With the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, people in their shock are inevitably asking: “why?” Why did such a horrible event happen? What triggered a young boy to cause such harm to other children? Invariably the fingers begin to point towards, among other things: access to guns, mental illness, family troubles, isolation and, inevitably, playing violent video games. This last potential culprit has become a standard for those looking to find answers on why these awful events continue to happen, mainly in the US. The Washington Post recently produced a series of graphics, however, that cast serious doubt on the connection between playing video games and gun murders.
In their straight forward comparison, the Washington Post looks at the 10 largest video game consuming countries, weighing video game spending per capita with gun related murders per 100,000. As quickly becomes obvious, the US is way, way off the norm in comparison to the other countries – even when looked at next to relatively high numbers in Canada and Norway. As the Washington Post is quick to point out, this comparison does assume that the type of video game consumed is the same, country to country. This isn’t stretching the facts too far however, because the video game market is an incredibly global industry (possibly with differing tastes in Japan and access in China).(continued below)
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If there were a strong correlation between video game consumption and gun violence we would expect to see the points representing the countries follow the path of the red line below. In actuality we see nothing of the sort.
In fact, what the graph actually shows is the opposite of what would be expected: a slight downward trend in gun-related murders in countries which consume more video games. Does this mean violent video games have no influence on our society? Probably not. But it does suggest that there is little or no correlation between gun murders and video game consumption.