own money to buy a Nintendo 3DS, with the agreement that he still had to earn the time to play his games. I am going to save this article to my hard drive, with your permission, so I can show it to him when he’s a little older and wants to buy first-person shooter games. I hope your words will give him the courage to say no to these kinds of games, and stand firm in his kindness and convictions, even when his other friends are allowed to play these games.

      Unless we are training our children to be soldiers, from cradle to grave, these violent games teach our children nothing positive, and do serious harm, even if it’s ‘only’ desensitizing them to the value of life.

    • I think your take on the situation is right on, and the alienation of young people combined with killing games is a lethal combination. It’s just common sense- after Vietnam, 90% or so of soldiers reported difficulty pulling the trigger. Then video training began and by the Gulf war 90% of soldiers had no difficulty in engaging. (Yet PTSD is still a severe problem.) Of course exposure to visually violent images or video will desensitize a person. And when you look at a teen brain, impacted by rapid growth, hormones, and brain changes, it seems clear that exposure to violence is a negative thing. I do think that boys who play seriously violent games are also more likely to seek out violent images and films, and the sum total we can read or hear on the news regularly. Add easy access to weapons capable of killing many people quickly and you have a recipe for loss. I therefore would call for deeper exploration of the news media’s role in sensationalizing events rather than reporting actual research on gun statistics and lost youth.

    • You are so brave, to still tell your story! Kids need to know that someone knows EXACTLY how they feel, been there! I’m glad you didn’t fit in, you would have never followed up on why it wasn’t in print, and went ahead and did it on your own! The world needs to see this, and kids need to know that there is hope, for them, you are proof! i mentor children in thee arts, and fitting in, is left at the door! Thanks for not giving up on this, or YOU, Mikaleen

    • Hey Man
      Well said, I heard and I can not prove it, that the military used to have a problem when they sent their soldiers on the field, only 5 out of a hundred would shoot at a live human target, when they appeared, so to fix this problem they invented video games like Call of Duty to train the soldiers, now the public has similar games, anyways in the field the kills when from 5 guys out of a 100 shooting a live human target, to 90 out of a 100.

    • I understand the correlation and causation argument. Humans, however, do practice in their minds things before they carry them out. Video games provide the perfect opportunity to practice. Playing them is, well, like playing with a loaded gun…

    • Jay,

      I feel that the idea that he was explaining was that as a child he was not desensitized like these other young men. If you ever get the chance read “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. It explains how desentizing works in the military and would also shed some light on what Pete is saying. He may have been a very angry and troubled young man, but without the desensitizing of killing others it was much more difficult for him to do so.

      I would say that adults have much to do with what these kids get away with, we need to be present in our childrens lives, we need to know their friends and we need to know what they are doing. So many people are worried about children’s privacy, but it is our responsibility as a parent to be nosey and if you’re worried or concerned then get nosey.

      I have never let my children play any of these games, because I know what they do to a mind. Addiction is real and for the most part that is what these games become.

      CMB Spouse of a retired SF soldier.

    • Years ago, when involved in acting, a group of us realized that whatever was put up on the movie screen was copied by the audience in their lives…particularly the way crimes were committed. They now call this “copy cat” killings. But think about it. What we see in the movies in terms of clothing choices, cars, housing, adventures, sex…all of it gets copied and by millions of people world wide. Video games allow players to kill, to experience the thrill and emotional intensity of murder without any compassion or concern for consequences…Our society since the time of Shakespeare and before has had a fixation on murder in all our literature, stories and movies. It obviously has had an impact on our entire history, in every area of life.

    • Its funny how you guys will always bring up videogames in these situations.You can pretty much sum up everything in the entertainment world to use as a crouch to get closure.Videogames are far from the problem.maybe if the parents took some responsibity for there actions that im sure less and less issues would go on.Kids are given way to much room to breath on this world now to do whatever the hell they want to.Dont go around pointing fingers at gaming.Its so absurd that you have fallen in the category as the rest of the hyprocrites that talk like this as well like the media and govnt.maybe you should also think about your crazy gun law,oh wait you dont have any theres one step closer to solving your problem.Any human being will go out and do such a horrific thing if they arent stable enough.Videogames are also learning curves for eduaction but you and others will only ever point out the negative because you cant except the fact that theres more kids being neglected causing depression and like you said socialy arent accepted.Guess what grow some balls and learn to go out in public and interact with students or even in public.maybe some of the most notrious serial killers played videogames back then but guess what was it ever even suggested.nope.Theres videogames that date way back and not one peep was made.If anything socializing on videogames is at a high and will bring people out of there shell to communicate with others.I could go on for days about this kind of crap that you guys will always think is the problem but knowing where the true problems lay.Parenting,gun control non existing,neglect,media and pointing the finger at the wrong problems where it should be pointed at yourself and the others who have the need to blame something as silly as this.

    • Well said! Before we take the easy way and point out video games as the culprit we need to take a closer look.

      There is a term in psychology relating to false positives it means that we are more likely to remember instances that stand out. Average Joe who started a successful business, donated millions to charity and joined the peace corp while playing video games are less likely to stand out than these shooters are.

      Before we demonize video games we need to look much more closely at other possible causes.

    • “The army uses video games to train soldiers to kill”. I doubt this is true. I suspect the army uses video games to train soldiers to have situational awareness and engage in tactical thinking in combat situations. The assertion that killing people onscreen makes one more ready to kill in reality is, I believe, unsubstantiated. Of course, the army used to fund programs to try to kill people with psychic powers, so anything’s possible. The fact that someone in a uniform is misinformed as to the effects of video games should not be confused with scientific evidence of an cause-and-effect relationship.
      I’m also suspicious that the outdoors makes people in general less prone to violence (although I believe you when you say it was beneficial to you). Genghis Khan was raised in a yurt, after all. The genocides of the indian wars were largely carried out by frontiersmen who did a lot of the nineteenth century equivalent of hiking and backpacking. I could go on.
      Unfortunately, I don’t think the answer to violent impulses is quite so simple as restricting video game use.

    • Ted Kaczynski (the Unibomber) LOVED the outdoors. In fact, he lived for years in a cabin in the woods where he plotted his bomb making activities. And he never played any violent video games. But what he had in common with shooters is that he was a loner; bullied; failed to become popular — or even a friend of someone. With deep anger, he invented a reason to seek revenge on those who he felt stole his chances at success. This had nothing to do with video games.

    • Pilots spend hours and hours in a simulator, practicing how to fly long before they are ever put behind the controls of a ‘real’ plane. Why? Because it prepares them and gives them the confidence they need to actually fly a plane. A flight simulator is nothing more than a sophisticated video game. It has graphics. It mimics the cockpit environment. It simulates an array of possible complications. It is practice! This is exactly what video games are. They prepare an already violent mind to have the confidence to inflict REAL violence! Not everyone who plays a video game will then perpetrate a crime, but how many does it take before we recognize the danger here? Isn’t one enough? The 911 hijackers ALL spent time in flight simulators BEFORE they carried out their activities. We all know what happened there! They didn’t just jump on a plane and arbitrarily commit this atrocity. They planned, they practiced, they prepared.

    • Actually, Pete is totally unqualified to discuss this matter in any academic way. He hasn’t, which may be in part why his article was rejected — while I appreciate his feelings, I don’t appreciate his lack of scholarship. There are many other more immediate factors at play in school shootings, and the fact that Pete has focused on video games is embarrassing. If that was the case, South Korea and Japan would be war zones — they are not. They also have gun control laws and do not tend to have isolated communities the way we have in the U.S. Maybe we should look there before positing dubious arguments about video games, however strongly we may feel personally. This subject requires more objective analysis.

    • As a teacher at Virginia Tech, and a mother of 3 children — one who is a 16 yr-old boy– I too, have thought about the connections of outdoors and health. I think we’re not paying enough attention to the difference (in boys) between healthy aggression (sports; walking/climbing outdoors; rough-and-tumble play; exercise) and violent behavior. Boys like to take risks (the research is illustrated well in Sax’s book, Why Gender Matters) — and it’s so sad that parents are not helping our boys to take healthy risks or restore their brain ‘calmness’ by being outdoors. Have you read Last Child in the Woods? Highly recommend. And thank you for a very brave and amazingly important insightful post.

    • I think there is an important element between Correlation and Causality. Like Nature versus nurture, both influence who we are. There is a undeniable correlation between troubled adolescents/ gun violence/ video games, and its equally as plain that causation doesn’t always play out – even though it may be right below the surface. I agree wholeheartedly that practicing killing on screen is an apparent catalyst in preparing these people for real violence.
      In comparison, I think viewing pornography may have a similar affect towards rape. It objectifies women, and brings a normality to an act. Similarly, not everyone who views porn becomes a rapist, but I believe its and building block in devaluation of human worth. I realize its a limited comparison as rape has been around longer then pornography.
      Well written article.

    • I had a troubled teen son. I would not have let him, “black out his windows, or spend hours on end in the garage.” Lanza did that to his windows and Columbine parents said their son was in the garage all the time. I once took my son’s bedroom door off, loaded it in a truck and took it away from my house. I couldn’t trust him to always do the right thing, so I didn’t. He’s an alcoholic now and because I disagree with his lifestyle, I haven’t seen him in over 2 years. He’s an adult with 2 children, which I also don’t see anymore. He was a follower, and now he is following his drug addled wife who has no moral compass.

    • I like your point about correlation and causation. If I may add to it, maybe killers are attracted to COD, not COD makes killers. I do think that as families, we must correct our moral compass. I enjoy COD, but I also enjoy the outdoors, and my moral sense of ‘right’ (based on the Bible), would NEVER allow me to do these things (and I don’t talk about it either).

      As another commenter pointed out, the number of COD players who turn out to be killers are soooooooo small, I think it is foolish to think that video games is the sole/root cause. Let us look instead for other common concoctions between killers. They were all friendless/not social, they all had messed up tendencies, they had no moral upbringing. Their parents weren’t involved in helping them through this. I think it is a lack of morals, lack of parental involvement, and government indoctrination on our kids, that we must look to as the cause for our killers.

    • They say, in the military, a good general is one who sees his men as individuals instead of just numbers. In correlation, correlation only makes sense that violent video games immersively teach the opposite. Bad guys are computer subprograms and impressionable children are trained not to value life. The blurr between the imagined and reality is significant when you are young. Most of us don’t remember how immersed we were in daydreams then. Everything a child does influences who he or she will become. I wish parents would be more concerned with that then with finding the easiest way to get a child out of their hair.

  2. Violent video games are like peanuts. A very large majority can handle them fine. But in a small percentage of people they can cause extreme, and even lethal reactions.

    • You’re probably right. I think they’re an additive bad thing. Alone, in the hands of a healthy person, they’re probably not too bad.

      • the Word says, “by beholding you become changed” and comes from the only authority worth reading and believing..!

      • This is the fine point that can be missed. I read a study a while back to which I dearly wish I could give you a reference. It found that violent images have no significant effect on brains in the “normal” range but for people with a number of disorders, those images significantly increase the violence in their behavior. That said, the desensitizing effect can happen to anyone. I’ve seen it happen to a neighbor boy who took martial arts and though he is socially well adjusted and a relatively happy teenager, I don’t think desensitizing him to causing others harm has been in his best interests.

    • I agree Alex. I did not feel as thought the author was spear-heading for an across the board ban of violent video games. Although, if peanuts were 99% safe and 1% completely lethal, I would never try one and would never let my children try one. Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
      I support the research in determining causality, and I support children being reintroduced to the outdoors.

  3. I agree strongly with the idea of getting kids outside. I can’t help but agree with you on the violent video game argument. I’ve played video games my entire life, and they’re almost all violent. Just like reading books, or dreaming, they allow you to create a reality of your own thinking, and in these realities, anything can happen. After playing hours and hours of video games, I began to think that these realities could actually happen in real life, that they could in actually happen if you wanted them too. And honestly, it wouldn’t be that hard for them to happen if you wanted them too. But my mind tells me that it isn’t right, that being violent doesn’t do anything but cause negative behaviors that no one wants to experience. Video games aren’t just a fun thing to play to do, they honestly create realities that are believable. I can really understand why people might mistake these false realities for the “real one” that we live in. Books, video games, dreaming, they all act as an escape from our own physical realm and create and a more perfect world for us at the stage of creating them. Someone who was troubled enough to merge the two realities of fake and real wanted to, they could. It’s a sad world where the two could exist in one, but they can and will at some point.

    • Harrison –
      This is really thoughtful, and you probably know more than I do. Your logic makes sense, and it is all media. True.

      • If it weren’t video games it would be music, or books, or the internet, or movies… all of which HAVE been blamed over the years for increasingly violent behavior. Hate to say it, but in who’s mind is it increasing? Pre-internet world didn’t have the kind of access to data that we have now,and people have been violent since the beginning of recorded history and beyond. While there might actually be a measurable increase, there are more important factors at work here. The lack of empathy, family structure (no not just 1950’s nuclear, thats not even traditional btw), strong friendships, achedemic and artistic access and emphasis, lack of a future to look forward to for that matter for most young people is creating apathy and despair on a large scale. If everyone had a life where work was only a part of their life, where it was accessible to all who wanted work for that matter, where you could know that if you wanted to get a job and leave home that you wouldn’t be risking severe health problems and could provide not just for needs, but even a few wants, where you could eat food that is good for you, knowing how to prepare it and knowing where it comes from so you can make your own decisions for your nutrition, where you could have something fun to do that wouldn’t cost money or much money like gaming or bowling, reading, hiking, and talking to people you know. Make sure that healthcare and mental healthcare are just seen as the same thing, like changing your oil in your car, people need help with the gunk in their lives and social darwinism needs to be thrown out like the trash it is. Bad things happen, and its about time that we manned up and realized that the only people who can prevent violence are all of us. You see a kid struggling, try to help. They have bad parents, its not just “their problem” it effects everyone else. Those kids are responsible for their behavior. You could have the best parents, no financial stresses, no problems fitting in and still choose to be a sociopathic killer. The changes we need are too big and too central to be fixed overnight, but we need to start soon before our reckoning comes with too high a price tag. You want our kids to stop murdering people? Give them some hope for their futures, ease up on the stress, and yes, get them outside for starters.

  4. I don’t know, I think the video games make the killing of an actual person seem surreal. Practicing killing by playing it in games makes taking a true life seem like another game, rather than realizing the power of holding another life in your hands. Video games glorify killing and help to detach the player even further from reality. That’s my opinion.

    • I agree with you Susie. I had a friend who witnessed a murder and she said she was shocked it didn’t bother her more. She said it was just like watching TV. (This was in the days before video games.) What bothered her the most was her reaction to the shooting. Now with video games things are much worse.

  5. Great read Hoff. I completely agree with you, everyone should experience the outdoors and learn how to take care of yourself out there! If you’re unable to care for yourself in the most primitive way, how can you in the real world? I hope you’re doing well!

    • Allie – Good point on primitive abilities. I love how the outdoors takes us to basic, real levels. Hope you’re doing well too.

  6. This is a very good topic in today’s society. We as a people young or old, male of female, violent or not, experience less of the natural world than ever before. I took part in the outdoor program at South Eugene High school and i loved it. I have always liked being outdoors and like any High Schooler loved an excuse for getting to spend class outside. This program sparked my love for the natural world; not only does it teach you about surviving outdoors, but it teaches you respect for your environment. It teaches you how to live harmoniously with nature, and overall gives you a better understanding of what the nature can offer. If any of those school/community shooters were involved in a similar program I feel as if they would not have committed these terrible crimes. The military using these games as simulations for war should be a red flag for any parent, let alone society as a whole. I will admit I have and do play these types of games from time to time; but what is the cost? This is one factor that is leading to the corrosion of our world today. It is sad to think that as we grow further from nature we mass towards violence but this seems to be the trend.

    • Keenan – I love your line “The military using these games as simulations for war should be a red flag for any parent.”

    • Peter and Keenan, I agree completely with what you have posted and would like to add that video games are damaging in another way as well – loneliness. Those who spend so much time on the computer or playing video games become disengaged from others and are lonely. It is not a healthy way for people (more-often-than-not – young men), especially children to be spending precious time. Not only do boys need to invest more time in the outdoors, but they need to be engaged in physical labor. They need an outlet to use their hands, to sweat at working hard, to be active, to build and create and then feel proud of what they have accomplished. Video games (except certain games with limits) are a great time-waster and encourage laziness, procrastination, social awkwardness, a lack of being able to engage in real conversation with real people. Our society does not need any more boys in perpetual childhood, but rather boys that are being mentored into manhood. Real men care about others and are gentle with women, children and animals. Real men form a brotherhood with other men, encouraging one another to excel in every aspect of their lives. Real men do not go looking for violence but know how to fight when necessary. Real men protect, encourage, serve… Real men invest time and energy in their families. Our boys need to be raised and trained to be real men.

      • I agree wholeheartedly with your post above, and your piece. But I do believe it’s also a small sliver of a much larger problem. Addressing this one part isn’t going to help every teen at risk of violent behavior.

        As a teen in the 1980’s when video games were coming of age, everything you say both in your piece and in your post above about what video games do to a teen brain/soul….that is what all of the “experts” were saying about Dungeons and Dragons at the time. (In the 1970’s, the “experts” warned of too much TV consumption across 3 networks leading to dissociative behavior). I remember my parents making me watch a prime-time movie in the mid-1980’s about how playing D&D would lead to all sorts of violent and dissociative behaviors. And sure, there were a handful of suicides and violent behaviors blamed on D&D at the time. But was that a true causation? No one knows. Are video games the modernized version of D&D? I’m not sure that we really know that answer either. In 30 years of two generations of millions of teens growing up with video games, you cite less than 10 examples of these teens actually executing on their thoughts and “training.” Statistically speaking I’d have better odds of winning Powerball then becoming a teen killer today, video games or not.

        My point: the issue of teen violence is far more complicated, and far larger, with far greater inputs, none of which have a proven cause/effect as a stand alone input. It’s important to remember that teen shooters are a perfect storm of a large number of variables the likes of which we might not even really understand even today.

        I (personally) found the tragedy in your piece not in the ‘training” or the desensitizing of a generation, but the fact that no one – family or otherwise – asked you WHY you brought guns to school. No one empowered you with the vocabulary to articulate what you were feeling, no resources offered you tools to cope and to realize that it’s all going to be OK. These are areas that need an equal amount of attention as the encouragement to put down the handhelds and go on a hike. What about the elimination of art programs, music programs, shop classes, and PE from our schools? Again, worthy causes deserving of attention as outlets for teen emotions that extend beyond a pixilated screen.

        But you do have to start somewhere; I applaud your efforts. To your point, I will never sit my kids down in front of the TV to watch a movie about how kayaking can lead to dissociative behavior. And shame on the Huffington Post. Your piece was well written, fair, and authoritative.

    • Jason – I like strong opinions with an attempt at EVIDENCE. Go for it. You’ve written nothing here, anecdotal or otherwise. Show me a school shooter who loved to kayak and never played video games. If you find one, post it here. To my knowledge, that boy doesn’t exist. But I’d love to be proven wrong. – PBH

      • Here you go.


        Shootings happened before videogames. So did War. Ever played Cowboys and Indians as a kid? That was essentially shooting at somebody else. The actual practice and movement, all the way up to a physical gun making a “pop” sound and the other person falling down dead. What about playing “guns”. Cap guns, squirt guns, paintball …

        These games don’t belong, nor are they marketed towards children. If they are playing them then it’s the parent’s fault. There are a lot of things that children shouldn’t have access to. Do we ban all violent movies? Zero Dark Thirty shows exactly how to plan an assassination. Die Hard? Any war movie ever made? What about violent books where they track serial killers and how to conceal your evidence?

        I’m 37 and an avid gamer. I have a 7 year old a fiance’ that I play with. None of us want to murder people in real life or consider this “training”. I don’t, nor will I let my child play certain games.

        We might as well start blaming everything that these people have in common. There are millions upon millions of videogames out there, millions of them being played. Don’t you think we’d have some hard evidence by now? Something linking one to the other? Or at least a more widespread epidemic?

        I find it extremely hypocritical of society when we are trying to point the finger at videogames when the ones in question are CLEARLY marked for sale to adults while we sell toy guns to any child that can walk into a Toys R Us.

        I’ve played tons of hours of racing games, it hasn’t made me a better driver. I’ve played a lot of airplane/flying games, I still can’t fly a plane. In fact I’ve been a superhero such as Spiderman yet for some reason, I still can’t sling a web. But I guess when it comes to shooting guns (those things readily available as toys and no age restriction to buy them) I’m a trained professional who has been desensitized and it’s only a matter of time.

        Why don’t we take a look at the REAL problem. Mental health, parenting, and overall ownership for what our children do.

      • I understand what you are saying Jeremy. And there is no doubt that most who play video games do not reenact it, but the author Pete is just saying that it is one of the factors. The cause is not one thing, as they say, it is a bundle of sticks not just one. Sometimes removing just one stick might make the difference. For Pete it might have been two sticks that saved him: not playing video games and getting outdoors. But, there is little doubt to that these games do desensitize. Many in the inner city play these games and the games are probably one of the sticks in the bundle that causes a lack of respect for human life (like the thug who intentionally shot point blank a baby in the stroller recently).

        The US military moved to practice targets having a human silhouette rather than just ringed targets because they found that this resulted in a greater willingness to shoot people in actual combat.

        I’m certainly not for banning the games, but drawing a link so that parents can better see the reason to shield or limit their children from these games is a good idea. Getting outside is always a good idea.

      • Jeremy: Yes, children played Cowboys and Indians, and Cops and Robbers, but there was no blood and no desensitization. I have two young boys and I did not allow any guns, violent movies, video games. They got to preschool (AT CHURCH) and were taught by other boys to make guns out of Legos. They made their fingers into guns. I did more research…and read that the good vs. evil is actually age appropriate and teaches lessons to 4-6 year old boys. Yes, there were school shootings before these violent video games, but not nearly as many.

        Gun control? Sounds like a great plan…but since most of these guns are not legally obtained, nor used in a legal way, that will fall short.

        I agree that parents need to know what their kids are doing and need to be in control, but I also think the author has an extremely valid point–one that gave me chills–in his equation–socially awkward, violent tendencies, maybe a slight chemical imbalance plus violent video games is a license for more death. Great, great article. I will be sharing!

      • why are we so concerned with highly-publicized school shootings in our analysis? is this some weird artifact of our obsession with celebrity? the fact of the matter is, if we look at broader youth violence trends, the “epidemic” of the eighties and early nineties peaked in 1993, and youth violence has been in sharp decline since then. (I can link the surgeon general’s report if you want an awkward hyperlink here.)

        coincidentally, the first FPS anyone played in any quantity (Doom) came out in 1993.

        the obvious inference to be drawn here if we assume that video games have a strong effect on behavior is that video games allow safe manifestation of aggression in controlled environments, and that as a result the majority of people who play them are responding with less aggression in their daily lives. a corresponding uptick in “lone wolf” school shootings might actually be the result of that – these are the outliers, who would otherwise be joining street gangs and taking their violence to the streets, but since gangs are fewer & weaker this is harder to do.

  7. I’m torn. On one hand, the correlation is hard to deny. On the other hand, there have always been disturbed, troubled kids, and they’ve always found a way to vent their violent tendencies: pulling wings off of butterflies, baiting stray animals with meat laced with lit fireworks or razor blades. Seems to me that the difference between historical anecdotes re: troubled, violent teens and more recent tragedies involving murderous teens/young adults is access to the weapons in a societal environment rife with a rabid defense of ever-increasing access by a largely irresponsible and completely brainwashed demographic. Both the violent video games and the defense of easy access to guns without any obligation to safeguard those guns from getting into the wrong hands are new-ish developments. … I have no answers, but my gut strongly resists blaming video games.

    Ultimately, I think just about any psychiatric experts would say that these things begin and end with the way these kids are parented. I don’t want to pry or offend you, Mr. Hoffmeister, but I was an ostracized, bullied, and relatively disturbed teen myself. I eased my troubles with sex and drugs, rather than with violence, but I have no illusions about how my broken home and alcoholic, abusive mother influenced my mental state.

    I think I will always be mystified by the general unwillingness to take the blame for the behavior of kids to the parents’ doorstep.

    • True. Messed up kids do messed up things. And on the Newtown shooting, the shooter’s mom had guns in the house, allowed tons of violent video games AND was trying to get him placed in the psychiatric facility at the time of the shooting. I wonder why she didn’t remove guns and violent video games from the home if she knew he was so disturbed. That seems crazy to me.

      • So, if we’re all agreed that the responsibility for Newtown and similar incidents lies with the parents, can we please stop trying to punish the millions of regular people who have never committed a crime, and want to own and use their guns for lawful purposes?

      • I have no idea why she didn’t, either. It would seem to me to be the prudent thing to do. I worked for some years with kids who had learning disabilities related to their ability to read. One of the youngsters we worked with for a time was maybe five and constantly bragged about playing things like Call of Duty and Modern Warfare because they were “Rated ‘M’ for Mature” – his words. He would constantly spend his sessions making guns out of fingers and shooting his teachers and telling them what he was going to do to them, always violent things. At the same time, this same child would not stand next to a door because he was afraid of what might come out of it.

        We eventually had to tell his parents we could not work with him until they sought help for him. It was very sad, and I wonder and hope his parents did what we advised because if they didn’t, he’s likely another massacre waiting to happen.

        And what kind of a parent lets their child play that kind of game at that age?

    • The correlation is pointless without also looking at the total number of young males who also play these video games. You’ll find that statistically, it is most likely that any young male school shooter will have played these games. It is a correlation that means nothing. You may as well say “kids who wear socks tend to carry out school shootings” as it likely correlates similarly.

  8. Great Article. Truth, Honesty and writing from your own experiences. This is what is missing from the Huff Post agenda, obviously. You made mistakes – and you answered for them. Yes the disaffected teens are engaged in a drama that is distorting their reality. THe studies on Television show that now, over and over. It distorts our sense of reality. If you couple that with the ‘wicking away’ of the healthy neurons being replaced by violent habits based on the neurological development that happens in teenagers – it all makes sense. I was an extremely angry teenager. Why aren’t parents and school systems addressing the emotional development of teens, PERIOD?’ There is proven value in being in Nature. Diffusing anger – connection with it – and the spiritual connection happens as well.
    My prayers go the children addicted to video games. I won’t allow it for my child – not the violent ones and certainly not too much of it. I’m not perfect and allow too much TV watching. The issue is self control. PERIOD. KEEP UP the communications!! We need people like you speaking the TRUTH.

  9. Where are the parents of these violent children? allowing their kids to play these violent video games, for 40 hurs per week, without any moral guidence or interaction? I, personally, don’t blame the games. I blame the absent parents neglecting their kids to the “babysitter” of the games so that the parents can go on living their lives without taking on the responsibility and the duty of properly raising a child.

    Your mother guided you, even though you were angry and violent, you obviously had a parent who cared about you and what you did with your mind and your life. It sounds like many of these kids don’t have that.

    • thanks – you said what I was going to say….

      I only wanted to add that *i* let my oldest kid play some of those games, and my younger ones lots of other less “violent” video games. But not anywhere near 40 hours a week… and not alone (family office-type space)… AND we are a “boy scout family” (one life working on eagle and one star working on life)… so we get outside too.

      We still PARENT our children. The so-called parents who let their children essentially do whatever they want have checked out. They did so early on and when the children began their natural pushing at authority, the parents threw their hands up and said they were “impossible”. They gave up. So many parents have simply given up because the pressures of really, truly parenting (not just feeding/housing/clothing for 18 years) are Many and it’s NOT EASY.

  10. Thanks, Pete. I’d be interested in your Outdoor Diversion Program. About to start, actually restart, a church in SD. And me a southern boy from SOUTH Carolina. I do remember being outdoors a bunch growing up until we moved into TOWN. Awesome memories.

    Our vision is to help hurting folks in this town in new, and sometimes unexpected ways. The culture there is very “outdoors” with hunting and fishing. I’ve already decided to get back into hunting, even at my advanced age (LOL).

    Who but God knows the right way into troubled folks psyche and heart (maybe the same thing, huh?) I’d love to hear more of your story.

    • Talmadge –
      One thing I’ve learned from much older, wiser people is that the outdoors, as it is, has power. Take them out, and good things will happen. Period. I like that you’re open to outdoor pursuits that you haven’t done in a long time too. In your church, with your youth group, whatever, there’s power in hiking, fishing, sunlight, snow, rock climbing, map and compass work, exploring, etc. Go for it. – PBH

  11. I agree with much of what you are saying. And it makes total sense. I would like to offer or suggest that perhaps it is not JUST the video games, but the AMOUNT of game time allowed per week or per day. For instance 40 hours seems absurd to me. Would a 30 minutes per day limit or 4 hours per week limit be too much? (Perhaps useable 1 Saturday or all throughout the week?) I let my son play these games – at his uncle’s house, for hours at a time – 4-5 times a YEAR. It is a special and fun thing they share. (They are usually together against the odds or against each other.) We have a strict limit at home on screen time. ALL screen time (TV, computer, games.) We also love the outside. Thank you for sharing about this. I think quite a few teens struggle with not fitting in.

      • I am a school psychologist and actually there is research in the field of neurology and neuropsychology to show that when a human brain watches something on a screen, the brain lights up in the exact same areas that it does when the same thing is encountered in real life. So at a organic level your brain does not know the difference between fantasy and reality and that is the concerning part. Desensitization really does occur when someone watches the same thing over and over again. Controlled studies have been done on the amount of cartoon watching and increases in hyperactivity. The thing is that it is likely a contributing factor but not the only factor. The other similar characteristic that every school shooter has is social isolation or a loss of some kind. The more socially isolated then the more video games a teen tends to play and the more they then get wired for aggression and lack of empathy.

      • kk…thanks for your post. Well done!

        As an aside, I’m a library director. We have a 90 minute total time limit per day for kids and games. Otherwise we would have kids playing violent games every minute the library is open.

        Too I’ve heard more than one person tell me that reading a certain book has changed their lives. Whether that’s attitudes or perceptions or caused them to travel, take up a sport or pastime, or with one person they built a boat and sailed most of the Pacific Ocean after reading about others sailing travels.

        If a book can change life direction, what does endless hours of violent video games do to someone?

  12. Reality can be too much at a time for troubled folks. Maybe escaping and releasing their energy on the game has positive effects. The blame has to be mostly on the environment they grew up in or are currently living in which is mentally not healthy. If you send one of these kids to a psychologist most likely they are going to be prescribed tons of psychotropic drugs. Finding an escape is the answer in any positive form.

  13. I don’t think video games themselves really lead people to act violently, I just can’t accept that any form of media or art would be the cause behind peoples’ violent actions. Yeah, alot of shooters have played video games, but so have alot of other people. Playing video games is as common with youth today as watching TV or any other time-wasting activity people undergo.
    These people go on rampages, I think, because they hate their life. They’re usually lonely and reclusive and have mental/emotional/personality disorders. Especially with school shootings. When a kid shoots up a school, its because they’re full of hate and rage, videogames don’t put that in someone. People put that in them, because people don’t give a shit about these kids. If a school shooting happened at South, and we were all the ones that knew the shooter, what do you think our memory of him would include? It would include him sitting alone during lunch because we can’t handle associating ourselves with someone we deem as “weird”. Kids don’t give a shit about eachother. That’s why people sometimes decide that their lives have to come to a close. Virtual violence didn’t encourage them, hate did, because they hate the kids, and the kids deserve the hate. Maybe not the shooting, but they deserve the hate.
    If you don’t want someone to shoot you, it’s always a good idea to avoid making them want to. Teenagers can be pretty bad at that, especially when they consider the funniest thing in the world to be to make someone want to shoot them.

  14. Pingback: “On School Shootings” | Nicole Sterkel

  15. THIS ARTICLE HAS ONE HUGE LOGICAL FLAW… Your gun was stolen probably because your parents didn’t condone or want you to learn how to use them.. The school shooters didn’t have to steal there guns.. they got them from home.. their parents owned them & let their children use them.. & even trained him with target practice.. this gun training is much more DANGEROUS than playing a any video game.. because they become comfortable with the physical weapon & learn to shoot with deadly accuracy.. Gun advocates say that teaching & training your child about using guns safely is responsible parenting.. Lanza’s mom was one of those parents who is a gun nut who brought military style weapons & took him to the range & taught him deadly accuracy.. if anyone thinks that is good parenting.. then their an idiot.. & unfortunately we have plenty of idiot parents in America..

  16. This thing is getting hella play on Facebook, in case you didn’t know. I shared from a kid who shared from a kid, and five people in 12 hours have posted off of my share. The comments are fascinating. Way to go, writer.

  17. As an ex world of warcraft addict I know that playing too many video games makes the line between reality and simulation blur.

  18. Millions of people around the world play video games (& watch/listen the same movies/music).. other technologically advanced countries don’t have mass shootings nearly as much/often as we do.. Why don’ t they? Probably because they also have stricter restrictions on all guns.. the very notion that somehow video games are the cause is laughable… especially since all the mass shooters had guns in their households.. they didn’t have to steal them like you did… their parents “trained” them to use the guns… This easy access and the experience using guns with the permission of their parents is a PRIMARY CAUSE… our relaxed gun laws promote a culture of excessive gun use… that is passed down from parent to child.. which is what you see in most the mass shooters (definitely Columbine & Newtown) who come from homes that exposed them to guns at a young age and gave them access to multiple guns including high powered ones.. this something that people in other countries don’t have because their laws don’t allow the gun culture to get out hand like we do to.. If you want to change the gun culture.. try changing the gun laws.. because laws change culture.. the civil rights movement is proof of that..

    • You also have confused correlation with causation. Cultural and societal changes caused the civil rights movement, and that movement changed the laws.

    • Fisherman, have you ever heard of Chicago, IL or Washington, D.C.? Strictest gun laws in the country. Go check out their crime rate.

  19. I was looking forward to reading this, and was solidly disappointed it’s just another argument against video games. There are plenty of people playing these games and not compelled to kill in real life.

    The larger point that you start to touch on finally at the end is “get these kids ____”. The key there being, someone _else_ has to help them. Parents, likely. Community support through family, friends, counseling, probably. Restricting access to guns for these people (which also still requires help from others), also needed.

    Violent video game playing is just yet another symptom of a far more complex problem, and inferring any causation is ignoring the significantly larger pool of people who play these games without incident.

  20. My video game of choice was D&D, and by that I mean the pen and paper version where you sat at a table with real people. Sure we had arguments, but it was real, and I never hurt anyone or went to jail.

      • that was because Bible vigilantes believed ( and still do) that D and D was Satanic. not because of violence or anything else.

    • Grant – Wow. This blog post is really honest and scary. Good writing. The section where you wrote, “I’d been playing Resident Evil for a few weeks. As soon as I had a little .22 rifle in my hand and I saw my brother a few yards away, I had this sudden urge. My brain screamed “shoot him!”
      …that’s exactly what I’m talking about. Thank you for writing about this. Too bad our paths never crossed more. And thanks for reading.
      – PBH

  21. I’m just wondering if you have a solution in mind other than “parents, get your kids to play outside more.” I think you make a totally sensible point – people who are deeply troubled and angry and may have violent tendencies should not be playing violent video games for 8 hours a day. But much like with access to guns, how do you figure out the high-risk kids and limit their access? I mean, supporting more studies is good but look at the dozens of studies demonstrating issues related to gun availability. Those studies aren’t likely to help change gun control laws, and I don’t know if studies are going to help limit access to videogames that are currently played by tens and tens of millions of people, especially when it’s only the people on the cusp of insanity who really need the help.

    As for why HuffPo didn’t want to publish it, who knows, but I don’t think it’s because anybody is in the industry’s pocket. They have been publishing a number of pieces on this topic in the past 2 months, with some strongly worded essays that single out video games as a problem (like the one from 1/31 by Sanjay Sanghoee).

    In any case, no matter how much a video game might push a troubled mind to the edge, if he doesn’t have a gun he’s not going to hurt (let alone kill) too many people.

    • The difference is: guns can be used to hurt or protect innocent people. Guns kill AND save lives. There is risk with the benefit. In 1966, the city of Orlando responded to a wave of sexual assaults by offering gun training classes for women. Sexual assaults dropped 90%. What is the benefit of the violent video games? Can we really claim that the entertainment value outweighs the risk?

  22. This is the conversation we’re not having and your introduction to this brilliant piece says as much as anything else. Huff didn’t want any part of this and they wouldn’t even discuss it with you. While not surprising, I find this pretty discouraging. I’ve been a classroom teacher since 1981. Think for a moment about the technological changes that have passed since 1981. We are now firmly entrenched in a time where young people may reasonably look at you askance when you suggest that using a phone while having a conversation can be construed as rude. The forces that desensitize and numb us have always threatened our consciousness to the world outside of ourselves. In today’s world, the forces that separate us are the forces that most threaten us. Nature always offers an antidote–and while not the only answer to the complex social and political problems that challenge us it will always be “good medicine”. I appreciate your work Peter, I appreciate how you delicately weave your personal experiences into positive action. I look forward to reading your new book, and I applaud you for taking action every day in a variety of ways. Keep teaching, keep writing. We need your voice.

  23. Thank you for sharing this. Shame on the Huffington Post for not posting it. Wish I could say I was surprised.

    Ok… here is my question, how do you suggest we help kids whose parents don’t care enough to get them outside? How can we spot and make a difference with boys (and girls) who don’t have parents who will engage?

    I have always viewed video games just like your mom did/does. It shocks me the amount of time kids spend playing games, much less incredibly violent ones.

    As a camp director wife for 18 + years and former camp counselor myself, I appreciate your suggestion. Camp is a terrific way to jump start kids into the outdoors. There are some affordable camps for low income kids, but they often fill up quickly.

    Shared your post on FB.

  24. As an elementary teacher, I agree with your perspective on violent video games. I am also the parent of two grown men, who although they played earlier versions of the aforementioned games, were also avid outdoorsmen. I believe you are a prime example of what you are advocating and hope that many people will heed your message. Boo to Huffington for trying to silence your voice.

  25. There are as many studies that say video games do not cause violence than there are that say they do. Movie and video games do not make one violent. Said person is already violent. I’m glad Huff Post didn’t publish your blog because it would lead people to believe in an incorrect theory. I’m in my 40’s and have played thousands of hours of violent video games and never done anything violent. 95% of the population is like me. We need to help that other 5% for sure, but banning games (which is the end game of your argument whether you see it or not) is not teh answer.

  26. Just before you said it, it clicked with me. The video games are TRAINING. Visual media can be used to desensitize us to violence. Repetition of phrases does the same for language. Heck, you can get over your fear of rabbits, by prolonged exposure. I once showed a movie to my Junior high schoolers and prefaced it with, “I apologize for the profanity in advance.” Afterwards, they remarked, “What profanity?”

    Although some commenters missed the point, I concur with your premise. TROUBLED teens shouldn’t spend 40 hours a week in simulated killing. Used to be we played outside before TV and video games. Nature ministers to us, and we need it.

    Too bad the Huff Post staff didn’t see the immense value in your piece.

  27. Pingback: Of School Shooters and Video Gamers | the Ink Slinger

  28. I didn’t read all the comments, but I just want to thank you for pursuing this, until you got your message out. I will post this on my Facebook. It is the best statement I’ve heard about this issue. I hope and pray that many parents read this. Who knows how many children’s lives could be changed, and people’s lives saved, if this message sinks in. And “poo” on Huff Po! I think you should write a book.😉 God bless you.

  29. Great article. I come from a generation when video games just started (Intellivison, Atari, etc). Yes I’ve played video games on and off for at least 30 years now but in the early days we were still at the playgrounds or local baseball diamond during spring and summer playing pickup ball. We wandered around outside with our friends for hours on end. Video games were a different distraction when the weather was bad or it was too late to be outside. I drive by baseball fields and parks now during the summer and they are empty for a vast majority of the day. Sad when you think about it.

    I’ve read most of the replies here and agree with most of them. I can’t say if violent video games “cause” the issues at hand but I’ve played my fair share of the Call of Duty games and I’ve never had the desire to act out on what I see on screen since I can compartmentalize what goes on in the game and what reality is. However, I can see where it could cause a small minority of people to blend their reality with the virtual world they live in. It shouldn’t get to that point though. If your kid is playing videos games of any nature for as many hours as you go to work during the week, there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

    In the end, one question I have is where are the parents in all of this? I’m sorry but the amount of under 18 year old kids I can hear talking during Call of Duty is disturbing. That is a parenting fail of monumental proportions. Has parenting become such a distraction to parents that they would rather let their kids do “whatever” so they don’t have to deal with the consequences of say taking a video game away? If so then sorry, you shouldn’t have had children. I have two younger boys and I will be damned if they will play games like Call of Duty in my house. And while I cannot control what they will do at a friends house, I can do my parental duty and let them know it is not OK to play those kinds of games at a friends house either.

    I don’t disagree with a study being done to see about the effects of violent video games and violent movies but there also has to be a lot of responsibility thrown back at the parents on this one. There is no reason a parent should be buying a game rated as mature (18 and over) for their 12 year old just because they asked for it and “all the other kids are playing it”. Do your homework on the game and sit back and use your judgement because no child is mature enough below the age of 18 to play these types of games. It is time for parents everywhere to grow up and take control of what happens in your house and with your family.

  30. I definitely enjoy my video games. I definitely do NOT enjoy the needlessly violent, graphically visceral games who try to meld wanton destruction with entertainment.
    I totally enjoyed games like “Perfect Dark”” (a game engine sequel to “GoldenEye” back in the N64 days), and while it was a first-person shooter, the entire point of the games was NOT solely to run-n-gun. Sometimes, it was far better to avoid confrontations. That, at the very least, poised to the player to THINK about the best way to accomplish the goal of the mission. In fact, you could sometimes, with some skill, avoid a great MANY gun battles.

    Other games like the “Metal Gear” and “Splinter Cell” franchises have HEAVY focuses on stealth. You’re actually rewarded for how many enemies you do NOT kill or engage in any combat with. To be sure, you have a variety of ways to take out your enemy – this is “war”, after all – but it’s not glorified. In fact, in one instance, Sam Fisher of the “Splinter Cell” series, is trying to locate a captured computer scientist. He manages to find him just moments after his torturers have killed him. Too late to accomplish his goal at the time, in-game dialogue between Sam and his off-site contact discuss Sam’s actions to cut the poor dead man free from the bonds he was hung from, laying his dead body in the bathtub. “We don’t have time for this, Sam!” says the contact. Sam’s reply, “You can spare a few seconds to allow him dignity [in death].” Death and destruction are often fuel for the fire of so many conflict-laden games, but it’s nice to see that even the most hardened soldiers understand compassion. And that’s actually something that’s lacking: the pursuit of what’s GOOD in the MIDST of obvious evil is what wins the day. This is a message that is almost void in the entire video game market.

    I’m aware of my own past video game addictions. While I never had any notions of killing bullies who picked on me, the problem that resulted was that gaming was more important that my school work. I would escape INTO video games to avoid the other hurts in my daily life…a broken family and a weak social life. I wanted to be the hero and I wanted to feel like I could actually accomplish…SOMETHING.

    Today, looking back and looking at games of the now, I endeavor to start a gaming company that incorporates powerful – even if somewhat subversive – messages that encourage and teach positive principles. To (re)introduce values that our society has lost. Such as how not to compromise what’s important when faced with various temptations, how to THINK through various topics, and so on. (Suffice to say, story telling will be vital to most all the games I currently have in mind.) As movies and books and music are so strong an influence in our culture, I hope to utilize these mediums into my games – the perfect melting pot. I want the messages I share to be something that empowers individuals to evaluate their lives and make good choices, to help them see a situation in a better light, a new perspective. To help them figure out an issue in a way they might not been able to resolve. I see games not just as entertainment, but tools to teach and grow up our media-focused youth (and adults).

    And that’s to say nothing about how I hope to use my company to bless and benefit my employees! LOL

    Video games are sadly abused – both by developers and players. Just like today’s secular music and today’s Hollywood. The content is pitiful. And weak, misguided minds pick up this content and many of them do run with it. Not all in such violent ways. But…garbage in… Let’s just say the human mind is horrible at recycling trash into quality stuff.

    I’m glad you pointed out that video games, themselves, do not make one evil. But I also agree that we are failing our youth when they are so obviously in dire straights in social and educational avenues. Who is reaching out to them and helping to guide them positively? Who is teaching them values that are good? Helping them to THINK – to truly recognize the weight of the consequences of their actions BEFORE they choose those actions? Anyone who leaves our youth to be taught by today’s music, movies, or games are abandoning them to a high likelihood of chaos and greater trouble.

    What we need to do is actually be involved in our youths’ lives and not leave them to the whims of the world.

  31. It’s not the violent video games, per say, it is the parents who allow them to be played 40 hrs a week… I think we – as parents – might be too worried about making our kids upset. It’s way easier to allow them to stare at screens for hours and hours on end, then it is to ask them to do something else (because they will argue and complain). It’s a cycle that we keep perpetuating, by not forcing moderation (of all things) into our kids’ lives.

    • I think this is correct. We – parents – need to take responsibility and encourage positive actions. Being acquiescing friends won’t help them long-term.

  32. Very well written, and thought-provoking. It is good to hear your perspective on things. I must say I’m torn. I’m an avid video gamer and have been since my youth in the 80s, but I would not consider myself troubled or a loner – and that may have been the difference. The influence of my fellow geeks and nerds and the inherent accountability that comes with interacting with others in the real world likely played a large role in offsetting whatever theoretical negative effects I may have experienced. The difference though, now, is realism. Video games are crossing through the “uncanny valley” into realms that blur the line between imagination and reality – and for youth that are already struggling with their perception of reality, this can be a slippery slope. Regulation and government intervention seem like a noble cause on the surface but no legislation will stand up to personal inaccountability.

    And this, I feel, is the crux of our societal problems today. Our access to “social” realms like Facebook and Twitter and such have allowed us to exhibit behaviors that would otherwise be considered unacceptable in the real world. This is why cyberbullying is now a much bigger problem than real bullying (and often much more harmful). Access to anonymity on the web has created a culture of inaccountability in today’s youth because there are fewer if any reprecussions or penalties for things said or done online. But this is merely one facet of our collective shift. The biggest shift I’ve seen while growing up and again as a parent is the trend of a shrinking desire to hold youth accountable for their actions for fear of “violating their rights”. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I was a minor I had no rights. I was a kid, and I was raised to listen to my parents and respect the “village elders” in my neighborhood. It never dawned on me to mouth off to my parents (or any adult), “diss” them, or pick up a weapon and retaliate because I thought someone had “wronged” me. I was taught that my words have power and my actions come with accountabilities. My parents limited my screen time (tv and otherwise) and offset it with positive influences in my life.

    Part of me does agree with your premise that FPS games like Call of Duty amount to some form of “training”. I would actually posit that it is more akin to “brainwashing” — repeated exposure to an environment that retrains the brain to change their fundamental belief system, in this case that picking up an AR-15 and gunning down as many “enemies” as possible holds no consequence. Especially with youth — who are often still forming their belief systems — this can be a very damaging detour for them.

    Which brings me to my biggest issue with anyone who immediately jumps to “call your congressman to petition for this or that new law”. WHERE IS PARENTAL ACCOUNTABILITY? I doubt that most/all of these kids had the means to [a] buy their own game consoles and [b] afford $60 a pop for these games. I’ve seen a trend where videogames have replaced tv as the “babysitter” in many households, either because the parents don’t have time to spend with their kids or they simply have no desire to.

    There is already legislation in the form of very strict and explicit ratings systems for videogames, but the legislation means NOTHING if people don’t care, or selectively interpret the legislation to “work the system”. Personally? I feel that the age limits for some M-rated games are too low. The average 17-year old does not yet have the impulse control to fully adjust his behavior after being repeatedly exposed to negative influences. But it doesn’t matter if the age limit is 30. Or 100. If consumers ignore the ratings, they’re worthless.

    There is an AO-rating (adults-only) but this is rarely used and typically only when the content of a game is overtly sexual in nature. This is a separate issue which I won’t delve into, but it speaks to the warped puritanical viewpoint we have in this country about “appropriate content” — we can turn on any network channel in prime time and see violence in all its glory, but a woman shows a nipple on tv and it’s “the end of civilization as we know it”. Shakespeare said “tis nothing good nor bad in this world, but thinking makes it so”. We Americans are worried about the wrong things when there are more restrictions to owning European cheese than there are for assault weapons. But it reflects our history. This country was founded on war, personal liberty and “taking what’s ours”. Call me a Socialist if you like, but the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.

    Now, granted, not every child was/is fortunate to have loving and attentive parents (or any parents at all) but every child has adults around them that can exert positive influence — teachers, mentors, foster parents, socialworkers, etc. Neuroscience has shown that a person’s impulse control doesn’t truly mature until they are in their mid-twenties, which is why it’s important for adults to help youth navigate those impulses and process these emotions flooding their brains. It takes a village. When I was a kid and I was doing something I shouldn’t be, if my parents weren’t around, someone stepped in for them (especially if it was dangerous). We have forgotten what it means to be a village, and we have replaced collaboration and mutual accountability with litigation and personal liberty.

    As one who climbs and plays a team sport (hockey), I applaud your message to encourage today’s youth to push themselves away from their screens and (re)discover the real world. Anything to offset potentially negative influences in any form. But videogames are not the sole cause of the problem, they are merely a symptom of how lack of accountability in our society has grown, and an example of how technology must be used responsibly in the future to ensure the health of “the village”.

    Finally, I agree with many previously who respond that videogames alone do not make someone violent, but i DO agree that they do offer an uninhibited conduit for already violent people to “hone their craft”. This speaks to the dovetailed issue with the “gun rights” debate currently floating through congress (don’t get me started on that, either). We need to make access to mental health services EASIER than access to guns, and potentially as easy as access to videogames (or violent movies).

  33. It’s always refreshing to hear how someone survived their worst self. Like recovery, sharing what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now, reveals a path others may follow. It inspires hope.

  34. Reading through your blog, I was reminded of a thought-inspiring talk/sermon that I heard last year (link to it below). It had been focused upon violence itself, be it through any means. It provided great history commentary on violence and focused on rising America focus around violence. Here were some interesting facts shared:

    * Today’s average highschool student has already witnessed 12,000 violent deaths on television

    * The American Center for Disease Control now tracks violence as a threat to public health which affects children

    * The need for “amping” up violence (in TV, games, etc) is apparent: 1996-2001 there were 102 graphic torturing scenes. Four years following; 2001-2005 – 624 scenes!

    *America has the highest suicide, homicide, and firearm related death rates (of teens) than any other industrialize world – In fact, we are 12x higher than that of 25 of the wealthiest countries combined.

    All that considered, “It’s not too much to say that America today, like the Roman Empire, celebrates violence.” Also, the idea that violence begets violence is explored.

    Whether you come from a religious background or not, I feel this is a thoughtful, rather secular piece, that sheds some light on violence in today’s world. Here’s the link to the audio file, if you want to check it out: http://www.edmondsumc.org/content.cfm?id=400&content_id=717#attached_content

    I just wonder, why do we as a nation like and glorify violence so much – be it video games, tv, sports, or enchanced war? And, how does it really affect our psyche to expose ourselves to it?

  35. Pingback: Adventure 'til Death » Confronting Reality – Part One (The Utah Motel)

  36. Excellent article, Peter. I was similar to you, though I never brought a gun to school. I didn’t have access. After a school fight, I might have brought one if I’d had access. I was lucky to have a few friends to defuse my rage, though the destructive fantasies were always there- and quenched with D&D and yes, video games, but this was the ’80s and Atari only trained me to jump on the heads of alligators to cross a pond.
    I think video games are just one cause, one part of our violent culture. We declare war on invisible enemies. Drugs. Terror. “Them.” Why wouldn’t kids so full of rage against the world declare war on it? I don’t think we can point to any one cause, but 40 hours a week in front of the TV or the Xbox is a warning sign. I quit video games years ago- I was an Everquest addict- now I don’t even play Angry Birds on my phone for more than a few minutes before I’m bored. I’d rather read a book.
    I replaced the games with hiking. Venturing outside into that scary world I used to play in as a kid- when Mom turned off the Atari console and told us to go PLAY. I have friends in their thirties who still play video games for hours and hours, and while I appreciate an immersive game as much as I used to, and think they are a valid art form- I can’t plant my butt in a chair to watch TV or thumb controllers anymore. It’s manipulation, TV has always been about making you sit for commercials, and games tickle your reward center to keep you playing and playing. It makes me feel like a rat pulling a lever.

    We need to ignore the 24/7 news cycle telling us that it’s too scary to let our kids play outside, and get out there with them. 40 hours a week playing games is 40 hours without family. What the hell are the parents doing? Probably playing on their phones or watching TV.

    For 99.99% of people, games, movies or TV won’t be a problem. We are a violent culture. The games are a mirror of that. If anything, this should be a warning to parents that 40 hours making model airplanes, watching TV, playing Halo or whatever is probably not the best idea. Even reading, and I write books! Get the hell outside. Go do something. Create your own damn games. Go to the maker’s faire. climb a tree and break your leg. Then you can play video games until it heals.

  37. I don’t agree that violent video games are the cause of school shootings, and that’s not exactly what he’s saying here, but for kids that are already prone to that sort of behavior it could be that extra little push.

    What I honestly see as one of the main problems is a breakdown in parenting, and a breakdown in society. Teenage kids playing violent video games for 30-40+ hours a week (and honestly I bet those kids he asked lowered their estimation), where’s the parental oversight of what their kids are doing? Do they know what their kid is doing? Apparently the parents of school shooters didn’t. With most families needing to have both parents working full time jobs and sometimes more than that to make ends meet, it’s not surprising that they aren’t aware of what their kid is up to.

    And if all they see from their parents is the struggle to make money and more money, then there’s no hope, there’s no vision – no inspiration for what their kid might like to do with their lives. Get involved with your kids, show them something besides just how important your job is to you. Take them out into nature, I totally agree with him on that, go camping, hiking, canoeing, etc. Join a martial arts program with your kids (shameless plug), we’ve seen lots of families grow stronger together as they’ve come and trained together in our classes, martial arts is a great way to develop character and discipline in children and youth…and adults that lack it. But mostly just be involved in their lives and show them how much you care for them.

  38. Peter, I understand your point here and I more or less agree with it, but you’re going to catch a lot of flack (and seemingly already did) for questioning something people are so attached to.

    I agree that video games can be harmful to young, alienated people, but they are a symptom of a deeper issue. I’ve been an angry, lonely, rejected teenager like you, man. I was an artistic minded youth in an isolated, working-class community. I secluded myself and played video games for hours: Contra, Doom, Half-Life, Rainbow Six, name them, I’ve played them. It never occured to me though that I could make violence to my peers until Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold did it. That was a shock. In many ways, I became an adult on April 20th, 1999.

    I believe that many young people are left to themselves and lost in a gap of generations. My parents (God bless them), did the best they could, but they threw the towel in trying to understand what I was going through when I turned about 13 years old. I was a little shit, it’s hard to begrudge them, but all I wanted was for people to take interest in me and help me make sense out of the chaos in my head.

    Video games are often used as a mean for parents to keep their kids quiet and there is a market for that. There is money to be made to give power to isolated kids. I think that a reform of the video game industry would be ultimately useless, because we live in the information age and user-based content would start flooding the web and companies would go belly up, hurting the economy and make things worse.

    In the end, I think an alienated kid is an alienated kid. You didn’t have video games to pour your rage over, but you found something else. In a world without video games, same thing would happen. I agree that they are harmful (especally the shooting simulator-likes of Call of Duty that can make reality super-thin at times), but I don’t think their reform would help. They are a symptom. If you have a disease and kill a sympton, you will develop another. It’s the kids you have to aim at. Develop positive role models, value interested beyond athletic competition in media, develop markets for artistic minded youth. By setting up a system that would steer them away from isolation, I think we would stop the bleeding.

    That’s just my two cents anyway. Nothing scientific. Just something I spent a lot of time thinking about.

    • Nice point on symptoms versus diseases. It’s hard to know what the full effect of anything is. But negative is negative.

    • Thanks for re-blogging. That’s awesome. And thanks for being politically incorrect too. I’ve had people complain that I’m too liberal and too conservative. What does that even mean?

  39. I’m very surprised (and disappointed) that this got shut out of Huffington Post. It really isn’t very extreme at all – it’s pretty straightforward and logical to figure that kids who aren’t at risk for angry, violent behavior should be more or less fine playing certain kinds of video games…whereas kids who are might simply have their fantasies fueled, instead of diffused.

    I’ve been an avid video gamer for over the past 10 years, since high school, and there really are some major dangers presented by them, violent or no: for one, like you pointed out – they’re fantasies, and the extent to which that is good for a person is limited. For another, they’re designed to stimulate addictive behavior so that you’ll keep playing. They’re not evil, but they do stimulate brains in ways that necessitate being careful. It’s imperative to employ self control with video games.

    Quite frankly, most high schoolers don’t have very strong self control. (I know I didn’t; heck, ten years later I still don’t, which means I *still* run into the occasional unpleasant mornings after staying up too late gaming…) Mix a lack of self control with puberty, social awkwardness and anger, plus the chemical reactions stimulated in the brain with excessive gaming – and it should be OBVIOUS that there’s the potential for a problem.

  40. While violent video games may have some additive effects on some people, I wonder if there was another difference between the younger you and the school shooters?

    While a troubled teen, were you ever prescribed medication to deal with depression or ADD or ADHD?

    Have a nice day.

  41. Many folks have already stated my opinions on the matter – video games can potentially be one of the many avenues troubled teens can take (along with other circumstances) that results in negative behavior to their peers. What I am appalled at concerns the nature of every single adult’s opinion on the games themselves.

    I am a current college student that spends a great deal of time studying, climbing, recreating, and gaming. Before I discovered how much passion I had for outdoor recreation, I had the internet and games. Yes, I was one of those kids that spent 40 hours in front of the computer some weeks. I was also a pessimistic child that constantly questioned my worth as a person and what I was meant to do with my life. Troubled? Check. Video game addict? I didn’t view it as an addiction, but all ya’ll would have, so, check. I played shooters, rpgs, sandboxes, strategy games, and when it came down to it, the more blood and gore the better. I still love the horror genre, and I still love gore.

    My parents and I would sometimes get into fights about the time I put into gaming, especially if I was seen ‘wasting’ summers. Sometimes I’d sneak my laptop into my bedroom for those extra hours of play time at night. It was fun! Why shouldn’t I be able to have fun? But as the years have gone by and my time has been filled with other interests, my gaming time has dwindled. I focus on interactive story games now, the more interesting the lore, the more interested I am.

    Video games don’t need to be labeled as these violent things we ‘put up with.’ My morals and ethic were built on the foundation of strong parenting, not from spending a ton of time gunning down ‘bad guys.’ Solving puzzles, cutting through camps of soldiers, exploring worlds? That didn’t make me a shithead about reality, that made me absolutely LOVE exploring the world around me. When I was 15 and began really getting into climbing, one thing struck me that made me beam ear to ear: climbing puzzles reminded me of complicated problem solving in video games! The only reason I know anything about geography? Video games. Making decisions and seeing your choices echo across cities? Seeing people you grew accustomed to gunned down because you made the wrong choice? Is the violence necessary for these ideas? No, but it’s fun, engaging and sometimes it really makes you think. And there’s nothing wrong with it as long as you (troubled or otherwise) can recognize the difference in realities.

    My experiences instilled a a passion inside of me for getting out and making my reality fun. I wanted to explore, I wanted to ‘level up’ and climb hard, I wanted to be as cool as Gordon Freeman – a theoretical physicist that saves the world, like a boss.

    So please, stop shining a single light on the nature of violent (or otherwise) video games. Different people have different experiences with so many things that it’s simply presumptuousness and ignorant to lump something so vast in iterations into one category of ‘put up with it, but it sucks.’ There are always potential positives, and potential negatives to any subject matter.

    • Melissa, your post is very confusing to read, and what I could get from the legible portion of it made no sense. Just by you sneaking your laptop into your room to play more, more, more shows that you had an addiction and a total disregard for authority, a complete disrespect for your parents. If you are trying to speak highly of gaming, that was not a good point to make it on. Your parents should not have had to fight with you over the issue of your “addiction”; you should have listened to them. Yes, the constant yielding of oneself to anything is an addiction. Your post spoke strongly for the opposition of the overuse of video games and the use of violent games period. Even if certain games may have inspired you to go outdoors and experience real life, the fact still remains that you wasted so much of your life, forty hours per week’s worth (time that cannot be gotten back). That time could have been spent with family, serving your parents, serving your community…..

      • Dee, I had no problem understanding Melissa’s post and appreciate the perspective. Do you spend all your time judging and trying to control people? How rude and inappropriate to tell someone they wasted their life and what they should have done with their time!

      • Hello Dee,
        Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I’m not sure what points in my post were illegible. However, I believe you may have mixed up some of my points, so allow me to reiterate.

        The majority of the comments on this blog have linked excessive (30-40+ hrs/wk) violent game playing to the cause of a teen becoming an outcast/troubled/etc. Either that or they say that this game playing is worsening the already outstanding problem. By that logic, when I was a rebellious, pessimistic, depressed kid in my early teens, and I went to gaming to fill my time, I should have gotten worse. I should have learned nothing, I should have become a person of questionable integrity.

        However, eventually my experiences in the gaming world (with so many different fantastical realities) spawned a desire to explore. So when I found climbing, it immediately clicked and I fell absolutely in love. Not only that, I also ended up receiving a great deal of valuable lessons from gaming.

        Currently, I would say I’m a well-rounded person who enjoys and partakes in all manner of activities (including from time to time, gaming). But I wouldn’t be the person I am right now if I hadn’t had those experiences. And I like who I am!

        Finally, regarding your point on fighting with my parents, you’re right, I really didn’t want to listen to them about my time at that point in my life. However, gaming was simply the topic of the fights I had, not the cause of my rebellion and anger. And again, I am not attempting to defend my past self per se, merely demonstrating that there is another perspective to what video games can do to someone’s behavior or mind at that level of exposure.

  42. I found out about the Columbine shootings when one of my classmates, one who I even considered a friend, asked me how I would have done it. I found out then that even my classmates who knew me “best” obviously didn’t know me. I was a senior at a small Christian school in California and had been in classes and church with these classmates, or at least the vast majority of them, since kindergarten. Everyone knew I not only loved guns, but really did know how to use them. I knew what they could do; precisely what they could do. I was an avid hunter, even known to come down with cases of “buck fever” that kept me out of school at times during deer season. I also knew how to use other weapons, like knives, and carried a knife every day. (The knife was actually used more often by the faculty than by me, and since they never saw it unless there was a good reason for it to be used, the faculty didn’t mind. At one point I threw the closed knife to my Spanish teacher, in front of the superintendent, so he could open a box of peppermints.) I never played the violent video games that some of the other students played; I played laser tag and paintball and actually learned how to make my body do the things that my friends got good at doing with keystrokes. I had diagrams of the school memorized, down to pace counts between doors and how big the janitorial closets were. I had a device (a piece of flat plastic) that would open any door in the school. I was a loner, most often wore black, was bullied all the way through junior high, etc. In simple terms, I matched fairly closely with the profile of the school shooter that was published by either Time or Newsweek, I forget which now. However, I saw then, and still see now, one very significant difference. I believe, as I did then, that human life is sacred, and as such it must be protected. The killing of a human being is only justified in the gravest of circumstances. Columbine was not the first school shooting, nor will Newtown be the last. I knew that, even if the chances were small, there was a chance that someone would come into our school and start shooting people. And so I trained. I knew more about what guns could and could not do than anyone else in the school, excepting my brothers and a couple other people, and had determined to use that knowledge; not to kill my classmates like some seemed to think, but to stop someone else from being able to, because, no matter how bad they might have treated me in the past, their lives were still sacred and still to be protected.
    I believe that we need to teach people that human life is sacred. If people truly believe that, and not as some passing ideal but as a core belief, then how would they go on such a rampage. And if someone did, someone else would be driven to stop them. Those who would be willing to take on the responsibility should be allowed to carry weapons. If there is one thing that these school shootings teach us, it is that a response time of even three to four minutes (which I think was the response time at Newtown) is too long. People must be allowed to stand ready and able to defend human life; their own or those around them.

    • BRAVO, NATHAN!! You addressed what no one else here has touched upon – the lack of respect for human life. No one ever dares suggest that for most of these shooters lives, they have been told by the culture in which they grew up that human life is expendable if the time is not right, you cannot afford it, or you simply don’t want it via the push to have abortion legal, acceptable, and performed at any stage of pregnancy. The lack of respect for the elderly has increased DRAMATICALLY in my lifetime as has respect for ALL human life – from the womb to the tomb. Our CULTURE is much more responsible for these happenings than most people think or suggest. Personal responsibility has been thrown to the wayside by blaming others, blaming things, etc. for an individual’s moral failure and/or criminal behavior.

  43. I have been an elementary school teacher for 16 years (grades 3, 4, and 5) and I want to applaud you for writing such an articulate expression of what intelligent people everywhere should recognize as simply sound logic! Your experience truly makes you a credible contributor to this discussion, and I appreciate your tenacity at getting your thoughts out there for the public to see despite the very obvious (and strange) roadblocks that have been put in your way.

    I do not believe that playing violent video games is the lone causal factor of violent rampages, and I am sure they can contribute, in moderation, to sharpening problem-solving skills, curiosity, and passion as in Melissa’s case. However, to me it seems to be only logical that, as children play these games at younger and younger ages, these opportunities to “participate” in violent acts (even in fantasy), could contribute in a powerful way to the drive to carry out such acts in real-life settings… particularly in children and adolescents who feel powerless, victimized, and angry and do not have the support of a caring family or circle of friends to carry them through it.

    The school where I teach is located in an area where many of my students do not have such support, and 5-11 year olds spend hours a day inside, plugged in, and checked out. I watch as video game scenarios are reenacted on the playground with more and more enthusiasm, despite the many discussions we have in class, parent phone calls, and meeting with school officials about reenacting violence. I’m not talking about the cops and robbers we played as kids… I’m talking about drawing detailed pictures, using graphic language about death and killing, and parents that think it’s really no big deal.

    Sure, there are many gamers out there that can handle it. It’s inspiring to hear Melissa’s story. There are also many children who can’t. When you, as a 9 year-old, spend hours in front of the tv practicing killing (many times against “live” opponents thanks to wireless networking) with more and more realistic graphics, and less and less human face-to-face interaction and family/social support, how can this NOT be harmful in some way? Maybe not to the point of producing a killing spree, but harmful none-the-less.

    Thanks, Peter, for speaking out!

  44. Nobody can be in someone else’s head and say what they were thinking or why they did something, but sometimes the parallels of a similar life experience can allow you to try. I have thought about this a lot as well, and I don’t really know whether violent video games, mental illness, or a lack of social belonging can be blamed alone for someone going on a killing spree (probably the last two could), but the really important thing that I do take away from this and I am glad to see someone else saying it, is that not all people who act out violently or shoot up a school are at heart BAD people- many of them could go either way, and if someone or something could have been there at the right moment, the outcome could have been MUCH different- for any of the recent school shooters, for Pete, for me, and really for anyone that went down some of the wrong roads as a teenager and either did or didn’t end up getting back on track. I couldn’t agree more though about the mental healing properties if the outdoors, and that there is something fundamentally dehumanizing about spending a large part of your life in a virtual world… There’s no doubt to me that it is bad, but how bad, I really don’t know.

  45. You mentioned that the military uses video games to train Soldiers to kill. This is true. I have many times used the simulation program to practice my shooting skills. The idea behind the video simulation is to desensitize the Soldiers. It gets them used to pointing and shooting at a human shaped target. That is also the idea behind the human shaped sillouettes at the rifle ranges.
    Although I don’t believe that the video games the kids play provide killing practice they do, however, desensitize them. The kids are used to shooting at human like targets. In some cases, these video games are now using controllers that look like the real thing. The video game creator’s goal is to make it as real of an experience as possible; the same goal the military has!

  46. I’ve been a gamer for most of my life and I find articles like this very insulting. What makes what I do for fun less legitimate than what you do? Obviously, yes, video games are a problem if you play them constantly, but so is anything else without some moderation. I agree that going outside can be rich and fulfilling, but completing something in a video game can be just as good, especially in a creative game.

    School shootings are an issue of parenting and mental health. The people who commit these crimes are usually very ill and would naturally be drawn to a solitary activity in which you kill people. This is a simple matter of correlation, not causation–a very common error with people who blame the media for violence. And as for parenting, it’s a parent’s responsibility to make sure their child is mature enough to handle the subject matter of certain games. And if their child has a severe enough disorder that he or she is in danger of becoming violent, that is up to the parent to take care of (and yes, in this case that child should not be playing Call of Duty).

    Going outside is not by default better than video games–I would much rather have my son playing Call of Duty than getting actual shooting practice with Airsoft or paintball (although I would hope my son would play more fulfilling games than Call of Duty). It’s the quality of the activity that matters, not the genre of activity itself. It’s better for a child to go hiking, reading a good novel, or playing a good video game than playing with toy guns, reading trash fiction, or playing a bad video game.

    You seem to be biased against video games, but I challenge you to give them a second chance. I agree that games like Call of Duty are absolute trash (although of course they don’t cause real violence, even though they are naturally correlated with it). But there are violent video games that give violent acts appropriate weight and tie them into the themes and morals of the game (look up Bioshock–a violent commentary on individualism and one of the best examples of art I can think of). Categorically attacking an entire form of media is not helpful and distracts from real issues.

  47. Okay, so first, let me commend you for the introduction to this piece. I think that our society and the media have presented a depiction of the young American shooter that is dehumanized, evil, and beyond rehabilitation. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case – the right person, voice, activity, whatever could definitely save an at-risk teen.
    I don’t think that it’s exactly fair to say that outdoor activities are inherently peaceful and restorative while video games create violent, angry, “unathletic” teens who “struggled with peers.” (Also, quick note: These are students who trusted you enough to be honest with you, right? I’m sure that you describing them in such a flattering light online has done wonders for their self-esteems)
    Look, I grew up in Eugene. I kayaked, rock-climbed, camped, rafted, skied… the whole shebang. Do I think it kept me from hurting people? Of course not. I had violent, angry thoughts when I was younger as well, and the mountains didn’t keep me from falling off that ledge.
    I don’t know what it was for me. I’m passionate about a lot of things. I have a lot of reasons to not hurt people, or myself. It’s not because of my experiences in the great outdoors. In fact, I think insinuating that athletic, outdoorsy activities keep kids from hurting people is a bit self-important. There are a wide variety of activities that could keep a kid grounded that don’t involve the outdoors. Music, art, writing, friends and family can ground someone just as well as hiking can. In fact, hunting is an extremely violent practice that trains someone to inflict pain I would argue better than a video game controller can – and that takes place outdoors.
    I’m not a big fan of violent video games. I have friends who are, though, and I don’t think they are as violent as me. I can’t speak for you, but I would say that they have less in common with school shooters than you did at that age – probably because of the fact you actually carried a physical gun. I think gun control is a more prevalent issue than video game control. And I think forcing kids into the outdoors should go even farther onto the backburner.
    I’m not trying to make this personal, but I noticed as a less-than-athletic former student, I felt angry – not because I didn’t spend enough time on a mountain, but because of the general entitlement of the IOP program. I often felt like students in IOP, and even the teachers, acted as if they were generally more well-rounded, healthy, sociable, intelligent, and in touch than the general student body. No, I haven’t felt at home in nature. But I am very comfortable with myself, with my community, with my feelings (as cheesy as that might sound). Before you start pointing fingers at teens who are a little less athletic than your precious IOP-ers and stuffing them in a life vest, remember that each person’s experience with their “dark periods” is different. Perhaps nature saved you. That doesn’t mean it’s going to save me.

    • I like your strong opinion. It does give balance to this argument since my opinions were strong too. But you did try to make this comment personal and that’s odd. Let’s look at one of your attacks. The fact is that the IOP students have some of the lowest total SES for any organized group at South. If you want to find an entitled socio-economic group, look at the A.P. kids or the student base of IHS. See the make-up, parental backgrounds, and opportunities for those groups. Maybe the IOPers are more well-rounded and maybe they’re not. But they’re not “entitled.” Attack me if you want to, but don’t attack the IOP kids.

  48. Great piece, I’ve shared it and a ton of friends have felt the same. One thought I had, and you hinted around it, is where are the parents of these kids playing ultra violent video games 40+ hours per week? I have 5 kids, and sure, it’s a challenge to keep them from running from one screen to another. And they will play as much (and more) than we let them. But there’s (at least) two problems here. One is the issue of letting your kids play for more hours than we work. But more importantly, why do parents allow these games in the house? I know parents who would never let their kids watch R-rated movies, but will go to the mall and buy M-rated video games for their 11 year old.

    You said it yourself, your mom would never have allowed it, and neither would mine. While we don’t ban games altogether, we have limited the type we have at home. And we have a couple first person shooters, like Star Wars, but nothing that portrays the graphic killing that Call of Duty does. And my kids beg for Halo or CoD every time we pass them in the store. And I’m sure they play them at friends’ houses. But they won’t in my house.

    I know in this day and age, it’s probably too much to expect parents to parent. But I don’t think regulation is the answer. I think it’s probably a tiny minority of the population that is susceptible to this kind of conditioning. I do agree that we as a country should be honestly studying this issue, along with the anti-psychotic or other medication that many of these shooters have been exposed to before we rush to blame the weapon used and ignore other root causes.

  49. Games are that, games. I’ve played various video games that have ‘killing’ the bad guys as part of the game. My kids play them too. It doesn’t make us killers.
    BTW, I’m in my 50s and don’t own guns.

  50. Let me preface this by saying that I think FPS video games are insanely boring.

    The problem is not video games. It’s not television. It’s not rap music.

    The problem is our culture. kids are playing COD 40 hours a week, not because they have anger issues that could lead to a murderous rampage, but simply because their life sucks.

    Parents are too busy to spend enough time with their kids and too exhausted when they’re home to be good parents.

    Kids either play indoors or in their backyard because they have minimal supervision and these are the only safe options available.

    The result is millions of kids growing up without interacting with society. By the time they are teenagers they’re socially awkward because they have not acquired the skills of basic communication with other human beings.

    The inability to talk to people essentially leads to a life of solo activity. This used to mean television but now means video games. Why the violent video games? Because they are the ones that allow these kids to interact with other people, something they desperately want to do, but don’t know how to. But online gaming connects socially awkward kids with other socially awkward kids and they can relate.

    But this is not the problem. Video games are played by all kinds of people. In fact, the average age of a video gamer is 30+.

    The problem is the culture that fosters an upbringing that leads to this isolation. Not knowing how to make friends or talk to a girl. These are the things that drive people crazy.

    And you can’t just say it’s bad parenting. We live in a society where the vast majority of people are in debt and living pay check to pay check. They’re not going to lose their house to spend time with their kid (although I would argue they should).

    Until we can learn to prioritize our quality of life over quantity, we’re kinda screwed. Obviously we should ban assault weapons (and every other gun on earth as far as I’m concerned), but that doesn’t cure the desire.

    It wasn’t that long ago that the average household had one source of income. As we progressed closer to gender equality (not achieved), dual income families became the norm. It’s wonderful that women entered the workforce, but we screwed up in that we should have kept living in a single income family model. Now because most families are dual income, our economy reflects it. Everything costs more because everyone has more money. The end result is that there is no benefit in a dual income family of today over a single income family of 60 years ago money-wise. Instead, single parents are penalized severely, everybody has to pay for childcare because nobody is home, and nobody has time to spend with their kids.

    We now live to work. Every aspect of our lives is geared towards it. Our food is designed to be prepared as quickly as possible. Our vacations typically consist of package deals at manufactured resorts instead of a family road trip cross country. We even elect representatives based on how many jobs they can create or how much lower our taxes will be instead of electing based upon what benefits they will bring to us as a society.

    If you really want to do something to solve this, go travel the world. Go live in a place you never thought you’d even visit once in your life. Go and pursue the job you really want that doesn’t pay as much as the job you have. Rent an apartment instead of buying a house so you can pick up and leave if your heart desires (not to mention that you have to live in a house for 8-10 years before it becomes more affordable than renting). Go meet people out of your comfort zone. Go to a pride parade, regardless of your sexuality. If you’re religious, attend at least one service of every faith that you’re not a part of.

    Take all these unique experiences back to your friends and family and tell them to do the same. That’s how you solve this. Stop blaming the symptom. Start addressing the problem.

    • Well said: “The result is millions of kids growing up without interacting with society. By the time they are teenagers they’re socially awkward because they have not acquired the skills of basic communication with other human beings.”

  51. It is regrettable Huff Po didn’t publish your post. Makes me wonder….is their unwillingness due to fear or some sort of denial because no one really wants to open that door? I think your honest depiction of your own troubled youth scared them away. We need articles like this to prompt the kind of dialogue that is evident in all the comments people have shared. This is a subject that needs to be examined from every angle. There are so many good points being made. But, what does it come down to? The troubled young person whose problems and isolation goes undiagnosed and untreated? Exposure and access to guns? Acting out violence as part of a game? School bullying and ostracization from one’s peers? So many things come into play and we need to figure out as a society how to address this complex issue one piece at a time. A healthy home life with parent(s) who are tuned into their children, who monitor their computer and tv use is so vital. When my son was growing up we kept our computer in the dining room, so we knew the content of what he was viewing and also how long he was on the computer. We encouraged him to get outdoors whenever possible – fresh air, exercise, access to nature is healing and empowering for our youth. It’s not the computer or tv viewing alone that’s the problem – it’s learning to balance one’s life where you’re not spending hours online or watching tv. We need to encourage our kids to seek out healthy activities that build their self esteem and sense of accomplishment. I know I am glossing over the complexity and the darker side of this issue – obviously, there are no easy short-term answers but we have to start somewhere… and soon. Thank you for your brave and honest voice.

  52. Isn’t it pretty obvious why Huffpost didn’t want to publish this ? You are a self professed violent psycho (sorry, reformed) who’s now a TEACHER ?? (great!) “I have now – ironically – become a high school teacher.” Replace “ironically” with “tragically” or maybe “horrifyingly”. Nobody really needs to read beyond that to figure out why they didn’t want your name to be associated with them any longer. This is a pretty simple issue.

  53. It’s encouraging to see this topic being discussed in an intelligent, rational manner. Since the Huff. Post hasn’t shared their reasons for rejecting this article, we can only guess. Perhaps they were afraid of the reactions from the general public. You know, the ones who read a headline (ie: Teacher Reveals History of Taking Gun to School) and then immediately want action to be taken against the teacher.

    The thoughtful reader takes the time to absorb the facts and understands what’s being said but so much of reporting is not about communicating the facts but, instead, it’s about sensationalizing the facts to gain readership and thus capitol for the publication. So, while I really appreciate the honest insight into the mind of a troubled teen and I don’t have any concerns about who the child became as an adult, I wouldn’t trust the mainstream media to handle it responsibly and I suspect that there could be an over reaction to it by many readers.

    My hope is that this article is read by and shared with those in a position to take positive action. Yes, we need more people who study human nature and understand what the consequences of exposing a developing mind to hours of violent video games might be. We can also make a personal commitment to help guide young people away from the violent games and introduce them to healthy alternatives. We all have some power to create the kind of change we want to see in our world. Peace!

  54. I support your writing and applaud your openness. The transparency in your article has dispelled any notion of doubt that you have learned from that stage in your life. I am more concerned about teachers who have no hope for kids like this and label them “violent psycho” and watch them walk away hoping they are someone else’s problem. While I myself have played a video game, once in my life, it was Harry Potter and we did a 24 marathon. I was sixteen and fabulous, so that made it cool I guess. I went outside the next morning and saw life. Trees , real people talking, folks going to work and a river flowing. At that moment I realized that I was no better for having spent 24 hrs with my friend and a video game but that 10 mins outside standing beside my friend saying nothing at all brought “life” . I see how they can be fun amusement for some play time but do we want just some mindless for our kids 40hrs/week? I believe my kids deserve more. They deserve relationships, learning to cook real food, walking and running so they feel sore realizing that they have a body to take care of. I believe that if teachers and/or knew the thoughts running through alot of kids minds in school they would be shocked to know just how many think like you did.

    • It was difficult to write, but I wanted to tell about my past, and I believe it’s tragic how many young people we write off. People can change. Thanks for commenting.

  55. Very good read. I also feel that we need to take a good strong look at Hollywood. Most of the “Celebrities” probably are all for stonger gun control. Banning of several types of weapons etc… Yet, they still feel that they should be able to play it out on screen, so that they can make their millions of dollars for playing out pretend and impossible scenarios… Makes me sick.

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  57. Google “Zen Journey, Nissim Amon.” It is a video game being created by Zen Master Nissim Amon. It’s going to amazing. We need more game ideas out there like this! With adventure and real challenge!

  58. Excellent post, Peter. A great reminder that everything we do starts in the mind, good or bad. The one who commits the crime is often the one who has fantasised doing it many times beforehand. I’m sure that many soldiers out there these days shooting up Iraqis, Afghanis, Syrians, etc. had a lot of target practice at home on their computers first. And all you Americans, from a Canadian perspective, we sure as hell don’t envy you. When your government and army goes down, with all of you having guns at home, prepare for Civil War II. If that happens here in Canada, we’ll just throw rocks at each other.

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  60. An interesting, and obviously well written article, but sadly not one I can concur with.

    The evidence just doesn’t bear it out. We can keep conducting studies and keep cooking the results until we get the answer we want, but the simple fact is, the vast majority of independent, peer reviewed scientific study, of which there has been lots already, simply sees no casual link between video game violence and real world violence.

    You claim that it is training them to shoot people, but the simple fact is, wiggling a thumb stick or pointing a mouse has almost nothing in common with pointing a real gun.

    Indeed, there is more than enough compelling evidence that for some boys, violent games actually reduce real world violence—instead of scrapping with boys in the schoolyard to release their pent up aggression and energy, they can do it over Xbox Live or the PSN.

    Like many, you fail to distinguish between cause and effect.

    It is not surprising that boys likely to carry out violent killings are drawn to such things (though the evidence seems to suggest they are MORE drawn to violent books and movies, and at most, only 25% of boys involved in mass shootings were known to, or claimed to, be particularly drawn to any of these things). But that doesn’t mean that video games cause the violence.

    Violent video game usage is an effect, not cause.

    To my mind, all of these things are a stalling tactic which prevent real discussion about the real issues—namely, how readily available guns are in America, and the culture that breeds.

    The UK has just as many violent video games, and vulnerable teens spend just as much time playing them. It has just as many violent films and TV shows—in some ways, they are more readily available. For example, violent TV Shows like The Sopranos and The Wire and Dexter, which are available on premium cable in the states, are all shown on free-to-air or basic cable/satellite shows here (Channel 4 for The Sopranos, BBC 2 for The Wire and Fox for Dexter.)

    Yet our rates of violent crime with guns are a fraction of what you have in the states (about 40 times less common) and our mass killings are virtually unheard of (we have had four mass shootings since the 1980’s). Of those two took place before realistic violent video games were widespread (Hungerford, 1984 and Monkseaton, 1989) and the two which took place later (Dunblane, 1996 and Cumbria, 2010) were carried out by people in their 40’s and 50’s at the time, with no known links to violent video games.

    The simple fact is, some unhinged people will eventually snap, whether they play video games or not. They will use weapons to try and hurt people. However, the more powerful the weapons they have access to, the more damage they will be able to cause, and the more lives they will take.

    The common mantra I hear is that an armed populace is a protected populace, and that criminals will get weapons no matter what, but the reality is, neither of those things really hold true.

    Very few britain’s own weapons at all, and those that do almost never carry them, but gun violence crimes, and especially homicide remain very low—0.07 per 100,000 of population, amongst the lowest in the world compared to 2.97 per 100,000 in the USA. Furthermore, good regulation has largely prevented criminals from getting hold of guns. Our overall violent crimes involving Guns remains remarkably low, in spite of average, or slightly above average overall rates of violence in the countries which make up the UK.

    Though as a nation our history is much more violent than your own, including multiple periods of conquest and invasion and occupation by outside presences, we have not, in recent history, been occupied by a foreign force. Our population needs not carry guns to prevent this, and when it did happen, WW1 and WW2 for example, we trained our country to properly use them quite handily.

    There is no need for most people to carry any kind of guns, let alone the type which are readily available in the USA.

  61. I don’t see why HuffPost didn’t publish this. I loved reading your first hand account and perspective. Good on you for getting this out there, with or without HP.
    Well written, thoughtful and articulate. Makes me shiver a bit thinking that there may have been a person in my school bringing guns with him/her.

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  63. Thank you for the post. I’m glad for you. It’s refreshing to learn that you survived and overcame your anger and fixation on guns and weaponry. Obviously, that did not just happen, as you duly noted. A wonderful redemption story. Whatever nerve you hit at Huff Po, well, you must have good aim.

    As for what you have to say, I agree with you on many counts. And though I am not at all a fan of video games, per se, our two boys, 17 and 12, are allowed to play specific games for limited amounts of time – none that you mentioned. They are home schooled, bright, not troubled, and engaged in the wider world, honing and using their talents. They have both a loving mother and father at home.

    And that’s my point right there. I believe the problem behind the angry young man and “kill ’em all” video game culture is deeper, more complex, and yet the answer is fundamental to a society working well.

    After Newtown, I wrote a post expressing my views, but mostly to mourn.

  64. Thank you for this well written and insightful article. I hope it becomes widely read, especially by parents and those with a role in helping families become more successful. As a pediatrician of thirty years, I have witnessed the transformation of many children (mainly boys) from being active and enthusiastic (and trim) individuals into sluggish, irritable and withdrawn young men, failures at school and socially, all because of an increasing addiction to video and computer games. Their bedrooms are filled with electronics. Unbeknownst to the parents, these kids spend countless hours through the night playing electronic games then refuse to get up for school in the morning. They gain weight and their marks fall and gradually they refuse to take part in any school or extra-curricular activities.

    For whatever reason – most likely fear of the wrath of the child – the parents find it easier to ignore the changes and not take the necessary action to stop this slide. Very sad. Better to never let the pattern get established – no screens in the bedroom and more outside activities as you’ve suggested. This message needs to be sent to parents very early on.

    I suspect, just as watching pornography can be a prelude to sexual activity, playing violent video games creates a desire to move from fantasy to reality. Arming teachers as the solution to the problem, seems like insanity to me. Arming our youth with better parenting skills is a lot more rational.

    • Thank you for giving us a pediatrician’s perspective. That’s an important point of view for readers. And I love the “no screens in the bedroom rule.” – PBH

  65. I believe the article wasnt bashing on violent video games but showing that teens that are socially isolated or having a hard time relating are using video games as their only outlet and violent video games at that. How many gamers can actually hold a conversation for 30 minutes with a complete stranger that has nothing to do with video games? Point is, social interaction or the ability to be social/socially acceptable is a skill that is rapidly fading from our younger generations. Parents do rely on video games to give them a brake or let them “babysit” their kids, the tv does it as well. The real question is where are the parents and what are they willing to do about it? I dont blame video games for all of society’s woes, my father taught me and my brother about guns. Both of us respect the use of guns and know that this isnt something you screw around with or act out a fantasy with. Once that bullet leaves the chamber, you are are responsible for anything or anyone that bullet touches.

    I enjoyed the article because it makes you think. Some gamers are pissed, some others could care less. Point is, communication needs to happen. Blaming guns, blaming 40hrs a week of watching video games is pointless, look in the mirror, how responsible was your part in all this? Showing that their are alternatives to staring at a view screen for escapism or lack of interaction or staving off social isolation can only be a good thing. Think back on what we did before video games, what did we have growing up and dealing with all the bullshit as a teenager?

  66. Oh course there is a reason that the Defense Department created violent video games in the early sixties to help teach soldiers to overcome the natural human aversion to killing other human beings. Because it works. Add in the dehumanizing words that are used for the victims, the fast pace and sound effects that increase adrenaline and likely triggers the same response in the brain that cocaine does, the way these video games teach body memory of committing violence and the cathartic feelings that can come with that, and you have “games” that certainly DO NOT teach empathy, peaceful conflict resolution, social skills, and everything else we need more of in this society. Thanks for publishing this, and SHAME on Huffington Post for not printing it and for censoring you.

  67. Great point. I’ve noticed other similar trends. Apparently all of the shooters ate sugary cereals , as well as partook in occasional masturbation. In fact, all of them went to school! Considering 98/100 kids have played these type of violent video games, we can all expect a future video game induced holocaust in the near future.

    OR. It’s correlation, not causation. There are no more shootings then ever, despite there being hundreds more video games. We only cover crime at a much higher rate. While school shootings in particular may be up, shootings overall, and particularly by youth are not. I’d say that is why this wasn’t published. That and maybe they didn’t want the 10,000th video games did it article.

  68. Apparently the we need a lesson in reading comprehension people. The author clearly stated this,
    ” I’m not suggesting that everyone who plays a video game will act out that video game in reality. But I am saying that it is very dangerous to allow troubled, angry, teenage boys access to killing practice, even if that access is only virtual killing practice.” within his article. So dear gamers, unwind your gaunchies, put your headset back on and go back to the fantasy world you love so much. I agree, there’s a pediatrician on here that agrees, even someone who sees the brain scans and brain activites of people engaged in these activites can agree on that point. Giving a troubled boy who has weak coping skills a tool in which he become desensitized and loses sight of the value of a human life is dangerous. The writing is on the wall, in all cases of mass shootings that involve young men has also involved their heavy use of first person killing games. Is it a direct cause? ‘no’ Did it desensitize them to the value of human life and make the act of killing exciting and exilerating? ‘yes’. Is every gamer going to walk into a school or mall or movie theater and try to kill everyone in there? ‘no’. Is a gamer who has mental issues going to do the same? ‘no’. Does there need to be a study and examination of gaming on mental health and gain understanding of what makes young boys who log this kind of time on these games need to happen?-absolutely! This does need to be studied as part of our soceity and we need to better understand their impact so as to also understand how to help boys who escape this way. Gaming has changed dramitically since pong or pac man. We need to gain a better understanding of what it is doing to our youth. It is obviously something-otherwise there wouldn’t be such a correalation would there?
    We can point fingers in every direction imaginable and blame the parents, blame the games, blame tv, but the fact is our society has changed so much in the past 30 years and so fast that we are starting to scramble to find answers, find reasons just like someone who realizes they’ve become lost. There is panic. The reasons is this-we have lost sight. We have lost sight of fundamental core values such as, spending time together, spending time outside and the value of life and nature.The screen big, medium or small has taken over. Its time to turn it off and get back to basics of life and happiness. This will cause a direct change into all that is plagueing our youth today. Excellent article. Thank you for your candidness and sharing.

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  70. I’m curious to know how you reconcile this mentality with cases such as the Steubenville rape trial, in which two non-gaming, very athletic and relatively normal boys committed horrible acts of violence. You can’t point the finger at screens in this case.

    • Good question, and I’ll admit that I don’t know their gaming habits. I will say that rape is another type of horrible, violent act, different from a mass shooting, but terrible nonetheless. Thanks for bringing up that discussion point.

  71. All the shooters were taking and maybe abusing phsycotropic drugs……if you had these meds during your troubled time you would have taken the actions with the weapons that you are so grateful to not have taken…..gueranteed!!….they remove you from reality and emotion….like playing a video game………………………….these drugs are bad for everyone but ESPECIALLY adolesents…nobody seems to hold the prescribing doctors or the pharmaceutical companys responsible when they are aware of the violent and suicidal side effects.

  72. Peter, wondering where your Mom was through all of this? Didn’t she have an inkling? She called video games “evil,” but didn’t she know about your handgun, shotgun and knife? Didn’t she consider those real-life weapons evil as well? How did you obtain them unless she was aware? Didn’t she know you were carrying them around? Didn’t she figure you were struggling in school? Didn’t she DO anything about it? Where the Hell WAS she? PARENTS need to take off the blinders and keep watch over their kids. Teens NEED guidance – as you state – and ideally the first place they should be able to look is their own parent(s). Some teens already have their shit together and can handle a few crashes on those rocky shores of high school and just beyond. Many others aren’t emotionally prepared. It’s the parent’s job to figure out which of their offspring can and can’t handle everything tossed at them. And it’s the parent’s job to DO SOMETHING about it so the ones who are struggling don’t turn out like the Adam Lanza’s of this world!

    • I didn’t live with my mom or my dad. But I do understand how that’s an important thing to know to understand the full story. Yes, parents who know should do something.

      • Not living with them physically doesn’t free THEM from the responsibility of being INVOLVED in your life and still making a gigantic effort! I’d imagine as a teen you’d be angry at them if they weren’t, didn’t or couldn’t. It’s hard….my own father was always absent/abusive and mother incapable mentally/negligent. I was angry, too, but self-directed that anger. But also it taught me this: parents must be parents FIRST – for years – at least until the kids seem on stable footing. Parents need to remove their blinkers, and if they understand they can’t handle that responsibility, then consider using birth control! I feel bad for you. Kids are going to be angry if they are tasked with adult concerns and responsibilities without adult guidance and support. No wonder they want to kill.

  73. Good thoughts. All things that my husband and I talked about after these shootings which touched close to home now that we have kindergartener. There was a mass attack in Japan the day after the Sandy Hook shooting but no one died, there is a big culture around video games there too. However, unlike here this attack happened with a knife so that is something to think about too. With the access to rapid fire guns that we have here combined with very violent, first person video games, diminished connection in community (at least from what I see), and lack of mental health help it seems we have potential for mass killings.

    I don’t think there is any one thing that we could say contributes to these events every time, or would prevent all of these events. You are right though, why would we want the angry, possibly unstable people in our culture rehearsing for violent acts. I know I don’t want my children to go around saying things like those boys at your school. The outdoors is a much better place for our kids to be. Finding adventure, in the real world, and getting the added benefits of reducing depression, anxiety, and symptoms of ADD.

    • The Newtown shooting was especially scary for us, parents of younger children, and you’re right, there is no one determining factor.

  74. Honestly, I think what it comes down to is family. If you feel loved and cared for at home, if you know your family will be there for you and listen to your problems, even if you are bullied at school, if you have your family to go to, your not alone and abandoned. I think regaining the importance on family is key. When life at school sucks, and your parents are too busy, or don’t understand, etc.. you have no outlet for your pain, your anger. If your in a crappy family situation, well, good luck.
    If the family was valued as at should be, parenting would be priority #1. Spending time with your kids, loving them and making sure they know they are loved no matter what, allowing them to feel like they can talk to you as a parent and that you will listen, try to understand and offer support.
    Don’t give me crap about teenagers and their inability to care or listen to their parents. Even when my mom didn’t want to listen I kept trying to connect. The only reason they pull away is because they feel they will be judged, shut down, disregarded and ignored. Its possible to have teenagers that get along with their parents.
    If parents are more connected, they will be more capable of seeing the warning signs, recognizing depression, bullying, etc. Its possible.

  75. In school year 1967-68, I was a junior in high school (Denver suburbs). I was living with my dad that year, parents divorced in 1963. I was new to the school, I was isolated, no school friiends, actually pretty much invisible. One day coming home from school my brother and I were bullied by a couple of guys showing off for their girlfriends. We just stuffed our feelings, though I can’t say I ever forgot about it. At different times in my life when feeling down, it has come up in my mind that I let someone get away with pushing me and my little brother around. It doesn’t feel good. At the time however, I NEVER entertained the idea of getting my dad’s shotgun, or .38 pistol, and going after those guys. If I had been playing violent video games at the time, who can say what would have happened. Instead, I spent my evenings shooting pool.
    The refusal of Huffington Post to print your story, and even to respond to your queries, merely confirms my opinion of the Huffington Post – Not to be trusted.

      • I have the impression that the media is also ignoring the side of the story that shooters may have a history of using prescription anti-depressants and/or drugs used to treat ADHD-type disorders. I think these drugs, in combination with violent video game playing, should be researched in the context of school shootings.

  76. You are asking the Huffington Post to care about boys and I suspect that is a bridge too far. Male outcomes in this society are jarring and scream at us to do something, anything, but girls need to come first and this has been so since Title X two decades ago.

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  78. ( i didnt read any previous comments, sorry)

    All i have to say about this brilliant piece is that I think you are on to something. When my first-born(son) turned 6, i bought him an old-school original nintendo for christmas. The only games I bought for him were zelda, tetris, Mario, and Mario 3. Less than 2 weeks after christmas, i noticed a change in his behavior. he went from sweet to super-aggressive. especially whenever i shut the game off (was trying to limit him to no more than 1 hour per day). fast forward a year, and we had a ps3. after the kids would go to bed, my husband and i got addicted to god of war (never a real fan of video gaming, i only like mario and mortal kombat games, and god of war blew my mind). Then we beat all of the god of war games, and i was too loyal to my 3 choices and let my husband play whatever he wanted. bad idea. he got black ops. it was a bad idea because he started playing all the time, even infront of the kids. i had a fit because i dont allow my children to play with toy guns or weapons, and didnt want them exposed to the life-like killing of those type of games. i went on a business trip for 4 days and while i was gone, husband allowed our son to play those games with him. I wish we never got the systems because ever since, my son has become super-aggressive. tantrums every time he doesnt get his own way, he hits his younger sisters all the time (will not stop, no matter what I do) and loves playing with toy guys so much that he imagines twigs are guns, and rocks are grenades, all the time. i think the study you mentioned is super important, because if i knew then what i know now, i never would have opened that door. hopefully there will be some real findings if the study is done. and hopefully my son will grow out of this stage. he is 8 1/2 now, and the behaviors have not gotten better, even though the systems have been gone for a full year. he is still obsessed with technology though, and wants our smartphones to play games every chance he gets. he begs, cries and whines for angry birds………. i tell him no EVERY SINGLE TIME, but dad caves when Im not around. worst thing to happen so far from technology: our son saw his first porn when he clicked on an ad for dick’s sporting goods(had fishing poles and hunting gear in the pic) and was led astray from there, somehow. At only 8 years old. i was horrified, and he hasnt seen a smartphone since. Another point: it’s not just the video games! take a look at nickelodeon cartoons! or any cartoon in general for that matter, that’s NOT directed at toddlers… or how about the ones on the little kid channels that are meant for teenagers… it’s not the video game, it’s the tv prgramming. pick a channel, any channel. whatever happened to home improvement, who’s the boss, the nanny, the brady bunch, the cosby show, dr quinn…. quality, clean programming for the whole family to enjoy! instead we have stupid reality shows, and bone-headed cartoons. what a waste!

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  80. This makes total sense to me. I know we can’t stop free enterprise, however, parents need to step up & take responsibility for their kids. 40 hours a week on a video game!? That’s time that could be spent on a job!

  81. I would agree with the blog and the majority of replies here whole heartedly, but would add one additional observation (as a non-gamer to be transparent). These violent video games are not in and of themselves the catalyst for these terrible acts of violence. It is a missing component of them, however, that just may be. It is the missing element of societal repercussions of the violent actions allowed and taken in these games. There are no consequences in these games for slitting a throat, pistol whipping a hooker, or shooting up a street. So, in essence, the “troubled” player is not so much practicing as they are becoming desensitized to the action. It provides these socially weak people with courage to complete their intended “mission” by removing the fear of social reprisal. BTW bphoffmeister, you’re just the kind of teacher we need more of.

  82. I’ve done my own unofficial research and followed the trends not only of the shooters we all see in the news, but of kids in our area who are socially disconnected. I have yet to see anyone heavily involved in sports, outdoors, extracurricular academics or anything else with an engaging social and mental aspect show ANY interest, much less have time, for hours of video games per week. In fact, the kids I see as most likely to play video games, particularly violent ones, are the kids whose parents are very busy,make no priority for social, mental or physical engagement, and have very little to do with their children.

    Having spent a number of years as a correctional officer in maximum security units, I can say without a doubt. Wether causality or correlation. It is UTTERLY irrelevant. A fascination with violence, wether in real life or in video games or on the big screen is indicative of a person’s true inner desires. I think it is fantastically ignorant to continue to ignore the connection between media and behaviour. This is a fantastic article and ANY intelligent person would at the very LEAST admit that a fascination with violence, slitting throats, killing, beatings etc. is unhealthy. Why on earth do we protect our children? Why do we keep them from seeing the garbage that happens in the dark alleys at night? Why do we not let them eat candy three meals a day? Because we are intelligent enough to know that GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT!
    I DEFINITELY lean more towards causality than correlation simple because in ALL areas of human existence, what we feed our bodies and minds is the only fuel from which to grow. A diet of garbage CAUSES illness. A diet of violence CAUSES violence.

    • I know people who have good social status with their peers and play sports that sit around and play video games often. It happens more than you would think. I was that way for a few years. I got good grades, played two sports, and spent much time playing video games.

  83. I look back on my life and I have to say that the scouting program was a big influence as it got me out into nature. It taught me good skills and allowed me to experience things like camping, canoeing and even the responsibility surrounding target shooting. It also, gave me goals and pride and self esteem as I made my way to eventually achieving my Eagle award. With that said, just like all programs, none of this would have been successful if not for good adult leadership. There is a huge difference in where you grow up. There is much more opportunity in the world of learning about and enjoying the out of doors if you grow up in a rural environment. Getting kids out of the house and away from computers in general is the key. We didn’t have them when I grew up. We also didn’t have air conditioning, so in the summer, I was out of the house as soon as possible and didn’t come back in until dinner, at which time my parents forced me to return. During that time, we fished, swam, collected fossils, did just about anything we could. But there in lies the problem as well. Now days we live in a world of paranoia. Kids can’t run like they did in my time. Now it is almost impossible for them to explore. From the time I was six years old, I already knew how to take care of myself. I knew how to swim and how to look out for myself. My parents today would be arrested and I would be in a foster home given the same situation. But funny thing I was taught respect and self responsibility and turned out OK!
    I know the video games are violent these days. It will be interesting to see what the study comes up with if it is done. but remembering back, I recall watching all sorts of cowboy shows, Tarzan movies and the like where people were killed in a variety of ways. I remember running around with a cap pistol. But even in doing this we were not fixated on guns. Even in our target shooting in Scouts, we weren’t fixated on guns. With that said, I think that while what certain teens watch and do can have an impact on their actions, the thing that has more impact is a good environment and home life. Without a parent watching and requiring accountability of their kids lives and actions, all the other things we are talking about won’t happen. I know this will get people all worked up, but just maybe there should be a law that if you are going to have kids, then you have to have the financial ability to have one parent as the house parent that takes care of your children. Too many people have kids and then put them in day care for someone else to raise. I was raise by a mother that was there everyday and a father that returned home from work that had an interest in me. That took time to do things with me.
    it would be interesting to see if that was the case of the troubled young people that did these shootings.

  84. I want to say so much about having young people taking part in Community OutReach. Foreign programs.
    Bullying in school causes young people to be in rage and react.
    Love to read the articles and I’m thankful it didn’t go only in the papers so that we couldn’t all respond.
    Our youth need activities.

  85. i haven’t read all the responses to your article, but i’d take a guess at those who disagree with or “aren’t sure” about your correlation as to whether video games affect troubled youth. that guess is this: they play those games themselves or don’t want to intervene in the life of someone they know who plays them. it’s easy to know something. it’s really hard to take a stand for it. do it anyway! we need more people who are willing to take a stand for not-so-common sense.

  86. A good read is, “On Killing” by Lt. Col Dave Grossman – it talks about this issue (among many others) and as I recall has stats/studies to back up the claims of the effects of violent video games on young men/teenagers.

  87. Interesting. Have you ever read David Grossman’s Book “On Combat” ?? if anything read the Chapter that touches on the gaming. I grew up woth Nintendo but that was nothing like Kids have now. & in the Book He even stated that just because a kid plays video games doesn’t mean He’ll end up a killer. There is many other factors played into it. But bottom line is that it desensitizes one to violence

  88. This was very well written and thought out, however I must disagree.
    Video games themselves cannot take the blame of actions done in any situation, no single thing can. You’re ideal is great, though I see you aiming at the wrong target. You pointed out several times that it’s the disturbed individual, the outcast of the school that is getting manipulated or trained to do these terrible things.

    It’s not the games themselves, I mean seriously, does everyone feel the need to take the easy way out? This is a cop out answer. The blame resides with the parents, the school and perhaps the other students. You’re ignoring the true answer, so that another one fits in.
    (Excuse me if this turns into a rant.)

    Things people ignore. Do you know what the ESRB is? The rating system in place that dictates the appropriate age group that the game is made for? You list off truly violent games, yes. Tell me, how is it these children are getting their hands on it? 17+ Games, Adult games.

    It’s weak willed and to be honest, pathetic parents. If they parents took half a damn and took an active part in their children’s lives, many of these terrible things would be avoided. They would get the attention they need, included in more activities at home, raise their joy, even in the slightest way. So why aren’t parents being blamed?

    Teachers, they are a child’s guardian for the majority of everyday of their lives, as you noticed, they talked about their games and the gruesome deaths. With those two boys, did you maybe stop and talk to them about the games? their take on what they were taking a part in? You’re the adult, take responsibility for your students! Kids of any age, look to elders with at least some level of respect, talk to them, get their story.

    It also falls on both of these parties to deal with the bullies and the rabble of the school system, while you cannot be there 100% of the time, all a person needs is hope, the idea that they aren’t alone in the world. I’ll come back to this single point… ( TALK TO THEM, TALK ABOUT WHAT BOTHERS THEM AND/OR YOU.) If people are failing at this most simple of actions, I truly worry about the state of the system as a whole.

    So instead, I hear people blame, shoot down and riot against video games. it’s the easy answer, the one everyone wants because no one has the balls to take the responsibility on themselves.
    Really, who are the children in this situation?

    I was a loner child, Fat, disrespected, hurt daily all those wonderful names that were said, I dealt with it everyday, from grade 1-12. I never had that urge, that violent crazy appetite to make others pay for the pain they put me through, I played those games, some truly violent, some not. I didn’t play them to fulfill a sick mindset, to get my vengeance on these people. Do you know what games were? They were my escape, I could leave this world of hate and pain, I could be the hero in this fantastic world, I could be a warlord, a general, a tactician or I could be something, anything else, be this content and happy individual were I could be fantastic, more than I was.

    If someone had taken that away from me, I would have been crushed. Alone again, a hopeless cause in a hopeless world, at least as I saw it then. You see the single cases of these bad, these terrible events, that may or may not somehow have any connection to gaming, but you flagrantly disregard any good that they may do for a person.

    I’m going to use an analogy as I see your proposed idea.

    300 Children in a school, they are houses.
    1 Troubled child that takes these violent games to heart is also a house, but it’s on fire.

    Your plan to extinguish this fire is to flood the city, flood the students.
    Yes, it’ll stop the one house from burning. (Maybe) Can you not see the damage that the flood will have on the other houses?
    Like it or not, video games are now an almost integral part of everyday society.
    Why should everyone suffer to stop one potential hazard? when simply getting more involved in these children’s lives will have the greatest of impacts?

    The one point I do agree with you on, is that people, children or adult need to spend more time outside, this is a fantastic world we live on, too many people seem to have forgotten, or simply ignore that fact. That again falls to parent’s, take them outside, be responsible, let them see the beauty of the world.

    While I will openly and vigorously defend video games, everything must be taken in moderation, (I wouldn’t suggest eating cake everyday either.) they need to take breaks from these games, outside hobbies, even just socializing but it’ll take more than just saying it to make any difference.

    Also please note, I have not read the comments, far too many for my time here.

    Thank you for your time.

  89. Reblogged this on NewsBurp.com and commented:
    Input from Mike at NewsBurp: I let my son, age 12, play ‘Call of Duty’, but this gives me pause as I’m sure it will other parents. In my son’s case, he likes killing zombies in ‘Call Of Duty’ and opts for ‘Minecraft’ more than any other game by far. But should I allow him to play a violent video game at all, even in multi-player only where the shooting is clearly fictional and not permanent? I’m not sure. There does seem to be a correlation between playing these games and mass shooting suspects. Is it that the anger in these young shooters draws them to violent video games or do the games themself actually prompt and prepare shooters for acts of violence? I don’t know, but I think this is clearly an area that needs study. As a supporter of the Second Amendment and a retired law enforcement officer, I believe understanding what leads to the mindset of the mass shooting suspect is the first step that needs to be undertaken, not knee jerk reaction gun control measures that will NOT deter criminal activity one little bit. Thanks to Peter Brown Hoffmeister for this excellent, thought-provoking and honest commentary.

  90. The last few paragraphs about getting kids outside really struck a cord with me because that also made a huge difference for me when I was in high school. I never had violent tendencies back then, but I was shy, socially awkward, had very low self esteem, and even had thoughts of suicide. Joining the high school cross country ski team – being out in the woods up in the snow covered mountains – changed everything and helped set me on a much better path.

    I’d also like to acknowledge the different educators can make. I would never have considered joining the football, wrestling, or baseball teams in high school because I was way too intimidated by the seemingly self-confident and rough-and-tumble guys who played those sports. But the coach of those teams was also our gym teacher, and he treated me, and all my awkwardness, with the same respect and decency that he had for the players on the teams he coached, and I will always remember and be thankful to him for that.

  91. We have 4-H Shootinh Sports and they learn how to shoot and have safety meetings to safe handling and never never shoot at a “person target” always circles or square targets…or animal targets to show how and where to shoot them.. great programs in almost all of the USA…

  92. Well written. I fear a lot of this as well as I watch people in our ministry. I am watching the consequences of a generation of people incapable of communicating and dealing with emotions crushing one another in marriage and in life. I too wish people would turn off their TVs and game consoles to get outside and experience real life. I think the lack of reality in people’s minds is doing more damage than we could ever imagine. Thanks for sharing!

  93. Just as millions of violent video game players have never and will never shoot up a school, millions of guns owners and children of gun owners haven’t either. Millions of people use video games and shooting sports as harmless stress outlets. Overly restricting either, removing the rights of the many because of the actions of the few, is a violation of the constitution (the first and second amendments, respectively).

    And yet, video game makers are not fully innocent, nor are gun lobbyists.

    Many modern school shooters already research and collect information on prior school shooters. All of them extensively play First Person Shooter (FPS) video games where the point of view of the player is someone holding a gun and pointing it at his enemies. Now imagine someone producing an FPS titled “School Shooter”. The player would be able to reenact all the most famous school shootings in recent history. Could the player beat the VA Tech death total of 32? Could the player evade the vice principle at Pearl (the teacher who retrieved a weapon from his vehicle and who is credited with saving dozens of lives) and extend the killing spree at a neighboring school? Players could experiment with different weapons, tactics, etc. Just like with many other FPS game engines, players could even design their own levels so they could populate a fantasy world with their school building and NPCs who look like their classmates.

    Is this game in good taste? Nope. Would this game be “legally protected free speech”? Many argue it would be. Would it CAUSE an otherwise normal kid to become a school shooter? No, not even remotely. But what about a depressed and disenfranchised teen who already fantasizes about killing his tormentors? This type of game could very well be the catalyst that pushes a mentally unstable individual over the edge. Instead of just fantasizing about killing his classmates, he could practice it until it becomes second nature. It could give him the confidence boost he needs to actually grab a real gun and start killing people. Or, alternately it could satisfy a different need; the person could use the game as a violence outlet which allows him to stay calm in the real world. We don’t know the answer to this, but we SHOULD know.

    I do not believe violent video games, even FPS video games, CAUSE people to become mass murderers but there is no denying a relationship exists. I fully support unbiased research into all causes of mass violence, including video games, gun access, parenting rolls, bullying, society as a whole, everything. The key here is “unbiased”… if the NRA, the Brady Campaign, Bushmaster, or MSNBC is sponsoring the study it’ll be a waste of paper.

  94. I keep reading a phrase over and over, both here (in the comments) and in almost everything else I have read about this. It is that video games glorify killing. Yes, some do, but there are so many of them that actually don’t. There are many sports games that have helped me understand the sport better. I even learned a move in basketball from one game. They do not all condone violence. For me, i do have some somewhat violent tendencies, but playing games like Borderlands help me relieve them. I am capable of separating fantasy from reality. I would never kill anyone out of being a social outcast. I was one my whole high school career, and it was a school of about 75-100 people from 7th grade to 12th grade. Never once did I think to get a gun and kill people. I knew exactly where our guns were and could access them easily. The thought never crossed my mind. As someone who games, I hate hearing about how video games make people kill.

  95. I couldn’t agree more about getting kids outside. Do video games cause violence? I don’t know, but as a fifth grade teacher I’ve seen one too many kids pretend they are shooting an automatic weapon in the classroom. I don’t tolerate it and it has taken several reprimands to make these kids think before they act out their “air murdering”.

    Do violent video games hurt? Probably. Do violent video games help? Definitely not. The kids I see gunning us down with their imaginary weapons are not the kids whose lives are full of adventure and fresh air. These are the kids whose only excitement is going home and turning on halo or black ops. When I ask for a writing assignment the same kids have nothing in their basket of experiences to draw from but their addiction to tv and video games.

  96. I really can’t stand first person shooter games. My middle school boys are desperate to play them because all of their friends are. I won’t let them. It frustrates them, but they are good boys and, so far, respect my boundaries in this.

    I appreciate that the author here is promoting research. Really, it needs to be studied. He’s not saying there is a definite connection, but enough of a coincidence to find out if there is a connection.

    It is DEFINITELY proven that repeated exposure to a thing significantly reduces the impact of the thing. This is used to help people over come phobias. Repeated exposure to killing certainly must decrease the impact killing has on a person. Enough exposure and it is certainly plausible that it has no negative impact at all.

    Just as I don’t condone the arbitrary banning of guns to prevent violence, I don’t condone the arbitrary banning of video games. But certainly, let’s not be so short sighted as a society as to ignore the fact that there is a possibility there is a connection and let’s learn more.

  97. I was getting ready to read a preachy article.

    What I found was a well-thought out and quite reasoned piece, along with wisdom from personal experience.

    Not sure if I agree completely with every point, but it’s certainly worthy of the Huffington Post.

  98. D I just had this discussion sun about why we can’t let our kids out in the neighborhood to play… I think there was as much potential for the “crazies” when we were kids but now the violence on tv and video games teaches those on the fringe that their indulgences are acceptable (thus the prevalence has increased). If u don’t believe they influence kids/people just look at my 2yr old… Never saw tv before recent and only watches sesame street and jack Hannah. Still quotes things she’s seen randomly and daily from the tv. It has more pull (in a subversive way) than I do…

  99. I let my teen play video games but he also plays soccer, runs track, swims, plays basketball, plays piano, and hangs with friends. He’s shy. Not motivated at all about school. Lives to be outdoors. And I don’t worry about him. He plays video games socially. It’s a way of hanging with friends from school online in the evening after homework is done and it’s too dark to play outside. In summer, video game play goes way down despite being out of school and having more time. But I know he has a couple of sort-of friends on the edge of things at school that I do worry about. Middle school is a time where things shift so much with boys. Peer groups change. Anger seems to come with puberty for some. Even the sweetest ones occasionally snarl at you as you cross boundaries that they’re still figuring out. Kids start really shutting parents out at this age as they try to hurl themselves one way or another toward adulthood. But you really have to be aware of what’s going on with them during these early teen years because that’s when so much of the anti-social stuff starts that leads to bigger problems later.

  100. Dear Hippies, though video games may have a part in de-sensitizing kids to killing to some degree, what are you going to do? Ban violent video games? Control the amount of violence in them with some sort of regulation? Its an 80 billion dollar industry and rapidly growing. This is America and developers should have the freedom to make video games as violent and realistic as they want. The responsibility of keeping kids away from this stuff lies on parents. I love playing violent video games, its fun blasting zombies and terrorists with shotguns. This in no way means im going to buy a gun and go kill some people. Its called RESPONSIBILITY. Not, please government, we cant control ourselves please take away our freedoms so that we dont hurt each other anymore.

    – a Massachusetts LIBERAL

    • Dear “American” –
      I love strong opinions, but I love honesty even more. And this comment is not honest. If you sign as “American,” attack “hippies,” and claim “liberal,” I question your honesty.
      Dictionary.reference.com defines the word “liberal” as:
      1. favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.
      2. noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform.
      My name is Peter Brown Hoffmeister, and I want progressive political reform here, reform pertaining to violent video games. That makes me “liberal.” How are you liberal, sir?

      • Really? Your just going to cherry pick you definition of the word from dictionary.com? Alright well in the lets try the definition right under the ones you stated.
        “favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, especially as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.”
        In the truest sense of the form I am a liberal,
        I love how people always hide behind the word “reform” like it means something other than regulation. In what way could violent video games be reformed other than regulating the amount of violence or type of content in them? GIve them a rating system that allows parents to choose what their kids play? Have that. Make a mandatory age limit in order for certain games to be purchased? Have that. Your probably right, a study done to find if violent video games de-sensitize kids would probably show that they do to some degree. So what then? You cant just throw a statement out there like “I’m looking for progressive reform” without knowing what that actually means.

      • I like your fight. This is a much more honest, real comment. Thank you. To be honest myself: I’d like to see a ban of violent video games. Why do we need them? I can think of a hundred better ways to spend time. And a ban would be TRULY progressive reform. I know a ban might not be popular, but I’ve never been very popular, so I can’t worry about that.

      • “I like your fight. This is a much more honest, real comment. Thank you. To be honest myself: I’d like to see a ban of violent video games. Why do we need them? I can think of a hundred better ways to spend time. And a ban would be TRULY progressive reform. I know a ban might not be popular, but I’ve never been very popular, so I can’t worry about that.”

        How is it progressive reform to remove something from millions of people that can properly utilize it without going on a violent killing spree because someone that couldn’t handle it did go on a killing spree? This is no different than wanting to ban sugary drinks that are larger than 12 ounces because some people can’t limit themselves to the occasional beverage. The government shouldn’t regulate personal choice. There is nothing progressive about surrendering our rights as individuals to our government, and there is certainly nothing progressive about punishing everyone for the actions of a very small outlier on the behavioral spectrum. Then again, that is how the liberal progressive mind works. “I am offended, therefore everyone should be offended, therefore nobody should be allowed to do whatever it is that has offended me so the government should ban said activity.”

  101. I did not read through all of the threads, but the first question that pops into my mind is what kind of home life did you have? If video games were not the issue, what was going on in your life that you thought carrying guns and knives, etc was okay? Was it an absent father? Was it some other sort of stress going on in your home? It’s not just parents that have an influence on teens, but what about another caring adult from the neighborhood, school, church or temple? Perhaps we can all ask the question, “Who am I influencing in a positive way?” Friends…go make a difference today in the life of a teen!

  102. I can definitely see where you coming from and apart from the fact that HoffPost should not have pulled that i think the general issue of what you are talking about reaches farther then you might think.

    “Angry boys”, that is exactly the buzzword in this conversation. People who are left behind. People who are cut out of a society. When you were 20, yes, you had guns to your disposal ( and thank lord you never crossed the line ), you didn’t have videogames ( and back then, it was more or less pixel-blobs far away from any sort fo realism computer games achieve today. But you also lived in a society that was slightly different from today. Less streamlined, less “constant exposure” to the awesome lives of some fake-personas, although you might have felt alienated, it was not as aggressively rubbed in your face every second of your day.

    Like the same as “angry boys” should have no access to firearms, no access to violent video games, not acces to violent movies, no access to …yeah…to what. Preventing them form accessing anything equals locking them up right away, as soon as we “identify” them as “strange, socially awkward, could be a trouble-maker”. And as you as a teacher you of course understand how difficult it is to do that.

    I think the way forward is more self reflection in a society where people can get “cut out” of the social fabric like that and get reminded every bloody hour how they “not fit in”. And i think the US society has a very long way to go there, where the idea of crime prevention is locking up as many people as possible ( and if you like it or not, there is some truth to it how problems gets “handled” for now but not “solved” in the long term ).

  103. Great article! Thank you for all you do with young people. You really are saving the lives of those who need you. 🙂

  104. Thanks for writing this, Peter. You are right. But there have already been MANY studies proving that you are right. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman addresses that fact in his book, “Stop Teaching our Kids to Kill.” The burning question asked by Lt. Col. Grossman, and by me here, is this: “Why don’t we know about these studies?” It’s as if a powerful lobby doesn’t want us to know.

    • Wow, that’s amazing. No, we don’t even know that those studies exist. I didn’t know. And that is very sad.

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      • Thank you for taking the time to read a college student’s blog.🙂 I very much appreciated your article on video gaming. If my parents were so concerned that letting me watch the Little Mermaid would spark a toddler rebellion it certainly makes sense that 40+ hours a week of violence isn’t good either. It was refreshing to see some honesty on the net.

  106. That is so powerfully said. I have a homeless ministry and totally agree with you. Kids get lost in their little computer world taking on super hero identities. Thanks for caring about our young people.

  107. I’m a mom who doesn’t allow video games in her house. Not because I worry about the tie to violent behavior, but because I worry about video game addiction. Personally, I’d like to see more outdoor and other programs made available to kids to get them engaged.

  108. You bring about what you think about. Try and disprove that… If kids are filling their heads with violence, it is more likely to manifest in their reality.
    Why would one seek those games out in the first place? A masculine essence feels most alive at the edge of death and danger. The stronger ones masculine essence, the more likely he is to push his boundaries in sports, financial ‘killings’, abusive situations etc. Think about how many men return from war and cannot adjust to the ‘reality’ of a 9 to 5. For many veterans, war is the closest thing to a religious experience they will ever have because they are living at the edge of death. That is the most ‘alive’ they will ever feel. Little boys kill ants with magnifying glasses, rip the tails off lizards, massacre their sisters Barbie doll collection, play cowboys/starwars/nija whatever!: All as an expression of the masculine (as opposed to the feminine essence- nurturing, radiant, and loving). Young boys MUST be taught the sacredness of life. I believe that fathers or male role models must provide a framework for their boys to learn responsibility around taking life. For example, if a boy is going around shooting plastic guns at everything, the father would let him hold a real gun and teach him the power of it, demonstrating to him how SERIOUS weapons are and how they are not to be abused. This embues the child with a sense of duty, purpose, and responsibility around death. This boy is now more likely to mature into a man capable and willing to fight on the edge of death in order to protect life – instead of taking it to fulfill an unconscious biological urge and a need for release. To the paternally un-initiated boy; sadly the unwieldily, undeveloped, instinctual, and immature obsession with death will be more likely to manifest in violent thoughts and therefore similar actions. Due to our technological advancements and modern conveniences, there is simply an emasculinzation of most men in our cush society. These men are still craving to walk the edge of death, ergo- cue video games. If we were still forced to hunt or prey, fend off enemies, video games wouldn’t matter so much. The bigger problem at hand here is there is a disappearing natural container (feminine/earth) for the masculine energy to land in. The mother at large is disappearing in her natural form from us at a rapid state. The whole system is broken. We are moving away from what is natural and replacing it with artificial hoaxes. A masculine essence cannot truly rest in its purpose through a hoax. Eventually it will have to break the barrier of the television screen and manifest itself in reality in order for the natural urge hiding beneath the facade to be fulfilled. Still, I believe that killing dozens of people will never feel as true to source as using a gun to defend ones family. The masculine energy must learn to be channeled through an open heart and aware mind, and the closer it comes to this, the finer its expression. The finer the expression the higher it will climb the scale of sacredness. The higher on the scale it is, the greater level of innate peace a man will have and be capable of bringing to the world. SO yes, get these boys outside in the sacredness of Earth. Show their fathers the same thing. Have empathy and compassion for the kids out there that are so stuck in a broken system that they are using what they have to try and get closer to source. Do what you can to bridge the gap between these kids’ over stimulated senses their natural states of awareness that are longing to be acknowledged.

    • I love this: “The whole system is broken. We are moving away from what is natural and replacing it with artificial hoaxes.” I wish I’d written that sentence. -PBH

    • Chrissy!! Your post is SO well written, to the point, and powerful…it scared me. I hope you are a “teacher” somewhere in life. Yours is among the best posts I have ever read online. Thank you PBH for post your article, because it created not only a storm of excellent ideas, but should be a wake-up call to the persons or persons at the Huffington Post who lost out big time by deciding to let you go.
      Thanks for your active involvement in a subject that needs it.

      • aaaaaarrrrgh! I forgot to proofread before I posted….don’t shoot me!

  109. Interesting. I played many computer games over the years. My forte was first-person shooters. My best game was Counterstrike:Source, which was one of the best first person shooters of all time. At one point I was ranked 5 (and rising) on a server with 25,000 rankings. My take on all this is that first person shooters are not the cause of mass shootings by our disturbed youth. Yes, FPS games may be enough to push some kids over the edge, to make killing people just a bit more acceptable mentally…. but let’s face the hard truth: FPS games will never be outlawed. Ever. The reason they will never be outlawed is because legislators know that they will never win this battle. Outlaw it all you want; some smart high school kids will band together and create another incredible FPS game. In fact, as a futurist (my hobby on the side – see http://seer.ws), I think that a future society that outlaws video games is more detrimental to humanity than these occasional youthful killing sprees. In my opinion, if we had 3 times as many killing sprees as we currently do worldwide, it would still be a better world than one which was so strict – a dystopia – that the *content* of games was regulated so heavily that we couldn’t shoot with guns in them.

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  111. All of the games you mentioned in your article have a “Mature” rating. Think the equivalent of an R rating for a movie. They aren’t meant for kids, and parents need to quit buying them for their kids. While it’s not a crime for a minor to buy one, it is forbidden by nearly all game stores’ policies and can lead to the termination of the teller who sold it as well as the manager on duty if the ESRB learns they didn’t card the minor. This isn’t fool-proof, minors still order games online with no oversight using gift cards or other means, but it is proof that the industry takes steps to keep violent games out of the hands of minors. Just my 2 cents. Would you let your kid watch a violent R rated movie? If not, don’t buy them an M rated game.

    • They don’t need to be purchased. They can be downloaded and played for free by kids of any age. All they have to do is check the box by the age rating. Just search first person shooter games or online torture games and see what comes up.

  112. The tragedy here is the continued clouding of what the real issue is. First, These types of video games are wildly popular. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of players daily. The number being so high that I can’t even imagine you are serious in implying this as being the one common thread. They all wore pants too, did you put much research into that common thread?

    For argument’s sake, if there were a correlation between the video games and the shooters crossing that line, the number of kids exposed to this risk is so high, that Columbine and Newton incidents would, at the very least, be in the hundreds to thousands; we’d have more than one everyday.

    Also, none of these tragedies showed the shooters had any type of elevated skill, strategy or expertise, as a result of such “practice”, as you imply comes with so many hours of play.

    Perhaps you should take up a shooting video game, because you totally missed the target on this one.

  113. I’m not the type to usually post for blogs, however, I would like to point out that your comments on getting out into nature help to relieve stress.
    I’m 34 now. Growing up during the time of very basic computers pushed kids my age to get outside and do things. We didn’t sit in front of the PC or controller (except maybe Atari playing Frogger or Space Invaders). We had to get outside. Sure, certain kids during that time were violent, but we had backyard fights, not shootings.
    As a teenager, I was part of the Boy Scouts. While definitely not part of the popular group, I rarely acted out in violence. After graduating High School, which was also a difficult time, I went off to college at a Flight School in Alabama. It was far from home, but doing what I loved the most. As an adult, I joined the Civil Air Patrol which is an Auxiliary part of the US Air Force doing Search and Rescue. The main reason I enjoyed CAP, was because kids starting at the age of 12 could get outdoors, go hiking, travel to other states, go on rescue missions, save lives, etc. It showed them respect and honor. I’m not trying to make an ad for CAP here. My point is that getting the kids outdoors and interacting with others, being part of a group that requires your input and motivation, keeps them from acting violently.
    Times have definitely changed in the last 20 years.

  114. I don’t allow video games in my house, and it works for us, though my ex-husband is much more permissive on that, getting any game our 8-year-old wants, including those marked M for mature. (that’s where co-parenting requires extra communication!) It’s hard to find a balance, so I find it easier to limit that by not having a video game system. I’m fine with my son liking guns–but he’s emulating military and police heroes, who would never shoot an innocent person intentionally.

  115. Great idea — ban potentially violent kids from the use of violent video games. Kids are all, to some degree, potentially violent, so I suppose just a general ban on violent games would do. Of course, they could turn to violent movies, so those should also be banned. Violent TV, including the news, of course. Ban it. Violent books next. Make a big pile of those and burn them. Then we’ll all be safe, in a world where no violent images spur children to murder people. Thank you for the solution which should have been obvious all along, Peter. I’m glad you’re teaching young people.

  116. Hello, Peter. Thank you for this post and especially your honesty about your personal life experience. If you are not familiar with his work already, then you should take a look at what Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has written, “On Killing” and “On Combat.” But first, you will find ample validation for your point of view here in this fairly recent video interview of him, especially starting around the 21:00 mark: Lt. Col. Dave Grossman On the Act of Killing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9Ozno7HMGE

  117. Too bad the “liberals” at the Huffpo can’t handle a diversity of experience and opinion. Without closely examining weaknesses and flaws in people and systems, how can we learn to overcome, and work around them? Their narrowness of vision pre-empted us from hearing your fascinating story and reflections on your past and current experiences with teenagers. My sons have access to guns and play video games. They are straight A students with friends on and offline. We asked them to use “zombie” mode so they tend not to spend the majority of time killing “people.” Clearly there is an addictive quality and their time can be better spent. My brother was an addictive player, and at 40 still plays quite a bit. He’s also a “systems architect” for a large medical hospital system and married father of 3 girls. Principles via anecdotes can’t necessarily be broadly applied, but clearly, there was something different about the mass shooters. Especially the fact that all of the shooters had raised alarms and red flags among fellow students, parents and in the Aurora shooter’s case the concern of his psychiatrist who alert campus police that Holmes was homicidal. The Virginia Tech shooter, Holmes in CO, and Lanza in Conn, each has significant symptoms of aspergers/autism. People with these conditions often do not feel normal bonds with other people. Other people can feel very threatening and intimidating to them for completely innocent reasons – appear as obstacles to their desires – much like the disconnect which sociopaths experience. They can read into the actions of others malicious intentions where none exists. I’ve had experience with a brother who struggled with these feelings and perceptions which were detached from reality from a very young age. It’s possible that video games helped prepare the shooters to be effective in their assault, but as for the desire to kill fellow citizens, that alienation, emnity and animosity most likely existed in the minds of these shooters from a very young age. PS. We run an outdoor /survival school and heartily agree with the advantages of connecting to nature.

  118. Excellent piece of work, Peter. Thank you for your insights on this hard subject. Incidentally, our boy turned 14 today. I wish this stuff was easier.

  119. While I agree to a certain extent I also think that people are using video games as another scapegoat just like they did with heavy metal music. The simple facts are that more people play these games and don’t do anything violent than the one that act out. Casting broad stokes is a very dangerous thing to do in any area. Yes these games are super violent have have no place in the hands of children. However most of these games have warning labels on them and children cannot legally buy them on their own, and their parents have to. There lies one of the major problems. People need to start parenting their kids instead of being afraid of them or wanting to be their friends. The other major issue that needs to be addressed is mental health. As a society we are quick to try and blame outside influences instead of looking inward to see how we could have positively changed the situation.

  120. I so totally agree with you! I would, however, support research even more prolific. Such as answering this question: Is the upside of selling a product for a profit, when the potential use for that product may lead to adverse destructive behavior, greater than the alternative use of time to develop behavioral qualities leading to constructive, productive and peaceful living? If the answer is even remotely no, then why do we encourage its production by encouraging it’s demand in opposition to activities such as you have mentioned? In my humble opinion, the answer is quite simple…unconscious greed.
    I wholeheartedly support formal and alternative education leading to a more conscious form of “lifelong” human development!
    Rev. B. Stuart Noll

    • “Encourage production” ?? People are free to want what they want. It satisfies a human urge. Only enlightened understanding and teaching can draw us to what is beneficial for our growth and development but these days those ideals compete in a highly produced competitive environment. I watch my husband and cohorts spend hundreds of hours a year leading boy scouts into activities that are wholesome and beneficial to growing boys. Interestingly, that DOES include time on the rifle range for target practice for the Rifle Shooting badge. But there doesn’t seem to be an alternative for those boys who are in father-deprived communities. Where are the men? By the way, here is the link to the Rifle Shooting badge. What percentage of the population of inner city America, where the majority of gun crime happens, has had this type of instruction and opportunities for reflection?

  121. There are plenty of revealing and well conducted studies out which support your assertions about violence and video games. We don’t see them. Why would that be? What has happened with the bill you referenced?

  122. Interesting and I agree. These games can desensitize people to the reality of killing. Of course, upbringing, parental guidance, internal moral compass (which I suspect you had even though you were unaware) keep most kids grounded in the entertainment value of these games. For a select few, the influence to act out is going to be too strong to resist. This is true with music, movies, etc. If they are looking for a muse they will find it. It is up to society to be keenly aware of them and woe if we aren’t. The entertainment industry, in every form – is extremely politically connected / supportive. There will never be a successful attempt mounted to place accountability there. It has to start at home and unfortunately, in our society today, we just can’t count on that.

  123. As a former middle school teacher, I connect with much of what is here and applaud the post. I feel that those that are comparing today’s violent video games to heavy metal music haven’t played today’s video games and experienced the realism. I found it disturbing when my 11-14-year-old boys would write in graphic detail about their “kills” from over the weekend in their journals; one of my most troubled students used to write about them especially vividly. This isn’t watching a violent movie–this is experiencing it first person in incredibly realistic interfaces The online interactive play also provided a lot of my students who craved male role models that attention from grown men that they wanted, but in a very warped environment. On more than one occasion I heard my kids threatening each other on the playground using incredibly explicit language and threats they’d learned from gaming. One of my co-teachers who actually served in Iraq would try to explain to them what real warfare was like, but they insisted that his experience in Fallujah must have been just like Call of Duty. I think it’s clear that there is no one solution to this epidemic, but a lot of pieces in a complex puzzle, and you’ve hit the nail on the head that this is one piece of that puzzle.

  124. it’s all about lethal means, there are all sorts of people out there with all sorts of issues and tendencies, almost all research that matters focuses on lethal means, everything else is minor stuff. The US doesn’t necessarily have more violent incidents than other industrialized democracies , whether harming others or oneself, but we definitely have more deaths as a result, why………..guns. Simply compare different countries, all have lots of violent media, none have the US’s high suicide and murder rate. In terms of mass killings, also pretty obvious, no other country allows such super lethal weapons and large magazines to be publicly available. Remember at the time of Newtown a guy went beserk in China in a school, with a knife, no deaths. BTW, the censorship sucks, really not acceptable, period.

  125. Haven’t thought this out entirely but I’ll throw it out for whatever its worth…. maybe there are ways to use these violent video games for diagnostic purposes, to single out the kids who are getting too far into them and get them into treatment. Yeah, I know it sounds very Big Brotherish but maybe someone ought to look into it. In any case, research is definitely indicated.

  126. We don’t need to “look into it”. There have been studies for decades about how violent TV makes kids more violent. Video games are used to rewire the brains of autistics, ADDers and others, based on YEARS of research. It is beyond well-known that watching violence (TV or in real life, for that matter), and playing video games changes our brains.

    I don’t have a solution, either. I think it takes many fronts-parents who don’t own guns when they have violent children, more awareness, more aid for mentally ill children (and adults), no more latchkey kids, etc.

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  128. I am in full agreement. As my mother whom is a therapist says, “practice makes perfect, what are we having our kids practice for?”.

  129. Thanks Peter, very powerful story & personal journey. As someone who has run wilderness programs as well for innercity youth, I am a huge proponent and believer of nature and all it can do for the human spirit, regardless of where you come from. It is an equalizer, where one can truly be who they are and explore the possibilities and discover what they hold within.

    I was recently back in the US and visited with my 10 year old nephew. He is addicted to gaming. School, I thought, would be a chance to break from this and gym class especially would be a place for personal discoveries through activities in nature as his suburban school has lots of outdoor activities such as snowshoeing, skiing etc. I leaned that his gym class does go outside sometimes, but he liked it when they played videogames. I couldn’t believe it. No, they are not warfare videogames, and they are more active than typical games, where one has to actually jump, jog etc versus just press a button. Either way, I was heartbroken.

    We need more educators, administrators, parents, communities and politicians & their money to support what is labeled “alternative” education, or an enrichment program, or “Expeditionary Learning”, so that each and every child has a chance to find themselves in nature and discover all they really are.

  130. Excellent post. I think your words ring very true and I think our society is so enamored with the pleasures of video games and other media that far too many will deny its impact until we reach rock bottom. Aldous Huxley got it right in Brave New World – he knew it was pleasure that would be our downfall. Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death” has a lot of great things to say on entertainment and its impact on our culture. I just wish we were all paying attention. Thank you for sharing your story – I hope many get to hear it and will LISTEN.

  131. I have thought the same thing for years. I think there are alot more troubled teens in todays world than what people might think. Bullying in schools today is rediclulous. Divorce rates and single parents are at their highest. With the economy at its worst parents married or single are struggling working odd jobs to make ends meet, and the children out there who are just raising themselves due to the parents drug and alcohol problems. That being said this leaves alot of time on the hands of these young children/young adults. The video games in todays world are so true to life, I can definately see how spending hours upon hours playing these violent video games could desensitize these children and allow them to take out their frustrations thru these games. My father has been in law enforcement for 30 plus years and we were just having this conversation last Sunday. He also agrees. He too has also participated in real life scenarios thru his training where he had to go thru training in makeshift towns and lliterally go in combat shooting several “bad guys” that were armed and dangerous. This was a routine that he did over and over again just as in a video game. He did tell me there were several really bad situations he had put himself in, busting thru front doors of houses with known armed criminals, not giving it a second thought do to his training. He also said there has been times after these dangerous busts were over that he thought “Wow I really could have died very easily today”. But also added that you cant go into situations like that without the training to desensitize you to be able to do your job. I pray laws are passed to ban these violent video games. I dont understand for the life of me why parents would allow their children to play them to begin with. I have your back whole heartedly on this one my friend!!

  132. Thank you, THANK YOU for putting in print what I have been feeling and saying for a l-o-n-g time. I would not claim that violent video games create killers per se. I would, however, point out, as you do, that video simulation (and, sadly, sTimulation) is, indeed, a well-known major tool in military training. Also for pilots and astronauts. But think, people: it’s a form of cellular programming. Even if most kids ‘can handle it’ – why would we want them to? If we spent all those resources of time, money and youth on constructive past-times – outdoors, in community service, learning a useful survivals, creating solutions to social problems rather than creating them – what a different world we would be living in today. Thank you for writing and sharing this piece.

  133. You have an interesting and compelling story. But, it’s not the whole story. Many, many young people (mostly young men, but not exclusively) fantasize about violence towards authority/society and have for a long, long time. High school as we’ve conjured it up seems to feed and cultivate this resentment in far too many. There’s no single reason for this – it’s a failure on a systems level. To lay the blame on video games once again fails to grasp the interconnected nature of this failure. While most of these shooters played video games, millions upon millions of people play them without then acting out with violence. There is no one answer to this problem. People advancing a “silver bullet” theory that if we simply do this or no longer do that miss the point. We must stop fooling ourselves with easy answers for these horrific problems.

    Also, I think Huffpo lost a good writer. Good luck to you.

  134. I just want to thank you for writing this. As someone who grew up in Sandy Hook and attended Sandy Hook Elementary, I’ve thought a lot about the many issues that have come to light since December, and this one is really important to me. It’s one that so many people are quick to write off, because no one wants to think that their hobbies could be connected to something so horrible. But I do agree with you that while no, there’s no reason to assume that a child will automatically become a killer if he/she plays violent video games, there definitely is a line crossed in the mind when you can commit acts of even simulated violence. So I see nothing wrong with supporting the study of this theory, in the hopes of learning a little more about what causes people to commit these very real acts of violence. Thank you again for being brave enough to speak out about this. You seem like the perfect person to do it.

  135. I would agree that maybe studies are in order, but having worked in prisons for more years than I care to count (about 20) I can tell you that it is NOT a commonality amongst inmates in my experience. But, I think you may have found a correlation, and that is doing things with family…99% of the inmates who would talk about things would tell you that they had horrible or non-existent family lives, abusive parents, etc. while this suggests people learn these traits on a video game, many of these traits are learned in real life!

  136. Very thoughtful story and dialogue. Many parallels with other aspects of our modern life (e.g. objectification of women). A great man once said…

    “Your beliefs become your thoughts,
    Your thoughts become your words,
    Your words become your actions,
    Your actions become your habits,
    Your habits become your values,
    Your values become your destiny.”
    ― Mahatma Gandhi

    30-40 hours per week of anything probably puts a person beyond the first step in the progression.

    I am curious what your research into Huffington Post motivation, sponsorship, etc. uncovered.

  137. Here is what I know:

    1) Violent video games make people think about violence and increases the chances that people will act out with anger.

    2) Video games that are violent are addicting and effect the persons psyche/emotional well being. There is no sense in arguing this point because violence in any form affects a persons connection to reality.

    3) There are millions of people around the world that play violent video games that don’t act upon these violent tendencies. But there are also millions of people around that do act upon them everyday. This isn’t to say that everyone acting upon them will go out and emotional or physical harm to people.

    4) We can’t just blame video games for the increase in the public environment. There are probably more than 50 different reasons why the prevalence of violent actions or feelings is increasing. Just look at the newspaper, the shows on TV, the movies that are coming out, the news media, and in the place where you are supposed to be safest, your home.

    5) Desensitization is defined as the diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative (aka violent) stimulus after repeated exposure to it. Society overall has become desensitized to violence and therefore is more willing to ignore violence that doesn’t occur in their community or that they don’t experience an intense emotional response.

    6) Blaming everyone in a group with similar interests for the actions of certain individuals in the group is wrong. Why should someone be punished for something just because another person acted inappropriately.

    7) We as a society are over-protecting and isolating people from anything that could have a negative outcome. It is getting to the point where we are no longer allowing people to fail. Failure is a part of life and there is nothing you can do to prevent failure 100% of the time. Allowing failure creates learning opportunities. A quote that explains this is as follows:

    Edison was once asked………”How could you continue to keep trying after you failed so many times.

    Edison responded with……………..”I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to not make a light bulb.”

  138. The problem is that there isn’t a correlation. Canada plays “Call of Duty” and all our other violent video games. So does England. Australia. New Zealand. All of Europe. Yet all those countries have fewer mass shootings (even per capita) and far fewer murders per capita (one-fourth or less than the USA). If video games WERE a causative factor, the mass shootings (and homicides in general) should also be high in countries that play a lot of video games. They aren’t. (In fact, there’s a slightly negative correlation; the european country that buys the most video games has a lower than it’s neighbors murder rate.) So the stats really don’t support this at all.

    What the USA DOES have more of per capita than any of those other countries isn’t video games players, it’s actually guns. We have several times as many guns per capita as the countries where we also have many times the homicides per capita. That DOES correlate. Implying perhaps we kill each other more often because it’s easier to get a hold of a good tool to kill with. Mass killings? Same deal. We have lots of baseball bats and hammers and knives, but they are almost never used for a mass killing. Too hard. Unsurprisingly, those countries with fewer mass murders (even though they DO have the same number of hammers, bats & knives per capita) have fewer guns per capita.

    When something is easier to do, people do it more often. (Just like people tend to write more in countries that have a lot of pen & paper. Doesn’t MAKE you do it, but if you want to write, it’s easier if there’s easy access to the tools to do so.)

  139. I am also a HuffPo blogger (since 07) and have seen changes in what they will allow. May I ask, were you ever on psychiatric medications – that is also a common denominator in shooters that is rarely mentioned – we attack the NRA and protect the FDA. Why? Sorry you we sh*tcanned from HuffPo – it’s not right. KIM

    • The relationship between violent behavior and psychiatric medication is a complex and fairly misunderstood subject. Yes there is a potential for increased violence with psych meds but the truth is that there is not just one single cause and just blaming meds in my opinion is gross negligence. I bet probably in your circle of your ten closest friends that at least one of them has been or is currently on some sort of psych med.

      Blaming psych meds this way only further propagates the stigma of mental illness. This stigma prevents people from seeking appropriate treatment because they don’t want to be labeled as “Mentally incapable” or “psychotic”. So I ask before you assume that someone with mental health issues is “psychotic” make sure you fully understand what is going on in their life. Everyone has mental health issues just like everyone has some sort of physical health issue because no one is “Perfectly Healthy” and everyone could do better. It’s just that some have more issues than others. Good Mental Health is defined as maintaining a sense of equilibrium when it comes to the emotional/cognitive areas of health.

  140. interesting, however it is way off the mark, the shooters are maladjusted mentally, bottom line. The parents failed at raising them and or they have serious mental illness, that is the problem IMHO…. mental illness and guns don’t mix and it’s too easy for mentally ill people to get guns. Just maybe, I might possibly concede that you can throw video games into the recipe above but there is no way in hell that a properly raised, mentally stable, social outcast with access to guns and video games would ever commit this kind of violence. you would need all the components to get the outcomes that you mention in your blog.

    The reason your blog didn’t get printed is because it is insane and baseless and they did you a huge favor by not posting it!

    I have been in the video game industry for 18 years, I grew up playing video games, I know gamers and have worked with a bigger cross section of them and grew up with people who casually and obsessively play games…. and guess what ? none of them have ever killed anyone with a gun, knife, baseball bat, their hands or any instrument for that matter, nor have they ever pistol whipped a prostitute. I myself have never done the above mentioned things, nor have I had thoughts or tenancies or even the slightest inclinations of violence with mass casualties as a result. go back to the drawing board junior, your theory never even made it off the landing. Don’t think for one second that your baseless assertions were thwarted by corporate dollars or any conspiracy scenarios you may have concocted at this point. The picture you paint in your article is about as scary as the characters that Adam Sandler and Kathy Bates played in “The water boy” and that is why your article was discarded and your future posts were ripped from you…. “Mama says alligators are mean because they got all them teeth in their head and no toothbrush” a-duh a-duh a-duh…. What’s even scarier than your theory is that you teach anything much less high school, but in your defense you are teaching in Tennessee, so I am sure back there this article makes you look like a genius, let me know when Jesus shows up on one of the grilled cheese sandwiches your Mama cooks up for ya !!!

    • So your argument couldn’t be made without resorting to name calling? Guess you didn’t really have an argument in the first place, now did you?

  141. I’ve been in the gaming and other software industry for almost 16 years, starting at age 18. Two of those years was spent in my late 20’s testing a US military genre title. I have never in my time read an article so well written and frames so beautifully my own thoughts about it.
    A week into testing those titles and the thought crossed my mind that we were simulating humans killing one another. What war really means. The consequences. Two years later, 49 days without a day off, 12-18 hr days, it was just about pulling off the impossile head shots.
    Thank you for getting this out there.
    -Proud nerd and game industry veteran

  142. It is interesting theory, but if it is correct why has the proliferation of first person shooter games (Duke Nukem, et al.) since the late 1990s coincided with a marked decrease in gun violence at schools? These games are ubiquitous and very popular (and have been for at least a decade) so if this argument held gun violence in schools should be way up.

  143. Thanks for the raw, important writing. I think you are on to something. At least one expert on military training and the psychology of killing that I am aware of has written extensively on the correlation between violent entertainment and how it affects kids. I am thinking of Lt. Col Dave Grossman, the author of “On Killing”, which is on the U.S. Marine Corps Commandant’s required reading list; and is required reading at the FBI academy. He also co-authored “Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie and Video Game Violence”. This is a large scale societal issue and one that each family has to deal with every day after school on its own.

  144. @Joann, you hit the proverbial nail on the head.
    That is also WHY the Government is moving towards taking over authority of children
    as well as guns.

    It is a SPIRITUAL disease & SPIRITUAL disorder called SIN but that’s not been a popular
    notion in our nation for decades as people worship the “almighty dollar” that is not so mighty.

  145. —As a man thinks in his heart, so is he—Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.—-

    In other words, whatever we focus on is the direction we go.

  146. I am the mother of 4 sons, now ages 36 -26. They played video games. The two middle boys still play video games. We had guns in our house. They were taught that guns are not toys. They were taught NOT to touch the guns. They were taught that guns were for hunting, for protection. A gun was never to be pointed at a person unless a life was in danger. They were not allowed to have toy guns (OK…except for a Nerf water gun). Guns are not toys. They were given knives when they each turned 12. They were given BB guns when they were 14. They had a father who taught them gun safety, who taught them how to hunt for food. They played outside, every day even in the cold winter. They climbed trees, built forts, made jumping ramps for bicycles which they rode everywhere, sometimes on bikes with no brakes. They scooped tadpoles from the pond, went fishing, caught turtles and brought home deer skeletons. Once they went off to track a bear that was seen in our area – without a gun. My oldest told his son that the worst punishment that was met out to him, when he was a kid, was being told he was ‘grounded’ and he couldn’t go outside. My children went to public school. My children had the benefit of a stay at home mom. Someone was always there. This was not easy. We lived in a two bedroom apartment – 4 boys in one bedroom. We had one car. I know what it is like to only have $6 to buy food. It was a sacrifice. I don’t say this to say…. feel sorry for us or stay at home moms are better than anybody else. I say this to say that children need parents, need a caring, continous care giver – father, mother, grandfather teaching them, preparing them. There is now a generation out there where the parents have been absent, abdicating their role to the schools, to elderly grandparents, to the streets. Many of these parents were still children when they became parents. Parents, who don’t know their own kids, who ignore the signs of drug abuse or an arsenal of weapons under their child’s bed. Parents who never go into their kid’s bedrooms, parents who never moniter the computer their kids use. Parents who don’t know who their child’s friends are, who the parents of their child’s friends are. I’m all for searching the underwear drawer and I did it. It’s the parent who sets the boundaries. It’s the parent who says “45 minutes of video game playing is enough.” It’s the parent who looks at the maturity rating on the video game and says “yes” or “no”. Parents are the first teachers, the first boundary setters, the first line of defense in a child’s life. If a child is missing that……. it’s a hard thing to make up for. Stepping down from my soapbox.

  147. Studies don’t really need to be done considering some of the countries with the lowest crime rates on the planet have access to the same violent video games as americans. It’s pretty much cut-and-dry that video games don’t make you a little punk that brings guns to school.

    Stop playing the blame game. Suck it up and take responsibility for your actions.

  148. Growing up with the same thoughts and in a violent family, I can agree that the spark was there; only the fuel for the fire was not. I can agree partially with what is said in the article.

    I for one, along with a growing number, believe that much of the growing tendency to act out violently is due to a combination of things.

    Many more children that are not “normal” or are “depressed” are fed SSRIs as though they are the cure all. Being that they put the person into an REM type trance then the 40 hours of the first person shooters….. well, let’s say that waking life and the dream state merge, leading to impaired judgement with extremely bad outcomes.
    One homepage off the top of my head is ssristories dot com.

    I personally have seen how these medications can destroy a person’s life. 3 years of occasional panic attacks to being a complete zombie that forgets where they are, what they were doing and then the alternate reality kicks in. Mostly all minor that slowly builds into a new person that goes from sharp as a whip to on a sofa playing games during free time.

    In my humble opinion, the rabbit hole goes much deeper.

  149. A lot of conjecture from a person who never played video games and still took a loaded gun to a school and a supermarket and admits having a lot in common with shooters. Maybe if he’d had a virtual outlet that also offered some socialization he wouldn’t have been doing that to begin with. But yes, getting outside–and the socialization that comes along with “outdoor programs”–is generally a good thing. But clearly the Columbine shooters didn’t get that much out of all the time they spent out in the woods doing target practice.

    Yes, a killer who’s played tactical shooters will have more training. But of course there’s the other conversation: Maybe it shouldn’t be easier for an angry adolescent boy to get access to pistols, shotguns, and ammo than it is for them to get access to video games.

    • Thank you, the one thing that all of these young shooters have in common is access to guns. Violent video games are played world-wide without the problems that we find in the US, yet those against any commonsense gun legislation want to put the blame on something other than the combination of bored and lonely kids with guns.
      I got rid of my guns when my 12-year old son started getting interested in them. I knew some of his friends were associated with gangs and I didn’t want the stolen and misused. My son played a lot of violent video games, but I made sure he knew that they were fantasy, and I made him volunteer to develop compassion. I always kept lines of communication open with him and made sure that he could trust me with any thoughts that concerned or troubled him. Today he’s 30 and well rounded. He works 3 jobs and occasionally hunts for food but he would never hurt another human being.
      I do think it’s odd that the writer states that he was a gun-toting paranoid angry loner teen who ‘engaged in violence’ without ever playing a video game, yet he is willing to blame video games for creating teens like him. I think with his mother taking an interest and reminding him of reality the writer may have benefited from a game or two to get his angst and rage out rather than holding it in, A virtual gunfight is much less bloody.

  150. In my thoughts, As a high school student, I feel as if the video games are not the cause. These video games simply help desensitize the act of violence to them. They most likely already have that violent trait about them, but this violence in these video games help them pull the act off. Without being desensitized they might see what they are doing and not have the “guts” to pull it off. Also, the fact that we are entering the technology ages and the generatinos to come that will be hooked to technology. I rarely hear of those backin the older generations, going on mass killings at younger ages. There is no doubt about it, technology is having an impact on all our lives, and its not always in a good way.

  151. I don’t have much to say but I agree and disagree. I think it all depends on your current mindset. Like some people are more likely to be alcoholics (or have addictive tendencies towards whatever habit, hobby, or ideas). It still comes down to how you decide to react to your thoughts. Your thoughts determine your feelings, and your feelings invoke action. Despite the point I don’t think children at all should be spending so much time playing video games, watching movies, etc. Those are only activities that should happen every so often. Kids should be outside playing or developing skills through reading, research, taking classes, etc. There’s no need to spend the amount of time as a full time job playing video games.

  152. The ‘not my child/grandchild’ comments can very come back and haunt these people. If you’re too blinded by the ‘good’ things your children are doing, they’re going to be really confused when the police show up at their door letting them know their Boy Scout is in custody for a campfire shooting.

    I think you’re onto something. If you put enough of that into your head, eventually it’s going to find it’s way out. As we’ve seen, it’s not pretty when it comes out.

    We don’t hear about all of the stories the ones who aren’t to the level of killing humans yet. They’re the ones that go after small animals…until they decide to ramp it up. That’s when we’ll hear about it.

  153. Thank you Peter for putting these thoughts so succinctly on to virutal paper. Being the mother of three sons in their late teens to mid-twenties I struggled with allowing my boys to play these types of games. Grand Theft Auto being the most controversial during their teen years. I also insisted that they all joined Boy Scouts to experience nature. I couldn’t agree with you more that nature difuses anger.

  154. Before violent video games it was violent television. Before violent television it was violent movies. Before violent movies it was rock and roll. And, before all of those… guess what? There was a *LOT* more violence. Take a look at the historical statistics and you’ll find that violence in media has coincided with a fall in actual violence in the populace.

    It’s almost as if the people can sublimate or get out those aggressions via other channels and… hey, presto-chango… they don’t release that violence in the classical fashion of public assault.

    The author of that article only serves to show why we need better vetting for our public school system, as he’s clearly engaging in a direct logical fallacy (several, in fact) with his opinion piece. The biggest is his appeal to anecdotal authority. Just because he had murderous thoughts when he was a teen doesn’t give him any special insight into the special circumstances and motives of these mass murderers.

    By definition these mass murderers are outliers. They are special cases that cannot be encapsulated into the statistical model that generally works for the other 300+ million individuals within the nation. That means they are exception cases. They may exhibit similarities, but I am not aware of any mathematician who would claim that five (or is it six?) is a valid statistical sample… especially when your samples are at the extreme edge of the distribution curve.

    A quick google search estimates that there are between 21 and 25 million teens in the US as of the 2000 census. The numbers are likely to be similar today, if not a bit higher. Given that teens only spend a few years being a teen, that means the transitory population (those who have *been* teen s in the pas 15 years) is likely around 50 million. And out of 50 million we only have half a dozen who have gone off the deep end in this fashion while likely >60% of them have played video games that classify as violent.

    The postulations of the article are, therefore, unsupported blatherings of someone who can’t separate anecdotal from statistical. HuffPo was right to not publish his opinion piece… not because he was saying something they wanted to cover up, but because he’s making an unsupportable argument that adds nothing of value to the discussion. Doesn’t matter what topic if you can’t write a competent article.

  155. There is NO casual relationship between video games and violence. Studies have shown this. We do NOT need any more freedom limiting laws. Parenting is the problem, nothing more. Watch your kids, be involved in their life, that’s the real problem.

    • Let’s assume you’re right that parenting is the problem. And let’s also say that we don’t want to censor video game manufacturers. Do you agree with a rating system of any kind or do you feel like any/all media is appropriate for everybody? If your answer to that question is “no, not all media is appropriate for everybody,” aren’t you implicitly saying that some media can have a negative effect on its consumer? And if you’re allowing that as a possibility, what harm comes from young kids consuming violence? If you’re saying all media is appropriate for everybody, are you saying that a parent needn’t worry about what their kids are watching?

  156. “Have you ever heard of a school shooter who’s hobbies are kayaking, rock climbing, and fly-fishing? ”

    Yes. One of the most famous school shooters of all time, Charles Whitman, was an avid outdoorsman. He didn’t play videogames, he went out hunting and doing things like becoming an Eagle Scout.

    What you are engaged in is pop psychology. It is veridically worthless.

  157. Hi – it’s too bad that the HuffPo clearly disrespected you in your submission and subsequent follow up.

    However, your argument is full of holes and is in some sense dangerous. Here’s why: video games had nothing to do with the violence. Anti social behavior that went undiagnosed is the root cause.

    To say that these 10-12 people went nuclear because of video games is to choose the outliers and try to make your case. Which means you’ve failed. How many MILLIONS of people play video games (specifically the ones you cite) each year? Have we created legions of people with no sense of right and wrong? Balderdash. No. I’ve killed more than 20k people in CoD, but the other day when I saw a handicapped person fall out of his chair I couldn’t cross the street fast enough to help him. And in fact, I didn’t because by the time the light changed he had been tended to by more than a half dozen people. Good thing me and my 20k kills didn’t have a pistol in my belt or I would have taken target practice on that crip. :rollseyes:

    To say it’s COD or M rated games or whatever is the moral equivalent of knowingly passing along an email about an abducted child when you know that child hasn’t been abducted: you have taken a serious issue (mental health) and trivilialized it while sending people (who represent legitimate resources to solves this) on a fool’s errand to spend their energy where it shouldn’t be spent.

    Blaming video games gives the parents a pass. And sorry, when you raise a child you are responsible (to an extent) for the person you raise. Pointing at CoD gives every negligent parent cover. This was figured out LONG AGO, by the Bobo doll experiment.

    No, sorry, Combat on the 2600 didn’t cause you to bring a loaded gun to school and you know it. Some bizarre sense of unanchored self gratification did, and did so without moorings to what I hope your parents taught you.

    I’m glad you didn’t hurt anyone then, but continuing on this train of thought and championing it very well might: this is a misguided and fool’s argument that gives the real perps cover for their ignorance.

    I oppose you and this argument. I hope it fails for what it is: completely not understanding what you’re talking about because you used to dance on the fringes. Frankly, someone who’s done that should know better.

    • BH-

      Can you, using actual words from the author’s piece above, clarify what the “argument” is that you oppose? Seems to me you’re attacking a straw man pastiche, and not anything specific.

      • “A high school boy who plays that game 30 hours per week isn’t training to kill somebody?”

        No, he’s not. He’s playing a game. There’s more of course, but I’ll leave it at that.

      • “A high school boy who plays that game 30 hours per week isn’t training to kill somebody?”
        Only way to believe that answer is to hide behind the fact that he’s not training but actually killing untold numbers in this virtual world.

      • Here’s an article from Forbes that covers this. http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregvoakes/2012/05/30/how-do-video-games-and-modern-military-influence-each-other/

        I’m sure, given your lengthy original reply and your subsequent follow up, that you have more knowledge of the subject than others (including the author of the Forbes piece and the people he interviewed), but you might want to read it anyway.

        From the article:

        “Some have criticized the use of video game technology to train and equip military recruits, citing it as a form of desensitization that makes the taking of lives easier. But proponents argue differently, saying that the use of these video game trainings has allowed for the opposite. By training a soldier in an accurate recreation of former missions, military analysts believe that video game developers are helping to prepare soldiers for the battlefield in a way never before possible.”

        Sounds like a lot more than “playing a game” no matter which side is arguing the above point.

  158. It also seems like the mainstream media and the government want to hide the fact that the majority of these shooters are on mind altering psychiatric drugs. Coincidence? I don’t think so!

  159. Jake,

    I’m all for the research but my opinion is that violent influence via video games isn’t provable. For centuries adults openly carried weapons in the streets. That didn’t make children anymore likely to be violent. I think that the troubled teens are just using these games as an medicinal outlet. Many more use them and don’t exhibit these issues or have problems in life. We are talking about a very small percentage of a nation containing 300 million people.

    Kids are mean. They shun and bestow popularity and other vanity based things. I think more progress will be made by trying to make the culture of kids more accepting and inclusive.

    But there isn’t much you can do for those that choose to isolate themselves. They tend to create their own realities.

  160. After reading your email I wonder how much longer you will be teaching. In your article you forget to mention one very prominent point. Every single shooter you mentioned was either going on, already on, or coming off of “black box” drugs.

    The video games are not the problem. The lack of active parenting is. As you are a self admitted teacher in a high school, how many parents do you come into contact with who just flat out don’t give a damn, or even want to really deal with their kids? From a young age they are plopped in front of tv’s and the parents have no idea what the kid is watching. The same with the computer. We have a serious lack of socialization problem in this country. Look around you and you will see people who can’t even have a conversation with someone unless they are text messaging.

    I know plenty of people who play violent video games that don’t have a violent bone in their body and would never think of harming someone. So instead of doing what Mr. Obama does, and blaming everyone and everything else, let’s put the blame where it belongs, and that’s on the family unit. Parents who don’t care. Parents who are so absorbed with their own lives they can’t see past themselves. Parent who value things more than people, including their own kids. How many of your students have parents who are actually married, let alone married to the biological parent of their child? How many parents teach their children that their are actually consequences to their actions beyond losing their xbox or their cell phone? Society in general has become so liberal and “anything goes” that kids have developed an “I don’t care” attitude. What they hell are these kids so angry at that they feel they have to take another persons life? What were YOU so angry at that you felt you needed to be armed all the time? Were you repeatedly beaten up and needed it for self defense or did your parents not teach you self esteem or give you the time you felt you needed from them? Do you think children today don’t see or have the intelligence to comprehend where they stand in their own family units?? How many kids have done the math and know they were conceived before their parents were married, if they even married the child’s biological parent? I know people don’t think any of this matters, but it does. That is where the responsibility really lies.

    • Laurie Lynn,

      Serious question — If all things were equal (parents are using tv/video games for babysitting purposes like you outlined above), would the choice of media make a difference? If, instead of violent video games, kids were only able to watch “positive” programming, would you expect to see no differences in behavior?

      • Serious Answer: I’m sure there would be differences in behavior. Whether or not they would be significant is anyone’s guess. You can easily argue for arguments sake that people who are bombarded by violent images tend to be violent people, but unfortunately, society as a whole proves that to be untrue. If you are going to use Occam’s Razor as your basis for argument,, then the simplest answer tends to be the correct one. It starts in the home with the parents. Or lack thereof.

      • If you allow that that there would be differences, I’m not sure how you can discount the possibility that it can contribute to the manifestation of violent behavior. In everybody? No. Of course not. But there’s no such thing as an average person. Everybody processes experiences differently. So, I’ll conceded that 99% of people can play violent video games 100 hours a week and not act out violently. But what about the 1% or .1% or .01% that will?

        My problem with the “it’s not the video games, stupid!” argument is that it assumes, erroneously, that because most people don’t act out, all people will not act out.

    • I’ve been researching autopsy reports of killers (NOT Fox) and so far fewer than half of them were on antidepressants or Ritalin (which was more common). While there are problems and side effects of these drugs, the fact is that these were all very disturbed individuals whose behavior had to have been noted by a doctor before prescribing. It is the responsibility of the parent in all these cases to follow up, to ensure their child is receiving counseling along with the drugs and that they maintain an open and honest conversation with the child and the doctor. When my child was withdrawn and depressed I got involved. Volunteer work, helping others is a great way to get a teen out of their own head and teaches them some compassion, but it does take some effort on the parents behalf to teach kids they’re not the center of the world.
      As far as marriage goes, I know more single mothers who are/were more successful parents than many marrieds, and kids don’t count the months to see if their parents were legal. In fact, all kids really care about is that they are loved unconditionally and that they have a place in this world. I am a single mother of a wonderful, independent, hard working 30 year old. My partner and I were together 10 years before we had him and, though we didn’t live together for a while in the middle, we had been together for 23 years when he died. I never hid things from my son and made sure to include him (in age appropriate ways) in all family decisions, celebrations and disasters. He learned early to pitch in, to help those who need it, to save for the future, and to take responsibility for his own actions. I’m not saying he’s perfect, we did have a few problems in his teen years, but nothing that we couldn’t discuss reasonably and openly. He did eventually see my way, (and he’s turned me around to his way of thought a few times). Open communication is the only way to reach kids. When they believe that people care what they do and that they have a place in society, kids will thrive. Their parents’ marital statuses have nothing to do with it.

  161. We have 5 sons and 1 daughter, the youngest is a son of 13. Our children have been playing electronic games since 1984. We have a a few rules in our house (these are rules of the house and apply to everyone) related to playing games. We do not allow “people” killing games or games with blood. I don’t care how many zombies or aliens my kids dispense but they are not allowed to bring games in the house that involve killing actual live people. I also do not allow the youngest to play “M” rated games. I have confiscated a few games over the years for various gaming environments that violated these rules. They all have shot guns and have had access to guns for most of their lives. Even though I have a couple that are loners, they are very focused on their studies and involved in church attendance and activities. One son is almost finished with an engineering degree, one is part way through a degree in forensic psychology, and one is an EMT working on becoming a nurse. Three of my sons are Eagle Scouts with the youngest halfway there. They all play well together and we have a good time. They like playing games but know the difference between games and the real world. Parental rules are a key to managing proper growth and evolution into adulthood.

    I appreciated the article. I wish you success in your teaching and blogging endeavors.

  162. You make two main points in your article, both of which are fallacious:
    1) There is a direct correlation between violence and violent video games.
    2) There is an inverse correlation between violence and outdoor activities.
    Here’s why your arguments are false.
    First, the first popular FPS game, Wolfenstein 3D came out in 1992. So, based on your assumption, there shouldn’t be any, or there shouldn’t be many, school shootings before then. However, according to Wikipedia, there were 137 school shootings between 1900 and 1992.
    If you take a look at crime statistics (FBI and DOJ websites have good data on this), you’ll find that violent crime, including gun violence, has been steadily *decreasing* since the 1980s. Simultaneously, there has been a huge surge in the popularity of video games, including violent games such as Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty.
    Second, people who live in rural areas spend more time doing outdoor activities than people who live in urban areas. The country has been steadily becoming less rural since it’s founding– according to population density statistics– which would mean that less and less people are doing outdoor activities, and by your logic, more and more people should be committing crimes. But again, crime has been decreasing.
    Correlation does not mean causation. But in this case, even if it did, *there is no actual correlation.* Any trends you think you see between hobbies and violence are simply your perception, one that is in my opinion, based on no hard evidence, no statistics, and no significant research.
    But surely, you’re welcome to voice your opinion, right? Well sir, to be frank, gun violence is serious enough that we don’t need any more poorly informed opinions distracting people from from the truth of the matter.
    So, in the future please be considerate enough to your audience to do a little research before opening your mouth. It also might help you stay on a few more blogrolls.

    • Nick-

      Perhaps a closer reading of the author’s article is in order.

      Go back to Wikipedia and your “research” about school shootings. Did shootings happen in schools pre-1992? Sure did. As the author already mentioned, the majority of those were instances of teachers getting shot in front of students or one student shooting another over a grievance. What you find missing are the types of spree/mass shootings like those of Columbine, Sandy Hook, etc.

      Gun violence as a whole may be on the decline. What about spree shootings in a school setting, Nick? What do those numbers show? We’re talking about a specific thing here. What does the FBI say about that specific thing?

      Your generalization of “people in rural areas do more things outside than people in urban areas” lacks citations or any actual proof to back it up, but let’s, for the sake of your argument say you’re right, people in the country are outside more than people in the city. This gives ZERO attention to the activities they are doing outside. Is working outside on a farm the same thing as hiking in the mountains? No, of course it isn’t. The common element–being outside–isn’t the driving variable.

      The author questioning if there is a connection between violent video games (while raising the question–why are we teaching kids violence as entertainment in the first place?) is not a “poorly informed opinion,” but a discussion starter. What about open dialogue makes you so nervous?

    • Thank you, and the same lack of correlation applies to antidepressants being the cause of these shootings. It’s true that many of these perps were disturbed individuals who had been diagnosed with mental instabilities, but it was the fact that they were disturbed and a lack of parental guidance that caused the incidents, and not the treatment they were given.

      My son grew up on violent video games, but he was also taught the difference between reality and fantasy. I do think it’s the parents who should know their kids and talk to them, make them feel like they belong, who are to blame more than the games or drugs which are symptoms. The recurring cause of these shootings, the one thread that binds them all, is easy access to guns.

  163. okay first off..what was your intentions on bringing a gun to school? Second off a gun is only dangerous if bad intentions are placed behind it. What was going on to make you want to bring a loaded gun to school or anywhere in public? Second off, I do not believe that violent video games are the clue..I feel they are an excuse for people that have issues to lean against. I am a Army veteran and I have fired bigger guns that you had in your backpack..and I don’t go out and place one in my bag and have it with me. Violent video games did not cause what you were suffering from..and I am not going to not validate your feelings at the time..you were a typical teenager who at the time was angry at the world. Been there..done that..got the T-shirt. I appreciate for one what you are trying to do..and that is to protect kids…here is a major clue on this. The parents have to be parents and teach there kids right from wrong. I was raised by a single mother and she did just fine. This is the problem with society right now///we want to lay blame on a freaken video game instead of laying blame on morality being absent from our kids life. I am and will always be a NRA supporter..and the thought of my arms being taken away because some parents did not do a good enough job for their kids sickens me. Lay blame where it needs to go and quit deflecting from the real point. I am 34 years old..I have been around the world and has seen different cultures. I am currently going to college and has realized that kids are not being raised the way I was raised. They are rude, they think life owes them something, and half of them have never put a minute into earning something. Now you tell me if violent games are the major issue on what is going on?

  164. Good read, ive played almost every first person shooter since they came out. Albeit, i was already out of high school and mature enough to know they are just games.

    I feel that troubled adolescents are affected by games negatively some times.

  165. Let me tell you “my story”. I am the mother of 3 (Girl, boy, girl), grandmother of 12 and stepmother of 1 young man who was 12 when we met. My three kids grew up as regular kids-teens do/did, hanging out with friends, making up games, riding their bikes and because we lived in Northern MI, they learned to hunt. Not the way most people “think”, but with gun safety courses, and their first full season learning how to be safe in the woods and making sure that what they were aiming their weapon at was actually their prey, not another person. They didn’t spend all of their time in front of the TV watching violent movies or playing video games and they have carried on these traditions or learnings with their own children. After my children were grown and married, I divorced and moved to NY to be with a man I had fallen in love with. He had a son who was 12, angry and confused about the divorce his parents had just been through, lived full time with his mother and spent 18hrs a day playing video games when he wasn’t in school and a minimum of 8 after school. On the days he was with us I wouldn’t allow him to play the video games, he had to find other things to occupy his time. Things like making friends at school, of which he had zero and never had any in all his 12 years except a girl who used to live behind our house and she had moved away. I told him to get in touch with his school counselor and see what after school activities they offered, things like sports, clubs, etc. You see, DJ was one of those kids you describe, loner, non-joiner, and addicted to violent video games. He didn’t live in the real world, his every conversation centered around virtual activities and his conversations always leaned toward committing violent acts upon people who either made fun of him or maybe just looked at him the wrong way. He was a small kid for 12, maybe 80lbs and 4’10 but he talked like he was 6’4 and 200lbs when he would talk about how he was going to shoot someone or take a knife to them. You see he would exactly describe his very actions in the games he would play. His dad worked all the time and his mother was so caught up in her own misery (threatening suicide every other week, but always making sure someone was there to save her, in and out of mental wards) so until came into his life, he had no direction, no one to take him to task for the things he said or made him responsible for the things he did.
    At my insistence he made a few friends, played less of the video games and although he was always a bright kid academically, he didn’t know how to even talk to people, so we worked on that also. People today do not realize what a terrible babysitter the TV and video games are and what a “real world” impact they can have on their ability to distinguish the difference between a virtual and real world scenario. I fear that if I hadn’t changed my life with I did, I couldn’t have helped change his and he may have ended up spending the rest of his life in prison. Today at 21, he still, at times, reverts to that “tough trash talking” kid, but credits me with turning him around. He realizes the path he was on and will tell anyone who will listen that he was lost in that world, he really believed he could do the things he was doing in those games. He tells me I was the first real parent he had and still looks for those “eyes in the back of my head”. If I hadn’t paid attention to this child, who wasn’t really “my” responsibility, “I” would have failed “him”. It’s the responsibility of EVERY adult to watch for the signs, to pay attention, whether it’s your child or not because you never know when you might have the opportunity to change their lives in a positive way. Who knows? Maybe if “someone” had paid attention to Adam or any of the others you mentioned, maybe if they had used those “eyes in the back of their head”, they possibly could have prevented those tragedies. I don’t like to fail, especially when it comes to children and their fragile futures and I’m so glad you became one of those people too.
    P.S. Welcome to the “eyes” club.

    • Oh, my goodness. You have expressed this very well. An African proverb is credited with verbalizing the thought that it takes a village to raise a child. How true. Children look up to and emulate the adults in their lives. As adults, we need to remember this every minute of every day.

  166. Excellent post. They truly missed out by not publishing. I was a kid who easily got into trouble as well and being in nature seemed to provide much needed balance and healthy distraction. You are on target.

  167. I completely agree with you! I am an elementary school teacher and the common thread I see with the disturbed children is video games! Lots and lots of violent games.
    It’s the frog in the frying pan- we are desensitizing our children little by little and teaching them to be violent. (And them we are surprised when someone gets hurt?!)
    For those of you who disagree with the video game connection, answer this, what positive outcome is there from all those hours of violent games?? And please, don’t give me the old “it improves hand eye coordination” spiel. There is no positive outcome from a child sitting indoors for hours on end shooting people in a game!
    Get them outside, help them find something worthy of their time and efforts! Teach them to build, help, explore- something that can help them in the future!

  168. I agree with this post for the most part. Well thought out and written. I would add a couple of things. The mind is a strange thing. Garbage in. Garbage out. What you put in it will eventually come out in some form. Add pcycotropic drugs that are so readily handed out to our young today because of some so called mental disorder that some people have labeled our kids with because they have acted like a normal active kid. That’s not saying that some of those kids don’t need some help, but most of them don’t need the drugs. They are being handed out like candy in todays world because teachers and parents don’t want to deal with or know how to deal with an over active kid. You put the games together with a kid who is on these drugs and you have a kid who is living in a fantasy world of his own. It becomes hard for them to distinguish reality from fantasy. Even if they do tell the difference, they are so desensitized they care not anymore for life. Peter has a great point about getting these kids outdoors. Getting them interested in nature and real life again and introducing them to what God has given us to enjoy is a great goal. God Bless Peter. May your mission in life reach many kids and help them see the beauty of life.

  169. I think what it ultimately comes down to is parenting. The difference between you and those other school shooters was that you had a mom that paid attention to what you were doing. I totally 100% agree that playing 30 or 40 hours of a violent video game can program an already-disturbed person to kill people in real life, but what parent even allows their teen to play 30 to 40 hours of ANY video game, let alone one that the only goal is to kill people. My brother played video games and after a couple hours my mom told him to turn it off and go play outside, or if it was a rainy or cold day or whatever, she would tell him to go read a book or something. He was expected to find something constructive to do. Those school shooters all had something else in common too, aside from the video games; parents that weren’t paying close enough attention, parents who chose to ignore warning signs and red-flag behaviors that their teen was displaying. How many of those parents were involved in their child’s life? How many of those parents knew those kids were being bullied, struggling to make friends and fit in, struggling with school, struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts and thoughts of hurting others? Too many parents today feel that they are invading their child’s privacy or the parents simply have too much going on to really notice what their child is going through. When my mom asked me how school was, she never let me get by with just a “Fine” or if she asked what I did in school that day, she expected me to answer more than, “Nothing.” She would ask who did I hang out with, what specifically did I learn, what specific activities did I do, did I have any homework, could she see my homework when I was finished. INVOLVEMENT is one of the main things with parenting. School violence didn’t happen like this years ago and while some of it was because years ago they didn’t have unnecessarily violent video games and movies and TV shows, most of it was because years ago, people weren’t afraid to be parents. They didn’t try to be their child’s best friend, they didn’t have ‘experts’ telling them that by being involved in their child’s life they were invading their privacy and not letting them be adults or by disciplining their child they were going to hurt their self-esteem. Parents talked to their children about what was going on at school, they talked to teachers about how their child was doing at school (my own mom sent all my and my brother’s teachers emails once a week asking how our grades were and how we were doing, if there were any problems in class, and what the homework was and what assignments were upcoming). And involved parenting will most definitely lead to raising a functional adult that isn’t going to shoot up a mall or a movie theater full of people.
    Anyway, that said, I’m sure it took a lot of guts to blog about your high school experience. Thank you for posting.

  170. This was overwhelmingly retarded. your argument that gaming is training to kill, is just beyond bogus. The imitation of violence (because that’s what you’re referring to in video games) sex, murder, dragon slaying, turtle stomping etc. does not, in any way lead to killing masses of people in public for no reason. you could’ve easily said the same thing about any other art/entertainment medium, and sadly people like you, have. Dumbass! It is amazing and sad how you cannot see how this would ever get published anywhere other than here. Media though an influence on people (that affect btw which is determined by how much an individual applies their own critical thinking to what they are told) can never make ANYONE kill people. ever. EVER. it’s infuriating that I have to even explain this to someone who is a “teacher”.

    you are right to feel shame and fear in the traits you share with school shooters. the actual truth is, there is no difference between you and them, save the fact that whatever was going on with you, you chose to not kill people. that’s it. that’s all it comes down to. you chose differently then some other disturbed youth. THAT’S IT. and good for you. luckily you didn’t ruin hundreds of lives, and take your own life in such a disgraceful display of stupidity. but you could’ve. that should bother you. and to your only credit, it means you have a conscience.

    had you examined the problem more closely, you maybe one day would’ve realized this, and the only other possible thing that really could’ve made a difference: parenting. how you were raised plays into it in a much larger and complicated way than media. so the real issue, is being brought up as a responsible person who is aware of others and one’s actions, and one’s self actually practicing good decision making. THAT’S IT!!!

    you alluded to this in your solution. taking kids out side and spending time with them. you were just in tunnel vision and couldn’t see the bigger picture. what you’re describing is called parenting. if you’re surprised at what high school kids say now, really think back to how you were. are you just scared and disgusted at them, or at what you were? for all the huffington post, your students, fellow staff and this forum thing knows, you’re still as troubled and damaged as you claim to once be. it doesn’t feel like you quite understand what happens with these kids who kill, or what you were going through yourself. you probably still need help. that thing is still in you. and that should horrify you. GET HELP! talk to someone. and listen and see the bigger picture. your thought process on this is dangerous and ignorant. if people listen to you, we will be rid of all of the various escape mechanisms we use as humans to express anger sorrow, passion, etc. and therefore, will HAVE to resort to either bottling up and exploding on someone, or expressing ourselves in more carnal inhumane ways.

    so pretty please, my stupid stupid friend, DO NOT be a part of the wave that is trying to suck us all backwards into the stone age because you think you have a grasp on what it is to be a sick kid. you were/are one, and still don’t get it. do not blame anyone but the parents who raised this kid, and the kid him/herself. they are the only possible things at fault. no matter what your personal opinions are.

    hopefully you take some of this in, internalize it, and re-think why no one is “getting” what you’re saying. there’s nothing to get. you don’t understand. so just say that. be honest. stop hiding, stop blaming. it’s ok to not know. that’s how REAL LEARNING BEGINS. I only waste my time to say this because I care, and let’s face it, I’d rather not be one of the victims.

    • What a horrid, poorly reasoned response. If you disagree with the author say so in plain language without all the negativity and name calling. Maybe you could learn to “express yourself” in a less “inhumane” way.

  171. I completely agree. I prefer only “E” rated games. I very much think you are on the right track. Kids, troubled or not, need things to do. Good, healthy things to do. More schools should establish outdoor programs such as you are involved in.

  172. Very insightful! I never agreed the answer was just video games (millions play who don’t kill in real life). But as one very important ingredient in the recipe to create a school shooter — it makes perfect sense. Thank you for posting!

  173. Forgive me if this point has been made already. The desired effect of video game training for military purposes (from which todays entertainment came) was not to improve marksmanship but to reduce hesitation, conditioning players to shoot quickly without considering that they would be taking a life by objectifyingand dehumanizing targets.

  174. Interesting article, thanks for sharing. My big question is how large a role do prescription drugs, especially the SSRI’s and anti-anxiety drugs like Benzos, play in causing violence in those who take them. There is lots of evidence of these drugs causing their users to have violent thoughts and feelings and thoughts and feelings of suicide. All of the spree shooting perpetrators have been found to be taking some sort of prescription drug, usually anti-depressants and/or anti-anxiety drugs. We know that both classes of drugs change the chemistry of the human brain. One thing that America and Canada have in common is basically the same access to violent movies and violent video games, and Canadians have lots of guns and easy access to them like we do in America. But Canada has much less violent gun crime that America does. One of the differences that I see is that Canada does not seem to have such widespread use of prescription drugs as we do in America. They are also prohibited from running ads in Canada in magazines and on TV to promote most of the prescriptions that we are bombarded with here in the America on a daily basis. It would be really nice to see a study done that takes a long hard look at these drugs and how they affect their users and if they are a key cause in violent events with multiple victims like shooting sprees or multiple stabbings. In my opinion these drugs are very dangerous and the American public have been the lab rats in a long experiment.

    • Excellent point by you (and others) about the drugs taken and the drug industry in general. We should look into that as well. Thanks for reading and responding.

  175. I was sent this article on Facebook. I feel like I need to respond, this country is turning into a nation of screaming dullards, and I for one am not happy with it. Let’s do a little thinking, people.

    How can there be a statistical correlation between video games and mass shootings? People that play video games outnumber mass murderers probably on the order of 1,000,000-1 or more. I bet the mass shooters also drove a car and ate food. You don’t need to do a study to figure out that it’s a disturbed kid, who also played video games, that killed a bunch of people.


    The homicide rate has fallen in half since 1991, while video games have obviously greatly expanded their saturation of society. Games seem to be doing a poor job of turning youths into homicidal maniacs.

    This is just one more example of people looking for a facile answer to a complicated problem. In this particular case, THE PROBLEM is how to deal with the obviously mentally ill, who haven’t happened to have hurt anyone yet. And we are exacerbating this problem by wringing our hands and putting it on the national news, providing these sick people with just the sort of relevance they crave. We do this, because it is more fun to wring hands and blame kids today with their long hair and their rock and roll music and their video games than to actually look facts in the face.

    You should lock up the Peter Brown Hoffmeisters of the world the second they start talking about killing people, until they’re cleared by a psychiatrist; and if they pull anything, hang them and bury them in a shallow grave without a lot of fuss. Doing this, however, would cost money and offend people’s delicate sensibilities, so I imagine we will continue on arguing about video games and whether soda pop should come in 20 oz containers or only 16.

    Thanks Obama, I’ll take that $10 million. Cash, small bills if you have it.

    • Overall homicide rates have declined.

      What about the incident rate of spree/mass shootings? What’s happened with those?

  176. I suspect that you are too focused on one solution to a misunderstood problem.

    You say that the video games and TV shows are part of the education that the children receive and that they might be enough to cause certain children to misbehave.

    I say that is a tiny part of the problem. Have you noticed that the Television shows (and the video games) have changed the dreams that children dream? I don’t mean actually dream about at night, I mean fantasize about during everyday life. Nobody wants to be “Buck Rogers” any more. The only thing that you can see on the Television that is labeled “Science Fiction” is “End of the World” Bullshit and Fairies and Elves and “Magic.” We aren’t raising “Rocket Scientists” any more. The Stupid People have taken over.

    The biggest Scientific Problem of the last decade has been a made-up Controversy initiated by the Marxists to “Guilt” us into destroying what is left of our Manufacturing Base… All because the TV Weatherman wanted a raise in pay and to not be the brunt of all the jokes any longer.

    TV has clearly proven that it can destroy culture. Nobody wants to go to the Moon any more. Lovely song, and not totally true as China has announced that they will go this year or next, and that didn’t even make the major newspapers when they said it a year or so ago. Talk about needing to get the children outside, we also need to wake up the adults and refuse to continue to let the Stupid people program the TV Shows.

  177. Thank you for having the courage to write this piece. I am an RN and most of my career has been in the ER. I have seen things that I never want to see again. Things nobody should ever see period. After 12 years, however, I am desensitized to a point. Don’t get me wrong I have the biggest heart EVER! My point is, tho, if my family was at a restaurant and someone fell in the floor having a heart attack or choking, I would be able to handle the situation no problem. My family and others may be traumatized by seeing the details of that. I am desensitized to it. Most are not. These video games desensitize people by exposing them to details of the gore. People SHOULD be uncomfortable seeing blood gushing from someone or the cries of a traumatic death. The deep purple someone may turn having a massive heart attack and their eyes bulging. This is bothersome! Because I’ve don’t it so much I am able to react without panicking. Just like someone exposed to the gory graphic video games where they have power (in their eyes). Very scary. I think too much fantasy gets confusing with real life for some. The video games glorify the violence.
    Good luck to you and thanks for speaking out!!! God bless you

    • Great point on desensitization. On-screen or not, “People SHOULD be uncomfortable seeing blood gushing from someone or the cries of a traumatic death.” Well said.

  178. Unfortunately your argument is post hoc, ergo Procter hoc. I feel you missed the point in your own article “my mother taught me”, “with the help of some incredible adults in my life”, and “pretending on a video screen”. Sounds to me like you had caring adults in your life that raised you right, and it had nothing to do with the lack of video games. It’s sad that we live in a society where people are letting the tv and video games raise our kids, but the blame is with the parents of those kids not the video game companies. There are millions of people playing these games everyday and you named 4 isolated incidents where it turned into actual news worthy violence. I let my kids play some of the games you mentioned, but I also make sure they understand its just make believe. Lets stop, as a society, blaming outside sources and start taking responsibility for things going on in our lives, family, neighborhoods and country.

  179. Very thoughtful piece. I tend to agree that this is one of the facets of this issue. Like gun control, though I fear that we’ve passed the point of no return with violent video games, violent rock music, or other forms of peripheral societal violence. I appreciate your insights.

  180. It doesn’t surprise me that your article was snuffed. The game is on and the system doesn’t thrive on truth. When my music prodigy child told me at five years old that he needed a gun. I freaked. He told me that if he wanted to fit in and play with the other boys he would need a gun. “None of them want to play music mom, and if i want to play with them i need a gun” so i showed him the first gunshot wound images i found on google. Now I find that at 14 years old, my son has some of the same troubles. He tries to engage in the Halo/call of duty war-cries but gets bored of it very easily. When he manages to finagle a violent game into the house (which i will never purchase or condone) they usually last a day or two and get traded off for skateboard parts or, lately, hats or sneakers. Sometimes i get scared of society’s hold on him. And the. I am appeased for the moment. When i mentioned the Ohio Rape case and my sadness and fear, he turned white as a ghost and begged me to stop talking. His empathy has not left the building. His girl friends seem wish all the guys were nice to them like he is. And yet i am still afraid of what our society will allow and disallows. This post needs to be read, shared and shared again. Thank you.

  181. My wife and I are foster parents in which we have teens living in our house. We had a 16 year old that had trouble dealing with his anger and he would play Call of Duty Black Ops quite a bit. He absolutely loved it. He would play it online with strangers. His aggression towards my wife was troubling to the point that we had to have him removed from our home. We went on ban all violent games in our home. We don’t think it was healthy for him or anyone playing them. It exposes a lot of foul language and violence to anyone in the area, not just the player.

    • I’ve seen a few comments on here (unfortunately I can’t respond to all of them) about language online and playing with older men, and how unhealthy that is for young teens, and I didn’t even get in to that in my article. Great point by multiple readers here.

  182. Back for some more…. I read this article on my iphone, and so I was not able to see all of the comments here.

    I do not feel that anyone should (or in this case is doing so) blame video games for school shootings or otherwise. But I do believe that the level of desensitization is out of control…
    Our youth are separating from the earth and turning to screens is a problem, and when the screens are flashing the imagery that flashes in these ULTRA violent games… there is a great possibility for desensitization. plain and simple.

  183. I live in rural Upstate NY, where the gun culture exists cheek-by-jowl with an abhorrence of gun violence. No longer will I laugh at the hunter whose bumper sticker reads: “Kids who hunt, fish and camp don’t mug little old ladies.” It would be much more convenient if that bumper sticker struck me as ridiculous – and in the past, it did – but the hard truth is, that hunter is probably on to something.

    This is a great piece Peter, a helpful voice in a necessary, albeit uncomfortable, conversation. As a former troubled teen, you have unique insight. And your bravery in revealing your gun enthusiast past is inspiring and offers a fresh take on such a vexing problem. Very few people can or will say, “I’ve been there,” when it comes to gun lust and dark thoughts. Yet dark thoughts are, as some have commented, part of the human condition, especially in the fevered mind of a teen, yet the fear of shame in admitting such thinking can be intense. I had my share of homicidal fantasies when I was a teen, as did my peers. Just as I thank God there was no Internet then, I’m grateful the only video games we could play at home were hilariously low tech and usually of the Space Invaders variety (so real!). Or Pong. Perhaps the hyper realism of the video games you describe is like Miracle-Gro to deadly weeds that would otherwise wither. I have heard folks quote statistics about Japan consuming more hyper-violent video games than the U.S., and yet their murder rate by gun violence is minuscule by comparison. As a fan of tighter Japanese-style gun laws, I cleave to that info. But again, it’s probably not that simple. We’re talking about a cocktail of influence here, and a lack of something, despite our supposed abundance as a culture.

    The subtext of your piece – HuffPo capitulating to the mighty video game ad $ – gives it even more gravitas. I hope the Internet Hive Mind brings this to light. Your voice needs to be heard. I will do my part.

    In the meantime, I wrote a piece about the situation in my little town, where my local Town Board voted to send a message to Cuomo in protest of the SAFE Act. Feel free to give it a gander. http://solitudeandgoodcompany.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/gun-fight-at-town-hall/

    Thanks again for writing, and thanks for putting your energy into teaching. I have a 15 year old son, and since I’ve been a dad, I have come to revere ever more people who do what you do. Especially you. RBW

    • Thanks for reading. And yes, the hunter might be on to something. A kid who hunts and fishes and runs around in the woods is probably much more grounded than the average youth. Thanks for reading and for sending your link.

  184. This is so why I do what I do with my son whom has frustrating learning disabilities and would play video games 24/7 if I let him. He is not allowed any violent games ( and neither is my husband… Lol) they r not allowed in my home. Plus video game time is limited and I make him go outside! Sometime he get so mad and says he’s bored … There’s nothing to do outside … Well that’s the wrong thing to say to me I tell him … Go find me 5 different blades of grass, bring me 10 different leaves, sweep the deck, run around the house 20x , etc etc… Boy does he get mad but he does it and then finds something to do. As a parent we need to take the stress … Take on the fight and push thru it! Don’t always take the easy way out … By giving in and handed them the iPod, iPhone, iPad etc… Parents need to be available as hard as that may be !

    • I keep telling my husband the same thing…. I think there is some validity to this….. I have seen the difference – at least short term- in teens character due to lengthened play time. It does affect them mentally even if they never act on it. It makes them absorb in their own world where they become the master of it and makes them feel in control which is what they think they are missing in life.

  185. Peter, I too am a high school teacher (though recently a victim of budget cuts). May I please use this essay (including the preface about it being denied by the Huff Post) in my class? We are working on close reading and annotating and I like that your essay provides examples but also does not claim to “have the answer”. I believe it will create a relevant and interesting conversation with high school students. Thank you for sharing some difficult stories and for encouraging the continued dialogue about children and violence.

  186. I had the same thing happen with HuffPo. I suddenly got locked out of the backstage bloggers’ area and the editorial team didn’t respond to me. I’m not sure why I got “in trouble” because I usually only write on travel or food topics. It is unprofessional but their standard of not paying any of their many bloggers isn’t professional either.

  187. Both of my boys (now men) have played video games all their lives. However we did not allow them to play constantly. They had too many other things to do. They both decided to join the Marines immediately after graduating high school and between them served 3 tours in Iraq, my eldest being part of the team that cleaned up a nasty lot of insurgents. They are both out now, and they play games still, however they tend to play with their Marine buddies and spend most of their time just talking. They do play the games, enjoy them, but they realize the demarcation line between fantasy and reality. Perhaps their father and I have something to do with that, but IMHO they are both exceptionally bright and know they would never take a gun anywhere and shoot anybody. They both know what it is to be shot at. Neither one really like loud noises and are some of the most peaceful men I know.

    I agree with your assessment that the games are basically killer training. I would say one thing to that young man who spoke so callously of slitting someone’s throat. Death is a very private thing and when you go in for the “up-close” kill, it effects you on a level that you can never get past. It’s not easy or clean like they make it look in the movies, and I pray that that particular young man never, ever finds out the stain on your soul that comes from looking into the eyes of someone, knowing you’ve stolen something precious from them.

    Don’t ban games. That never works. But parents need to be parents. Stop trying to be “friends” with your kids. You have forever to be friends with them, you have precious little time to be their parent. Do your damned job.

  188. Excellent piece and agree with your thesis. The violent video game can likely put a match to disturbed mind. The Rockefeller bill expanding studies on the topic is a good place to start.

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  190. Peter, I would have expected nothing less than what you received from the Huffington Post. I found your article to be thought provoking and wonderfully well done. As you may or may not agree with my views, I find it hard to believe guns are the problem. It is much harder for a parent that is M.I.A. in their child’s day to day life to believe the video game they just bought their child to occupy them has anything to do with any of the problems their child might be having. Nor could they blame an industry they find entertaining. No, just blame an object.
    Being a parent has no road map nor is it an easy road but we as parents we owe it to our children to do your best. That means engage them, stretch our own comfort zone and get out of the house. A few years ago I took my first grader to a meeting for Cub Scouts and little did I know what I was in for. Short version is that I have been the Scout leader (Cub Master) for four years now and the experiences are countless that I have enjoyed with my son. I do not have the time to do this scouting thing and could make a million reasons not to but what a loss it would have been. Not only my sons loss but my loss and every child and parent that has joined us from just setting for one hour and enjoying your son or daughter to the camping trips that we might never had taken, it has been great. So I agree with you get out run, jump and go hiking for the love of your kids. I love my kids and will try to do my part and be a parent, loving parent that spends quality time with them.

  191. For 15+ years I have been convinced that these video game creators are brainwashing these boys. There has been a huge shift in the mentality of boys in society. I never bought the violent video games for my son but was aware that he would play them at friends homes. I do believe they change their thinking and can’t help but think that is intentional. You can see it in the little ones ith rage they don’t know what to do with. And in the older boys pure addiction nd laziness. I believe that our boys are intentionally being transformed into a bunch of mamby pambys without the pride of being men like our fathers. I hope I am wrong but it doesn’t seem that way.

  192. I play video games and some of them are shooters I don’t play COD or other war games of now because they are just to real now its really more or a simulation rather than fantasy and I don’t let my son play it either, I know some friends that let their kids play these games and sadly with me being a gamer that they don’t take what I day seriously so I just take action by explaining to the kids about what is real and what is not and ask them questions about war and fighting and explain the purpose of it. When our grandfathers were going to war it was expressed to them that its was duty and what is necessary for this nation but the generation now does not see it that way at all and the parents are not so proud of this country which reflects to their children. I play halo, mass effect, and other games but they are not at all real in effect to today’s world and really we need to spend quality time with our kids and playing for 40 hrs a week in just insane no other way to put it, if the kid throws a fit to reducing them to 16 hrs a week oh dad gum well go fly a kite go fishing or go to a social event so that you know how to handle being around people and you can find a avenue to “fit in”. I realize that there are many people and teenagers out there that are going to struggle a very long time in this world to feel accepted I myself dealt with those feelings and some ways still do but I learned how to be content with who I am even if everyone else isn’t, I know that I can be some kind of example to others around me and I know I can make some kind of difference even among those that will not take me for who I am, in my line of work it happens but I take it all in with a smile and move on and will not allow my character to be broken……….Kids there is a world out there and go experience it to love others rather than recluse and go on to hate and violence

  193. Excellent article. I’m sure that Huffington Post would lose some advertising dollars if they did publish this. I think that your article points to something that also covers gun ownership in America and other freedoms that we hold so dear: With great freedom comes great responsibility.

    If you are sick, then you should not be free to own guns, spend all your time practicing virtual killing sprees, etc. This is the reason why we have laws against drunk driving but we don’t outlaw cars and we do restrict who can buy and consume alcohol. If you are not well, then someone needs to be responsible and say “You’re not well enough for this.”

    Your mom was smart enough to know that you probably would not have developed well as an adult if you had become addicted to video games.

    Great article (and you’re a really good writer–I hope to read a novel of yours one day).

  194. Holy crap it’s the parents fault! These kids playing these games 40 hrs a week? Where are the parents? If parent not around then limit game access! I have a 8, 11 and 13yr old and they get 1/2hr game time weekdays and one hour weekends. I’m 45 and have played all metal gear solid first person shooter games, I still play halo on line, I’m 99% done with “just cause 2” and I love playing call of duty.

  195. Thank you for your story. Two thoughts:

    1. Boy Scouts of America does a fabulous job of getting young people into the outdoors.

    2. The book “On Killing” addresses the correlation between video games and gun violence.

    What a shame that the Huffington Post was so unwilling.

  196. Good observation. Another connection that all of the shooters have is one that seems never to be mentioned. All of the shooters were or had been taking prescription drugs designed to alter brain chemistry – antidepressants. Understand, I am not attacking mental health disorders. They are real, and worthy of treatment. I just wonder why no one takes a closer look at this common thread.

    • You’re absolutely right. That needs to be looked into, as well. Drugs are changing our kids’ brains.

  197. I am a Scoutmaster in a rural community some 10 minutes from our capital city in Nebraska. I see the value in an outdoor diversion program. I am also the father of a troubled teen. Since grade school he has been diagnosed with mild depression and ADHD. He is now 16 and, hopefully, on his way to Eagle Scout. The scouting program has been very good for him and his growth. We have also spent time together outdoors beyond scouting. We hunt and fish together and he has been tought how precious and fragile life is. My son plays video games but we do not have any of the lifelike ‘killing games’, so I can not speak on what effect they may have had on his development. He still has his issues, the depression is much improved through counceling and a medication that he may soon be able to give up. I have been involved in scouting as an adult since my son entered Cub Scouts in the first grade. Now, admittedly, scouts is not for everyone. But there are other options within scouting that many know nothing about. It is called ‘Venturing’. You do not need to be a Boy Scout, or even a boy, to join. Venturing is open to youths age 14-21 and is co-ed. Venturing programs are varried in their themes. If you have an interest in camping, climbing, hiking, shooting sports, fishing, geochacheing or anything else outdoor related, there might just be a venturing ‘Crew’ that could meet that need. In some areas that may not have an outdoor diversion program, Venturing may be a good alternative. But it is not a daycare or a stand alone counceling program. Any program like this needs the input and participation of dedicated adults that want to help kids succeed. There is no single solution to youth violence, but adults becoming involved in the lives of kids is a damn good start.

  198. One other difference between you and the school shooters (and theater shooters and the guy who shot ms. giffords) your gun was stolen. Their guns were all legal. If the NRA is to be believed, it’s the stolen guns that are dangerous, and all ‘legal’ guns are totally safe…

  199. It’s too bad ‘news’ and opinion is so filtered. So much for freedom of speech.

    However, while I’m on your side to a point, there’s far more to it than a shaky correlation, and as someone else said, correlation does not equal causation. I have a son with ADHD and school was very hard for him. He’s also a very gentle soul and was bullied for that. He taught himself to look and sound tough and he worked out to build muscle, and eventually other boys believed he was tough and hard and left him alone. Nothing could be further from the truth. He’s one of the most kind-hearted, helpful, gentle souls you’ll ever meet.

    He also loves those fighting games. For one thing, they are easy for him, and with school being so hard, he HAD to have something he could excel at without working so darn hard at it. We all need that, but kids with ADHD particularly need that because school makes them feel like a moronic failure when they’re actually very intelligent.

    Also, they worked as an anger outlet. He could take it out on games and not bother anyone. He has never been violent – he only had to look like he could be. He will jump in and defend his friends, and particularly girls who other boys tried to take advantage of. He has a natural sense of justice. If needed, he would jump in to defend the innocent. It’s his innate personality.

    On the other hand, I was always right there telling him that violence is ONLY for self-defense, that it is never okay to start it, that hurting the innocent is wrong and fighting was meant to protect the innocent because the innate or taught violent people will always be there. It has to be countered by the peace-loving willing to jump in and balance that so it doesn’t win. I also took him to play baseball, to try Tae Kwon Do, to Boy Scouts, and sent him outside to play with his friends. I limited his game time. Yes, kids do need that – they need real play. I fully agree with you on that count.

    Yes, video games rewire our brains. I’ve researched it. But it only means that it teaches the brainto function in a way that makes games easier to play. It focuses on hand-eye coordination, on fast response, on attention to detail. Those things can be very helpful to some kids, especially ADHD kids. The problem is balance. They also need to read because that strengthens the brain in other ways. They need art and music. And as said, they need physical play. Video games won’t make kids be violent elsewhere and they won’t turn them that direction unless other things turn them that direction.

    What hasn’t come out enough about the Newtown shootings was something I knew when the story first broke because I understand people, even outside my psych degree. That boy wanted his mother’s attention and didn’t have it. Those kids had it instead and along with his other issues, his jealously prevailed. THAT needs to be told. He said it later. Did the media put it through? No. They’re too obsessed with the guns and video games. It’s not about guns and video games. It’s about parental involvement, about wholeness, about balance, about the bigger picture.

    I’m also an author but I’m staying anon here out of respect for my son’s privacy.

  200. I see a marked difference when my kids get a new video game for Christmas, and being on vacation, I let them play maybe several hours a day instead of just the usual 30 minute limit we have. We have never let them do violent games – I’m talking kiddie games like the Lego series, Littlest Pet Shop, etc. Even just letting them play for a couple hours does something to them. When they are told to get off, they have no patience with anyone and they’re just….well, mean. Very uncharacteristically, they snip at their siblings, they grouse about housework, they talk-back. I’ve seen it over and over again. And I’ve come to the thinking that it’s the selfishness involved. They have done whatever, whenever, however they see fit for 2 or more hours. Coming back to reality and having to follow societal ‘rules’ again is very hard. I’m sure it’s that way with anything we obsess on in life. For me, it’s reading. If I get to sit and read a book by myself for a few hours, I’m snippy and short with people and all I can think about is getting back to the book…or a new one. I’d wager your time away from your guns was spent in the same manner. Dreaming about what you were going to do next with them. So the cause isn’t violent video games, in my estimation. It’s the time we spent selfishly spent in seclusion, doing what we want to do. Reading books isn’t going to cause me to be the next mass shooter any more than the video games. But the more I obsess about them and pull away from relationships with other people….now THAT will cause it. These shooters were all loners. They’d been picked on, didn’t fit in…and became selfishly obsessed with video games. Coming back to the reality of their awkwardness and societal ‘rules’ forced them to rebel against them in the easiest way. What does a mass shooting say except, “I’m not playing by your rules any more?” [having said all that, violent games still won’t be making an appearance in my home because I don’t see any positive qualities therein. If I want my son to know how to handle a gun, I’ll teach him.]

  201. I agree!!!!!! I am a HUGE fan and supporter of Richard Louve and his book about nature deficient children. I believe that kids need to be outside and explore. I have a son with Asperger’s who is very much into technology and video games, and while we are VERY aware of what games he plays and the time he spends on them, we even that out with making him go outside and play or just spend time out there. We are very involved in 4H which is great as we have many animals and kind of makes the kids go outside more to care for them and work with them. I believe that kids need to be outside more and less time inside, even in the classrooms. Take education outside….take them outside and just make them read out there. As an Early Childhood Educator, I see how important outside time is to all ages, even the teachers benefit from being outside! Education “restrictions” from our government has put so much pressure on our kids, that it is causing them to snap in many ways that maybe, years ago would not have. I really believe that the government is pushing our kids so hard and so fast that their under-developed brains just can’t keep up and the feel they have no other outlet. Add to that any mental or emotional disorder, family life problems, substance abuse and you have a recipe for disaster. If things do not change soon, i fear that we will see more and more tragedies in our society. The government has to change our educations system and give the power back to the teachers and staff to help the kids, not just push them through the standardized testing for statistical purposes! Who cares about being “globally competitive” when your losing your youth! I hope they see the light very soon.

  202. I play all of the shooter games, and have no desire whatsoever to kill a real person. Not even a little bit. 95% of my friends play the same games. They are all perfectly normal people who have regular jobs and many have families. Unstable people are unstable. Let the rest of us play what we want.

  203. I am just curious, you did not mention in your article whether you watched violet movies during that time. My sons were allowed to play non~violent video games and not allowed to watch the violent killing movies. I have always felt that the killing movies (with no repercussions ) were just as bad as the role playing video games.

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  205. Great piece and I really don’t know why the Huffington Post refused to publish this great op-ed.

    I agree about most things except that violent video games are the ’cause’ of the actions of people like Adam Lanza…. If that were the case, there should be millions of shootings… It’s proper upbringing, where these kids play these games and know the difference from right and wrong.
    My two sons and two daughters all played these games… I have many firearms in my home… I even played Call of Duty with them…. They haven’t gone and grabbed any of my guns and killed anyone. They watch movies with things blowing up and people raped and murdered… They haven’t gone and killed, raped, kidnapped or anything… My kids weren’t popular, they weren’t great in school athletics or academics. Other than my oldest daughter, who was a social butterfly, the others were socially awkward…

    What was different?
    Me and their Mom. That was different. We didn’t smother them, we let them learn things on their own for the most part, but we showed them respect and understanding… We showed them by example and they knew the horror of how terrible the reality of those things were.

    Why? What makes there use and interaction different?

    Home…. It’s that simple sense. Of having a home, being wanted, being needed…. These shooters were the failings of what society has allowed to be acceptable…. They probably were put in “Time Out” when they were bad and never taught the consequences of their actions….

    My kids grew up, became Marines, finished their tours and came home safe… I am blessed with that…

    I do agree again, that kids need to get out more… see things in nature, be a part of something and challenged.. But I disagree it is because of the video games.

  206. It’s important to draw 2 distinctions here that go almost all the way but fall just a little short.

    1. Those who make these video games or very violent movies support a Culture of Death. (interesting how the root word for culture is “cult”)
    2. Nature didn’t save your life. Getting out in God’s creation saved your life. God is about Life. God is a game changer (pun intended).

  207. This is the most common excuse ever for bad parenting. I have three children, they all were allowed to play whatever games they wanted through their whole life. From GTA to Modern Warfare and beyond. My oldest son is now in the military and a very find upstanding young man. My daughter who is the middle child just started college for nursing and business. My youngest son who just started the 9th grade is in preparation to attend MIT.

    The problem with these shooters and it does not take much research to pinpoint the cause is they were raised to know no consequences for their actions. That is the number one problem with the last few genrations and it is getting worse. Oh I am sure I will get many flames for this and that is just fine with me because the flamers are the people who let their kids get away with doing whatever they want to and write it off with “oh he is just acting out”. Well will tell anyone straight up who wants to argue this point that my kids definitely knew consequences for their actions, and most of them involved pain of some kind. I was not and still am not about taking a belt across their behind if they step out of their bounds. But as I tell most people who want to call me a child abuser, its not like I randomly beat them. And if it ever did get to a point where I had to take that last step it was not hit and forget, there was always a discussion before and afterwards about what was about to happen and why. The last time I argued with someone about this my final answer was “Call me in about 10 years and see who is getting more respect from their children.”

    My children are healthy, well mannered, well fed, well clothed, but even to this day they know there is a line they cant cross and they know the consequences of crossing that line.

    That is the problem, that will always be the problem and if you cant admit that then you are so blinded by the government and excuse articles like this that you might as well just hang up any little bit of intelligence that you thought you may have had.

  208. I’m disgusted and nauseated by the violent video games. I agree with you, not everyone who plays will do something violent, but I think it can desensitize kids to violence, especially those that are angry and having issues. Yes, please, have your children go outside and spend time with them, don’t just park them in front of a tv!

  209. I had a witty quip, “There’s a good reason HuffPost didn’t print this — it’s moronic”, but then I realized, if HuffPost didn’t print moronic things, it would have virtually no content. Badum-BUM. So, really, I don’t know why they didn’t let you print it. It’s irrational, ignores facts, conflates personal emotional bias with universal truths, and supports spending gobs of tax dollars to fund “research” with a pre-ordained conclusion. This makes it a close fit with nearly everything else Huffpost publishes, so, I am at a loss to explain their reticence.

    Since the early 90s, violent crimes per capita, including murder, have gone down, down, down. THAT is the dirty little secret no one wants to talk about. As media has become more violent, actual, real world, violence, has declined. Nations with even more violent media than ours have lower crime rates, as well. I would not say “violent games mean less violent acts”, but it’s self-evident there’s no positive correlation between media violence and actual violence.

    I was the archetypal “likely to be violent” student in my HS, in the 1970s. I was an intellectual, socially awkward (hell, socially epileptic), with many traits that would now likely be diagnosed as high-functioning autism, such as obsession with narrow topics and difficulty reading social cues. I learned, over many years, how to function in society, building mental algorithms and consciously teaching myself appropriate responses to situations, skills other humans seem to do innately. I never owned a gun — my mother was vaguely hippie and opposed them — but I read books filled with war, violence, and other fun things. I also discovered D&D in 1978, which forced me to actually have to deal with people and ultimately propelled me to something like normal adulthood, or as close as anyone gets. Contrary to stereotypes, D&D didn’t keep me from getting laid — it directly led to my meeting my first love, and taught me many social skills, how to get along in a group, how to organize, how to delegate, how to accommodate multiple people’s conflicting needs and desires, when to compromise, when not to. While not as visceral as a modern video game, D&D required tactical thinking, plotting ambushes, evaluating combat tactics, and racking up a ridiculous body count of purely imaginary enemies. At the time, bookburners such as yourself were concerned about the “violent” and “satanic” nature of D&D, concerns that seem quaint in retrospect but which were quite sincerely advanced by your 1970s equivalents, the people who wanted something to blame and wanted someone to “do something” about things that have neither cause nor cure.

    Yes, school shooters played video games. They also drank milk and breathed air. Back in the 1950s, a quack psychiatrist named Dr. Wertham asked his juvenile delinquent patients if they read comic books. Virtually all of them did! Thus, comic books caused juvenile delinquency! Never mind that ALL kids read comic books at the time; such trivia is irrelevant to witch-hunters looking for a witch to burn. And, just as you are doing here, there were Congressional investigations, which ultimately lead to a crippling code of self-censorship for comics that was not finally abandoned until around the late 80s/early 90s. It is impossible to measure the harm done to creativity due to that code — how do you count the stories never told, the words never written, the art never drawn, because the code would prevent their publication? The true cost of censorship isn’t just in the books burnt; it’s in all the books which never even existed. And you, sir, are a bookburner. You belong alongside Wertham, Bowdler, and Thompson in the gallery of evil. You will deny this, of course. They always do.

    PS:I was occasionally forced outside by school activities and programs run by people who think as you do, that there’s something “healing” about nature. I despised those activities,and nature in general. Nature is uncomfortable, itchy, and worst of all, dull. If I’d been compelled to spend more time outdoors, THAT might have tipped me into violence.

    PS: You might try to claim, “Well, D&D is different from video games! You learn real killing skills in video games!” Yeah, right. Your alleged students talking about slitting someone’s throat… they learned to do that by clicking a button. That, uhm, doesn’t actually work in the real world. Video games, like D&D, can teach things like tactics, evaluating a situation, considering possible responses and reactions, but they can’t teach the actual, physical, skills needed. Ironically, going outdoors probably WOULD — what camper doesn’t carry a knife, after all, and know how to use it? Archery, shooting a real gun at a range instead of clicking a button on a controller, physical conditioning, learning to endure real pain, not just some marks on a screen… that’s good stuff for making a real-world killer.

    • Ian says, “Since the early 90s, violent crimes per capita, including murder, have gone down, down, down.”

      How about spree killings in classrooms by adolescents and young adults? What have those rates done?

      Your argument is akin to, “You’re worried about disease? The Plague hasn’t killed hardly anybody in a thousand years. Nobody gets Polio anymore. Lolz, this guy is worried about disease,” as though the gross reduction of mortality from disease (in the general) going down necessitates that ALL incidents of ALL diseases have similarly fallen.

    • Ian Harac, I am amazed by your very immature and illogical response. I am also amazed by how many people, including you, have completely taken out of context the article that Peter wrote. First, he did not blame violent video games for all acts of violence. Second, he did not say that everyone that plays violent video games will commit a violent crime. Third, he did not even say that going outdoors will fix everything. Fourth, he did not say that guns were bad, in and of themselves. So, in the future, make sure you even have a logical response before writing an argument.

  210. Interesting thing your comment “Get kids outside.” When I was growing up we used to play cops/robbers or Army or western or anything to do with Guns. My neighbor friend and I the biggest armory around. Guess that was before these activities went to the virtual world. I agree that kids need to get out but I think they need to socialize more. Get to know that people are REAL. Through my outside activities, violent as they may have seemed, I got to know almost all the families in my neighborhood.

  211. While I realize not all children/teens will display the behaviors, of those characters they use to act out violence in the games, in real life but consider for a moment, a child who’s parents are so busy working or caught up in their own lives that they fail to recognize all of their child’s behaviors. For instance a child may be a loner, unfocused in school, doesn’t get involved in extra-curricular activities and generally all of their activity surrounds what is happening at home or in these games. Now, if said parents are too busy to “take notice” then what’s happening at home is, in a child’s eyes, absolutely nothing. They find video games to be an outlet for their boredom. Since the child has been unfocused and unwilling to “join”, the parents only get involved long enough to tell a Dr that they think their child needs medication to improve their focus in school. They say nothing about his focus or activities at home because they would have to pay attention to what that child is doing and they are only acting because of reports from a teacher, and nothing against teachers but they tend to lean heavily on the side of medicating these children to make their job easier. So the parents insist to the doctor that he/she give their child meds to increase focus and now not only is the child lonely and bored, he/she is drugged. We all understand that if your child, or anyone for that matter, does not actually have adhd, or add, or any other D, then the meds will have the opposite effect. It will literally wind them up until they are bouncing off the walls and the natural outlet is anger because they don’t know how to handle this new anxiety. It’s also proven, scientifically, that before a certain adult age, a child’s/teen’s brain doesn’t work the same as an adults. They can’t rationalize things the same way and reality can get mixed up with “pretend” very easily. It’s up to the parents to rationalize these things for them and explain why they are different. But…the parents actually need to be paying attention (eyes). Most mothers know instinctively when there is something “not quite right” with their child, but only if they are paying attention. Add the aggressive action in one of those video games to the mix and you have created an outlet for their pent up anxiety and aggression.
    In every psychology book I’ve read there are examples of conditioning techniques used by psychologists to exact the behaviors or outcomes they desire (think of the rat only eating if it hears a certain bell). Parents and outside influences aren’t allowed during these “experiments” so as not to effect the outcomes. in essence, it’s a form of brainwashing. Now think of your child, left to their own devices (and I’m not saying you would do this) because you are too busy with work, home or whatever, and your child spends inordinate amounts of time in front of the TV with these games. They are learning from the game, but not just coordination, they are being conditioned to exact a certain response from certain stimuli. Surrounded by what you consider “bad guys”? Shoot them all! Shoot till you are out of ammo, then find another weapon and use that. They can’t distinguish the difference between this world and the one outside their door because to them, the school has these scenarios too, not to the same extreme, but it contains bullies (bad guys), cops (teachers, principals) and they’ve all done or said something to you at some point that made you mad. The child has never experienced real death, so the only model they have is that virtual world. Add to all of this the pharmaceutical stimuli, which either way really doesn’t allow them to think clearly, it definitely doesn’t allow them to rationalize. So, they get mad, don’t realize that death in real life is final and decide to exact their revenge. Now I know this scenario seems extreme, but THIS is the road my Stepson was headed down. Without exposure to “real life” events, such as a death in the family, he couldn’t rationalize why there was a difference between real life and the games. I hate to use Hitler as an example but his is closest to the conditioning I speak of. He conditioned children to be soldiers…killers. He used whatever means at his disposal to exact the outcome he desired. IF these games had been at his disposal, I am very confident they would have been in his arsenal. He could have trained them in battle and to kill without emotion. I implore parents to sit down with your children and have a conversation, if their conversations center around the games and “how many kills they got” or “how they killed the bad guys”, that is your first red flag.

  212. You hit the nail right on the head with this post. Thank you for getting it out there. It needs to be heard load and clear.

  213. As my neighbor says: “Garbage in – Garbage out”, We have become a society of promiscuous violence. You can argue this topic and spin it a million ways but I will never see a positive to virtual killing for any of us, not the healthy and not the disordered. My 2 sons will not play video games of the violent nature – there are too many great things to do in this world, and I won’t put my dollars (my vote) to support this stuff…………get some integrity, get a life- and like the author states – go outside.

  214. This was an excellent blog – one the post should most certainly have allowed…I agree with much of what was said – both in the blog as well as in the replies to follow…I also disagree with much. Before attaching my opinion, let me introduce my credentials- I am a Pastor, a substitute teacher, and a foster-parent. To date I have had 42 teenagers. I have had teens that I would not consider allowing to play violent video games – others that it did not concern me. I think a parents role in this is not so much corporal punishment as one responder suggested, but parental wisdom…wwe know our children, and if I can understand the leanings of a teen who has been in my home 2 weeks (the customary time before we even discuss video games) why can’t a parent understand a child they have raised from birth? It is not punishment our parents need to apply, it is maturity…I once had a teen who had taken his mom by the throat and thrown her against the wall…if mom had taken charge and been a mom instead of a caretaker this child would never have considered such a thing…what this society has lost is RESPECT…it is a little thing when given, but a monster when taken away. No, I do not believe violent games and movies breed a violent society…however, I do believe that our society has been desensitized to the affects and the responsibility for this violence. At risk teens and pre-teens should never be allowed indiscriminant access to these games. But we as parents and teachers without doubt need to give our kids a physical outlet for inner aggression. I love the idea of hiking etc…I had one youth once who would request permission to chop wood when he got upset…we monitored him, and he was safe…kids know they need an outlet and when absent parents -whether physically absent or emotionally absent- when absent parents do not get involved that aggression comes out – in playground bullying or cafeteria shootings…yes the video games desensitize, but there is more to the problem.

  215. Beautifully raw and honest piece. I almost called it tragic, but a true tragedy does not have a happy ending. This piece does because you so wisely added the solution of what worked for you. I agree wholeheartedly with the notion of getting kids (and adults) outside to experience nature, but I would add another element – the person to person contact. Kids so desperately need mentors, adults, or even peers they can learn from. My daughter was “saved” by involvement in a youth theatre group where whole families worked together toward the common goal of putting on the production. We can only change the ones we connect with. Thank you for sharing this, I plan to share it as well, your story, your voice needs to be heard.

  216. Good article until you went off the deep end. Video games had nothing to do with anything. You even stated the factors that changed your life. You have no way to determine that if those individuals did not enter your life that within two months you would not have been the first of a long line of famous school shootings.

    Your argument is the same flawed argument that was made against D&D in the 70’s. You do realize that game is still played by millions of children – adults yet it has not been in the news as a brainwashing murder inciting game for decades.

    Sorry, but correlation does not equal causation.

  217. This is fantastic. You know, as a video game player since age 11 (1982), I was always arguing about how video games “didn’t rot my brain,” and they didn’t. But I played RPGs that were not violent. I rather liked flying spaceships through the galaxy and stuff like that. I might have slayed a few orcs in my time, but that’s about it.
    I visited a youth center a few months back for an empowerment event and before I started, there were a few boys playing a very violent video game. My colleagues and I found it hard to even look at the screen because it was so bloody. (I am not squeamish. I love Tarantino.) It was just so…real. And as a video geek I love that. But as the woman who had to talk to these kids for the next two hours…well. It was interesting. Because when I talked about the Vietnam War and the draft lotteries (which were topics of a book they had recently read) the boys said, “I’d go! I’d go and kill them all.” It took me many minutes (over 40) of explanation for them to come back down from being high on that video adrenaline and only one of them, I think, really got what I was saying. One kept muttering under his breath that he’d shoot anyone at any time. Another kept saying he was a “master of dodging bullets.” I asked if he’d ever dodged any in real life and he said no, but he was sure he could.
    Average age student in the room: 16.
    I am a former camp counselor and outdoor survival skills instructor.
    I agree with everything you say here.
    I admit, up until I read this, I didn’t want to agree with this.
    But I agree with this.

  218. It still comes back to mental health, though. I was an outcast and a loaner in high school, I played violent video games, yet I never had thoughts of killing people. It’s the ‘thoughts of killing people’ part that’s bad, not the ‘playing violent video games’ part. The people who think about killing people probably shouldn’t have access to these games, but there’s no reason that well adjusted teenagers shouldn’t be able to play them.

  219. So I agree that these games can cause those with the violent tendencies to “cross the line”. However, the overall theme in most of the posts here are how it is allowing the kids to see it as “OK”, how the kids get desensitized, how the kids are troubled….

    There is something done already, but the PARENTS don’t know better or are just trying to be ‘cool’. These video games are rated T (teen) for the lesser ones which is 14+ and then there are the majority of them are rated M (mature) which is 17+. A game store won’t sell “Call of Duty” to a 12 year old… much less a 6 year old. The PARENTS are buying these games for the youth and letting them play them without even noticing whats going on.

    My aunt bought Grand Theft Auto for my 11 year old cousin (I was 17 at the time), and I grilled her on what he will be doing. She didn’t seem to mind and didn’t return/take it away. Obviously she didn’t read any reviews or warnings about the game or even NOTICE the M rating. Now, he never did anything, but if he had the thoughts of violence, he was getting some influence from it. I myself played Mortal Kombat and performed the fatality moves when I was only 12-13 years old, but I have never gotten into a fist fight and ripped a man’s spine out.

    What I am getting at is that not every kid will turn around and kill people, but there is the practice and desensitizing that happens to anyone to a limit. Those with the underlying tendencies seem to enjoy fantasizing (playing the game) and then eventually it builds the courage/desire to really do so. Others, it may actually RELIEVE the desire and allow them to act it out on a game. Kind of like a e-cigarette helps people not smoke?

    But MOST IMPORTANTLY, the game ratings are there for a reason. Kids are not supposed to be playing these anyways. The video game industry is not to blame, they have the labels on there. Parents need to evaluate their child or just not allow it on the basic premise that its not meant for them.

    My last point is that everyone talks about how there is “more violence” now than ever…. well we have more people on this planet also. The % of violent people to non-violent I bet has gone down, but the sheer number of people makes the “net count” of violent people grow.

    I’m glad you found a way out of the dark and are looking to help others.

  220. Literally millions of people play these games. Are there millions of school shootings? Canadians play the same games we do. How many school shootings occur in Canada? Parents just want something easy to blame. Would I let my ten year-pld play Battlefield? No, but I still don’t think video games cause anything. Adam Lanza was trained to shoot, had an arsenal of REAL guns in his house, and his mother ignored or hid his mental problems. Yet everyone wants to blame video games. Face facts, people. It’s failed parenting/lack of decent home life/ pre-existing mental issues that cause mass killers to erupt, NOT Call of Duty.

      • He didn’t say it doesn’t have an effect. Perhaps he wants to have his ten year old participate more around the house or in other activities. Perhaps he wants his ten year old to not hear the admittedly hilarious but still profane language from the characters in the game. His reasons are for his son and he’s already doing a great deal more just based off of that than the majority of parents, it seems.

      • A ten year-old doesn’t need to see graphic images of that nature in movies or games, for many reasons. But to blame these killings on these games ignores every single thing mentioned in my post (which you just did) and also goes against the evidence. I played those games as a teen, and still do, as do literally millions worldwide. How much do I want to kill real people? 0%. I agree with the author that playing outside and having good parenting are very important. Critical, in fact. But simply pointing at video games as a “cause” of mass homicides is absurd. Also, let’s keep in mind, it’s PARENTS that ignore the age ratings on these games. Kids under a certain age are not supposed to have access to them. If they get access to them, it is the fault of PARENTS, not the industry. Anyone can buy a study that will find some “link” between two things they wish to demonize.

      • What is the harm in a ten year old seeing graphic images? I’m not blaming anything on anything. I’m simply asking you, if media (violent or otherwise) doesn’t have an effect on a ten year old, why bother keeping it from him/her?

      • Nice try, but the article isn’t about whether or not such images have any effect at all. Its about whether or not they make everyone into murdering psychopaths. Do you show your ten year-old porn? Does porn make you a rapist?

      • Are we reading the same article? Can you copy/paste the part where he says that video games make “everyone into murdering psychopaths?”

      • Matt,

        Here are Jon’s words — “No, but I still don’t think video games cause anything. ” Are you sure he didn’t say it doesn’t have an effect?

      • Gary-

        Do you have any input other than questions? Do you have any responses to any of my varied points or anecdotes? How about the many posts that are similar to mine? How about the lengthy posts below from Matt or Negative Backflow? One can only pose so many questions without answering at least a few of his own.

        As for my statement that “video games don’t cause anything,” I can hear arguments that there are undesirable aspects to video game overexposure, with allowances either way on a sliding scale of how violent or graphic/how young is the player and the like. But I am living proof, as are literally millions worldwide, that video games do not CAUSE violence.

        Let me also reiterate to be clear; I AGREE with the author that playing outside, positive intervention by parents and providing alternative activities are all good and should be encouraged. But why are we always looking to blame anything but the parents?

        Here’s another point that no one wants to talk about. I respect the author for being forthright, but let’s be honest here: many commenters are extending praise to someone that admits freely that he carried weapons illegally and had intent to use them on people from time to time. Yet many are in the same comments thread denouncing people that HAVEN’T ever carried a loaded weapon on them or had any evidence of intent to actually harm others, and why are people demonizing them? Because they play video games. Ponder that.

        I’m sure the NRA is pumping quite a bit of money into anyone or any organization that will blame something other than guns…have you considered that angle? FYI I am not a “gun grabber” but I think it’s a valid question: who might want to see lots of studies into links such as the one we’re discussing?

      • If a 10 yr old were to see graphic images on a regular basis, it would end up desensitizing them to the cause of the image.

    • Jon-

      My questions are for me to help clarify your points, which, incidentally, come off as a bit contradictory (not letting a ten year old doing something, a thing you also insist doesn’t cause anything). Before we can even have a discussion, it helps me to know what you’re saying.

      If you want my thoughts on all of your points, as I understand them right now, here they are.

      The author wasn’t blaming video games as the sole causal factor of Adam Lanza’s ( or any spree killer) actions. He was asking – what effect do these games have on them. It’s a fair question, given that everybody experiences and processes things differently.

      At no point did the author say “every kid who plays these games is going to turn into the perpetrator of a mass shooting.”

      I’ll concede that many American youth, Canadian youth, Japanese youth can and will play these games and never inflict violence on others as a result. I’ll even go so far as to say that number is in excess of 99%.

      Unlike the author, I’ve played a lot of video games in my life, starting with a highly pixelated Atari 2600 back in 1982. I worked my way up through the original Nintendo, Super Nintendo, NEC Turbografx, N65, Sega Genesis, Sega CD, Sega Saturn, Sega Dreamcast, PS1, PS2 (and that’s where I stopped). I list all of those systems, not in some low budget attempt at bragging about the material goods I talked my parents into buying/saved my money for, but to illustrate that I’ve got a history with video games.

      I can say from personal experience that I had weird (but controlled) moments where the line between video games and real life seemed to blur a bit, not on a conscious level, but on a more instinctual/reflexive level. Momentary spots where my reaction to situations–even mundane situations–seemed to be more informed by the game I was just playing than the world where I was a college graduate, business owner, with no criminal record or history of mental illness.

      This didn’t happen until the PS2 for me. The game was Grand Theft Auto 3. You may or may not agree, but part of what made that game so fun and engaging for me was that it was wholly different than anything I’d played before. The freedom to exist and explore on the player’s terms (as opposed to a side scrolling game). Sure, there had been RPGs before it. Yes, there had been first person shooters before. But GTA3, at least for me, and some of the people I played games with, was a total game changer. Rockstar did a great job with it. As a game, I can only applaud at the brilliance and the skill demonstrated in its creation.

      However, after one marathon session (either the first day or second day we had it), I had a weird experience. On my drive home from my friend’s house, there were little sparks in my head telling me that it would be ok to drive through somebody’s lawn or hit another car or…To be sure, these were brief impulses. Nonetheless, they were startling to me. It was the fist time in my life that I experienced anything like it. Of course my bigger brain was able to recognize the errant thinking and shut down the impulse, but it was there…

      Like I said above–by the time GTA3 came out, I was already an adult. A college graduate. A small business owner. I was not taking prescription drugs. Had a wonderful relationship with my parents. Had a girlfriend. Gun owner (I am still all of these things, so this isn’t one of those “I lost it all because of video games!” stories).

      I quit playing video games a couple years ago. Not for any one specific reason other than the evolution to more first person games didn’t work for me (I get motion sickness). The last game I played a bunch was Socom 2. Occasionally, I’ll still play sports games with friends, but for the most part, I think my video game days are over.

      Because I played games for twenty five years, and was a very active participant in the evolution of gaming experiences, I feel like I’m speaking from a place of understanding. My experiences were mine, but in talking to my friends back then, I wasn’t the only one having those weird impulses. In watching the changes to my nephews and other dedicated gamers before/during/after playing some games, I can’t pretend that the video games aren’t doing something, on some level, to their brain/energy/processing. Are any of them likely to commit spree killings? It’s highly unlikely. But they’ve all got people keeping them grounded to the real world.

      What about the kids who don’t? Well, as many people have said in this thread, parents have a responsibility and an unfortunate amount of them seem to neglect those duties. What happens then? Well, I’m not a scientist, but I’ll assume that the majority of those kids might exhibit varying levels of anti-social behavior (some in only the most minor of ways), some will be fine, and a tiny fraction might act out in violent ways that horrify nations.

      I think the author’s original post asked a meaningful question and one that we should, as the human race, discuss honestly.

      What GOOD do these games do for us as people? If the exposure they give is to violence and score settling with guns, how can we expect on varying conscious and subconscious levels for that to not creep into the Zeitgeist, further begetting more of the same?

      It’s a legitimate question. And one that we can’t seem to discuss without knee jerk reactions and pearl clutching that devolve into shouting about, “It’s my right to play whatever I want! They’re coming for my guns! Insert Presidential conspiracy theory here!”

      I grew up listening to punk, metal, and hip hop. I’ve read a lot of books. Watched plenty of tv and movies. Some of my best memories are attached to video games.

      I’d be lying to you if I said the power of media–be it music or video games or books, begins and ends when I am actively engaged with it. The information, concepts, reactions that I received through the entertainment does not fall through the sieve when I close the book or turn off the speakers or power down the console. It’s all grist for the daily mill.

      I can handle it all. But other people process things differently than I do. Pretending that’s not true is sticking my head in the sand and hoping I don’t get shot.

      If I boiled it down to one thing–I’d ask this question:

      If we remove all discussion of parental supervision from the question (where are they? why did they let an 11 year old play an M rated game?) because we know it happens through negligence or misunderstanding or whatever reason–what effects do video games have on the people who play them? Understanding that there are hundreds of variables–mental health, personal temperament, etc. that also factor into the final answer. If, on the extreme side of things, CERTAIN video games as a catalyst or singular ingredient in a larger stew, help create a mass shooting, aren’t we obliged to ask questions even if 99% of the population won’t react similarly?

      I think there’s a time and a place to look in the mirror and ask what exactly we’re doing for the world. Introducing violence for the sake of mindless entertainment seems off to me. But I’m open to the discussion.

      • Well, after reading this reply, I can honestly say that you and I actually have a lot of personal history in common. Thanks for sharing that, it makes it much easier to see this as a discussion. I am also not one of these “the President is going to take my guns” folks but I do separate that from the games argument. I honestly feel that someone might try to take my games, because they’re such an easy target and it’s so easy to paint a picture of games and the people who play them as “useless” or “socially deficient” or “time wasters.” And typically such comments come from people who see no problem with watching 20 hours or more of TV a week.

        I can’t say I’ve ever had the “spark” you describe, at least not in reaction to any particular game. I think we’ve all fantasized at some point about doing something reckless, driving a car in some way, maybe even hurting someone, but I can honestly say that video games per se have made me no more inclined to do so then simply having bad things done to me (as we have all had). In fact, as the realism in games increased, I have found myself LESS likely to want to get into a gunfight (not that I ever really wanted to before, but my point is that the realistic games have actually INCREASED my distaste for the concept of actually engaging in such activities for real. I have shot many different kinds of guns before, practiced martial arts and wielded swords, etc., (never against a person with intent of course) and probably will again, but every time, regardless of video games being part of my life, I still feel the same heightened sense of fear that someone could be hurt or killed if something went wrong or someone went crazy with a gun in their hand.

        I had not seen the authors clarifying comments when I wrote my first few posts. I read the article by itself and came away thinking “this guy, who actually did carry loaded, illegal weapons with intent to harm others, is seriously saying that lack of video games is what kept him from killing anyone?” While I’m sitting here downloading an update for BF3 and not having even the slightest thought of killing anyone. And regardless of the author’s clarifying comments, the fact remains that many commenters in this very thread simply assume that games cause violence and will take that assumption as far as they need to see their agendas enforced. I’m not saying we shouldn;t study it…but I’m pretty sure there will be soe out-of-context connection made, promulgated, distorted and canonized on the Net and the media at large, and my perfectly harmless diversion will become a target or be curtailed while others sit and watch all their murder dramas on TV and demonize a caricaturized version of people like me.

        I’m a family guy living a normal life, I go out in public and socialize, and I play music in front of others to bring happiness to myself and to the public. When I want some downtime at home, and don’t have other things to attend to, instead of TV I choose games. Ironically, I do so largely for the social aspect of experiencing fun times, both with real-life friends who also play the same games, and people who I’ve become friends with through gaming. But all of that is cast aside in many people’s minds (and threads like these) as soon as a school shooter is found to have been one of the millions of people with a copy of Call of duty on his shelf, and far too many people rush to blame the games or to paint a picture of gamers as sociopaths. Not only do people ignore the author’s clarifications, they also ignore the fact that he himself did far worse things than I ever did, and just go on parroting this idea that video games cause violence.

    • Zack,

      Wait, I’m confused, what are you saying exactly? Things happen, get over it? We shouldn’t be interested in understanding problems? I’m unclear.

  221. This is amazing insight for a mom of 4, former teacher and someone just plain heart broken over school violence. I have often wondered about the violent video game craze, as well as tv shows and movies that purport killing in such an easygoing manner. Thank you for this article. It needs to go viral and I will sign this petition, thanks to you. I had never heard of it before. And for the record, my husband and I left Southern California, where we both had been born and raised and attended college, just after we were married because we knew we wanted to raise our kids in a rural environment. 20 years later we love living the country life and enjoying all of those outdoor activities you listed ,alongside our kids, who then plan such activities with their own friends for recreation!

  222. I agree with you. Although I think we need to study all of the medications these Kids have been taking and the effects they have, as well as how they influence they have on the minds of these teenagers when combined. They needs to look at the correlation between both as separate issues and then how they effect these children when combined. Because these are both factors in all of the shooters involved in these types of incidents.

  223. I find your experiences fascinating. To have a gun in such proximity to indefensible targets and not use it with those thoughts and feelings coursing through you at times is good and bad; astonishing as much as it is disconcerting. While countless studies have been done on the connection between violent videogames and the increased likelihood of committing violent acts I don’t necessarily lack support for another study. I’m simply growing weary of videogames being used as a scapegoat for bad people doing bad things. It happens. It always has. Charles Whitman wasn’t around in an era of videogames and probably did one of the more iconic violent videogame roles there is: sniper. I’m not saying you are doing this at all but people tend to ignore the past and only concentrate on what has happened in the most recent moments to push agendas. See all the ridiculous religion in school and gun control talk that happens after one of these events? It is sickening and a complete disservice to the victims of the crime.

    Now let me clarify something: I am a 29 year old gamer and I’ve been doing this since the first Nintendo was released. Concerning violent games, I played Doom and Quake, Counter-Strike, etc and currently play the Battlefield series. It might be a bit of a shock to some of you reading this, but between the last two Battlefield titles I have 2000 hours played and that is with 8 months of little to no play time of the most recent title (released oct 25 2011) which otherwise would have added another 500-700 hours. Counter-strike is easily in the 5000-6000 hour range, likely much higher. Now these are what people consider violent and for the most part I’d agree. There are much, much more violent games out there but that is besides the point. A game that will generate further discussion amongst you here is the upcoming The Last of Us which I’d suggest you look into.

    Anyways, I grew up with a lot of behavioral issues due to being molested as a child. I had and still have an extremely strong family between my brother, sister and mother with which I credit everything to but I also know that games saved me in a way. The escapism reduced as I matured and became more aware of what happened to me and now as an adult it is simply stress relief, be it a puzzle, strategy, a horror game where I have no weapons and can’t do anything but run, or an online military shooter. I don’t gravitate towards what I find to be enjoyable or something that offers variety, regardless of violence.

    While social, I did not have a lot of people I considered friends and as we grew up and some of them participated in crimes and/or drugs, I chose to stay home and play games. Granted, there was depression involved with the growing realization of what happened to me as a child as well as increasingly worrisome digestive issues but I have no doubt that without games I would have done some of the things my “friends” did. Not as a life path, I’m certain of that, but for a period of time? Absolutely.

    I had plenty of violent videogames in my collection and I was never and have never been desensitised to violence despite the incredible exposure I’ve had throughout my life to it. Through games my best friend’s dad and my mom became engaged for a while—it wouldn’t have happened without him and I talking about games as our common ground and beginning to hang out after school together. They’ve led me to create, write and imagine things that I never would have thought of in their absence.

    There really is plenty more to say but I’ve certainly rambled on enough, sorry!

  224. Insightful article with some interesting facts.

    However, not all of the facts are easily discovered or verified even when they are asserted.
    Some of this has to do with the modern version of HIPAA, and the fact that some of these
    were minors when they committed their horrific crime.

    You see, if a drug is legally prescribed by a medical doctor, it isn’t really considered a factor
    in a criminal investigation – those reasons why should be very obvious. And you know this
    to be true; you can’t NOT see something like this. Just about every TV commercial which
    advertises some drug list the side effect in a very politically correct way.

    You’ve heard the phrase “call your doctor if you develop sudden mood changes,” right? A
    thinking person would know it’s NOT referring to suddenly feeling super happy and positive;
    else the need for a “warning” would be irrelevant. It has quickly been mentioned that some
    of these killers were under a doctor’s care and being medicated with some chemical compound.
    But there’s no critical analysis; it doesn’t become part of the public conscience being brushed
    under the rug.

    I’m not suggesting that video games we in no way a catalyst, but I am saying that if you were
    similarly medicated, there’s a strong possibility would would have taken the same path.

    Something to keep in mind that you’re a teacher, now.

  225. Everyone mentions for kids to get outside and play.. newsflash, what do you think boys do outside? We would dress in cameo and play “war” in the woods near the house or “cowboys and Indians” (it was the 80s, the world hasn’t become uptight yet.) We would run through corn fields and toss corncobs at each other and pretend they were bombs, I had BB guns and would shoot black birds in my yard. How is this any different than video games? In all actuality, it’s probably worse.

    What about other countries that have the exact same access to these violent video games? Do the Netherlands, China, India, Canada, etc have tons of school shooting and deaths thanks to video games? Give me more stats.

    Everyone wants to blame someone or something. I feel, violent video games are a very small part of the problem. Yes, they probably contribute to the issue, but so does poor parenting, basic cable, and the overall crumbling of our society.

    Still normal.

  226. Although I share your pique with HuffPo in this regard, I’m concerned that you paint with somewhat too broad a brush. Do VIDEO GAMES lead to violence in the way you describe, or do specifically VIOLENT/SOCIOPATHIC VIDEO GAMES lead to such?

    And WHY do developers keep making such games? It’s not because there’s no alternative; have a look here:
    for several great examples of the tremendous good video games can help achieve.

    But WHY we keep making violent games, is because people REALLY EAT THAT STUFF UP so it’s really profitable. And WHY do they like that stuff so much? Maybe because it’s reflective of our OFFICIAL PUBLIC POLICY with regard to anybody we don’t like, and because we as a nation spend northwards of $800 BILLION on the industry that creates this culture, develops these weapons, and executes the nuts & bolts of the foriegn policy that foists this havoc on us and the rest of the world.

    We are an EFFECTIVELY violent society because we are an OFFICIALLY violent society.

    Great post — sorry about the HuffPo outcome.

  227. Thank you for baring your soul so others can hear the heart of a teen who would be considering these things. They are not monsters! Just troubled kids who need positive direction in their lives. And I don’t care about the Huffington Post! Clearly they are not as “tolerant” as they say everyone else should be!

  228. Wow. VERY thought-provoking. THANK YOU so much for sharing this with us. I have NEVER cared for the violent video games but wanted something a little more “meaty” to back up my uneasiness than just “I don’t like them.” As a mother of 19 and 20 yr old boys, and 12 and 13 yr old daughters, I see FIRST HAND how the things we ‘see’ and ‘hear’ have a very direct affect on the attitudes and, sometimes, the behaviors of my own children. I am SO happy for you to have gotten the care and attention you needed when you were at that vulnerable stage of your life. KEEP ON getting your viewpoint/message across because you ARE making an impression!!!!! God bless you!!!!!!!1

  229. Even though I’m a little late on this topic I figure that I would reply anyway. Now, I myself am an avid gamer, as is my girlfriend. Growing in in highschool for me was rough. I was the angry kid who got shoved into lockers, and had his face beaten in so people could take my roll of bubble tape I bought that day as a treat for myself. I was angry, very much so. To say that I wouldn’t mind the strength to beat up my attackers back then would be an understatement. Back then I also was an avid gamer, and my parents were very involved in my life. They allowed me to play violent video games, and taught me the clear difference between right and wrong, fantasy and fiction.

    I knew my father owned a silver baretta pistol, and kept it loaded in the top shelf of his bedroom. I know this because he showed it to me, even educated me on how to operate it, around the time I was 15 years old. He also looked me in the eye, and told me that if I EVER hold a weapon in my hand, it’s to defend my life, or someone elses life at home. I was never to touch it unless I absolutely needed to, and it instilled a sense of respect for it. He told me that with a gun, or any weapon, you held the power to take someone’s life away, and that is an irrevocable procedure, that could come with consequences that are incredibly dire if I misused it.

    For me, the violent games were a way to destress. I found myself feeling better after a rough day, and a few hours on Grand Theft Auto gave me things to laugh about, as it was never about the violence, but about the antics I would do. I paid no attention to the killing because it was pixels on a screen. Data being exchanged, -not real-. Yet when I would get so mad and upset, and I would think about hurting someone else, my father’s words came to my mind. Sure getting beat up sucked, but you know what? That didn’t make it right to kill someone because of it. So you know what I did? I talked to my parents about it. My mother of course was shocked and appalled that her son was getting his rear-end handed to him, but my father (who was a bit of a hard case) took matters into his own hands. He bought a weight set, taught me how to fight, how to wrestle. How to evade and dodge. And at the end of it all, he told me if I get into a fight, to defend myself, but never be the cause of the fight.

    Not even a week later, some juniors decided they wanted to start messing with the quiet guy who just wanted to be left alone. After months of training with my dad (Nothing formal mind you, he wasn’t a champion boxer, or some kind of prize fighter. He was a guy who simply knew how to swing his fists. That and pick heavy things up, then put them down. Pick them up put them down), I had put on a little but of muscle, and I felt more confident about myself. Still, I just wanted to be left alone, so I asked them to just go away. After namecalling, grabbing me and shoving me, one of them finally punched me in the chest. I’ll never forget this day, because it wasn’t Mortal Kombat I thought of, or Grand Theft Auto, or Doom, or any violent game I thought about. It was what my father taught me, and my own instinct to survive.

    And I beat the crap out of them. Not by any superior means but I guess they were caught off guard that I would actually hit them back. Of course parents were called, teachers scolded me for fighting back and I should have just ran. And again, no video games, no “FINISH HIM” or “I could just kill him and be all right because I spent 4 hours doing that in Grand Theft Auto”) I was told it was okay to defend myself, that it was okay to fight back so long as I didn’t instigate it. As far as I knew, I was in the right. My father came in, and asked what was going on. The principal told him I was in a fight, and his first question was: “Did he start it?” Her response was “Well, no, but we don’t condone fighting of any sort here.” “So you’re punishing my son for defending himself?”

    She had no answer, and the punishment was 3 days suspension. And those days were -fantastic-. I got to stay up all night, play games, watch TV, even got taken to the local arcade (RIP Diamond Jims) as a treat for doing the right thing according to my father.

    Several years later, and I joined the military. To this day I am enlisted 6 years in the military and I can assure you, we don’t use Call of Duty to train, and anyone who tells you so is full of it. There are sophisticated simulations yes, but it still uses a fully functional weapon, only it’s a bit of a replica as it fires air (Not to be confused with airsoft at all) that also replicates the kickback associated with it. But even with a deployment to Afghanistan under my belt, and constant other situations where my weapon was on, and armed, not once did I ever feel the need or associate it with any facet of video gaming. My thoughts for my weapon was that it was an instrument of defense. That I must use it when, and ONLY when my life, or someone else’s life is on the line by clear and present danger.

    The moral of this story? Parenting. Parents can educate their children that weapons can be used to defend. Instill in them to RESPECT the weapon. Can a child that is left to their TV and Xbox/PS3/Computer be desensitized to violence? Of course, as can anybody with anything without any real guidance. But can a child whose parent is involved in their lives play these games, and be instructed that while they may be fun, it is not real, so that the desnsitazation is stymied? Perhaps it’s just my opinion but I would say yes. Yes they can.

    What needs to be looked at is not the games themselves, but the parents who cannot take the time to be involved in their children’s lives. And before anyone says they don’t have enough time to do so, or they’re tired when they come home, my father worked from 6:00am to 7:00pm. He came home and would be tired, and find his kids (My brother played with me in later years) occupying the TV. Rather than tell them to get off, in some instances he would sit down, and ask us what we were playing. Show him moves, and what we were doing. And rather than shriek and complain about how we were playing violent games and it would turn us into mindless killers and/or couch potatoes or whatever, he would sit with us, and when we were done, tell us “Boys, I want you to remember something. What you see on a video game or TV show, is fake. In TV, they get back up, shake hands smile and walk away with a job well done. In a game it’s just pixels, data. You don’t hurt people for fun, and you don’t kill people for sport. You can do that in a game all you want and hell boys, I’ll sit right back and laugh while you run people over. But remember, those people aren’t real. You understand?”

    I remember those speeches word for word, because sometimes they would be enforced by alcohol and would also sometimes not make sense. Ha ha.

    (I also want to point out that as someone who plays Massively Multiplayer Online games, I’ve learned a lot more social skills through -it- than actually talking to people. I’ve learned how to coordinate people, shrug off insults by people who say them just to insult you, and it’s even how I met my girlfriend. So it’s not all bad, I assure you.🙂 )

    • Excellent story. It’s what parents have been teaching their kids for generations. Ironically, learning to defend yourself comes with the side lesson of not to be a bully. Bullies don’t get taught any of this. The principal was an enabler of even more violence. They want kids to “tattle” instead of fight? How about the teachers do their friggin’ job and properly supervise the students so this crap isn’t so prevalent in the first place. Kids should NOT have to feel like they are entering the Thunderdome to get an education. It’s not surprising that schools never do student satisfaction surveys, because student satisfaction isn’t their objective, even though students are the primary consumers of the education product. Even if they did they would ignore the data anyway.

  230. I would love to read this, but the white lettering on the black background makes me nauseous. Any chance you can send me a copy?

  231. Since pretty much every kid plays violent video games these days, how do you explain the enormous gap between the numbers of kids who play these games and the number of tragic shooting events at schools? If you’re looking for a statistical correlation, I believe you’ve found the universe’s weakest one yet.