With the latest tragedy to hit US schools in the past week, parents, talking heads and the general public have looked to point the finger at someone or something. It makes dealing with the tragedy easier for those affected, it lets people feel like they're doing something about it and it gives news casters the chance to get bigger ratings by claiming to have found the source of the problem.
Some people are pointing at guns, suggesting that if there was stricter regulation then none of this would have happened. While that's a whole other article in itself, consider the fact the whatever laws were in place, it doesn't stop someone like Adam Lanza from stealing the weaponry from his mother. Illegal gun 'owners' don't care about the law.
However as much as a beating as gun ownership is taking, video games are also in the firing line and just as you can say that guns don't kill people, people do,video games don't make someone a killer, the state of their mental health does.
Now I could list a lot of studies that show no correlation between video game violence and real world violence, just as those on the other side of the argument could quote other studies. When considering multiple sources however, we could perhaps conclude that playing violent video games, especially at a young age, may have a desensitising affect, just as watching violent movies does.
It doesn't make you more violent, it just makes you less emotive with regards to it.
That aside however, lets look at some of the games the press are suggesting are major causes for Lanza's disgusting actions. The Express is suggesting Dynasty Warriors, which “is thought to have given him inspiration to act on his darkest thoughts.”
Of course anyone that has ever played Dynasty Warriors knows this idea is laughable. Not only are there no guns in third century China when the game is based, but there isn't even a realistic interpretation of violence. Characters can use wind like super powers and enemies pop in and out of existence. The game isn't designed to be realistic – if so you wouldn't have hard rock playing in ancient China - and you'd find more actual violence in practically any other game in existence that features a combat component.
Then there's claims by a load of other publications that Call of Duty is to blame. What, the game series that's sold tens of millions of copies? The one with millions of worldwide players that don't shoot up schools?
You can argue that these games have a a minor influence, but you cannot place the blame squarely at their door, because if you could, we'd all be knee deep in shell casing.
Most of the accounts about Lanza's game playing habits say that it was “in a basement,” - where else in a house can you find a room that won't have light reflecting off the screen? - letting them use the angle that it's the games that were the corrupting influence. If he did indeed spend hours upon hours alone, in the dark, playing by himself, I'd argue that the isolation had a much greater impact on the brain of a young man than that of some virtual gun slinging.
And ultimately it may turn out that mental health was the big defining factor in this tragic incident - it certainly looks to have been that way with many other shootings, where often the killer is on medication of some kind. Lanza was said to have a development disorder and be emotionally detached throughout his teens. Clearly you have to be mentally disturbed to commit the crimes that he did and perhaps that's where the blame lies. As good as health care can be in this country, mental health is still looked at with real stigma. People are often told to just suck it up, be a man of fobbed off with a prescription. Mental health is a scary issue because it's difficult to quantify and even harder to treat.
Maybe better provisioning for mental health disorders, more willingness for people to help and a better understanding of how troubled teens grow into young adults, would be a better step than simply trying to ban an entertainment medium that is enjoyed by millions with practically no side effects.
As sad as it is as well, there will always be people that slip through the cracks. As a species we strive to make ourselves as safe as possible and will always continue to do so, but we will never have a perfect society, because if we did there would be no free will. While we all think the actions that took place at the Newtown school were deplorable, we all make the choice not to become violent animals ourselves and that's what makes us human, our ability and willingness to choose the better path.
I'm not arguing that we need tragedies to show us what's good in this world, but that evil is something that will never go away, because if it did, it'd take good with it.