A case of crime news – yet another in the USA – has shocked the world in recent days. On May 24, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos opened fire inside an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The young man broke the lives of 19 young students and two teachers before falling under the blows of the police.
After the shock, many have wondered about the background of the crazy gesture. The shooting – one of the bloodiest when compared to similar cases that always took place in the USA – has stirred public opinion forcing various exponents of politics, supervisory bodies and civil society to intervene. Among them stands out Steven McGraw which, in Texas, represents the top of the Department of Public Safety. When questioned by ABC microphones, McGraw tried to sneak up on a few questions and then concede a statement that sparked a series of harsh reactions on twitter. “We have not yet probed the reasons for the gesture but we know that Ramos was inside the world of ‘cybergaming’ (sic.) and in groups dedicated to gaming “ McGraw would have said.
Twitter people disagree with McGraw, US citizens respond
The impression in this case – as in other analogues – is that there is an attempt to place a large part of the responsibility for this kind of events on the gaming world. In 2019, there was even serious discussion about the possibility of taxing violent video games by a further 10%. Such a tax, said the promoters of the initiative, would be designed to ensure greater safety in schools.
As mentioned, the replies of US citizens were not long in coming and, from twitter, they show that the one of the DPS officer is not an adequate answer. “We are back in the 90s” someone begins. “In fact, the US is the only nation in the world that owns video games” someone else replies.
Others highlight how some statistical data show that although there are other countries with a greater distribution of video games than the USA, the United States tops the list for mass shootings far ahead of all other countries.
Unfortunately, it is not the first time that video games and brutal violence are juxtaposed as if they were cause and effect. The singular syllogism began to make its way several years ago and then became more widely used starting with the case of Columbine High School.
What do the research say?
This narrative has begun to become a field of study for the academic world which, in many cases, has presented results that are diametrically opposed to the message we are trying to convey. For example, the University of Oxford, among the first, has proved the non-correlation between the use of violent video games and violent behavior. Even before, a more than thirty-year study conducted by the universities of Villanova and Rochester it determined the impossibility of connecting the two phenomena directly. The University of York – which used Sniper Elite and Grand Theft Auto for its tests – is too skeptical that video games with strong themes induce one greater recurrence of aggressive behaviors. Lastly, un research conducted by the University of Stetsonwhile not completely excluding the precise possibility that there are many variables to consider: cultural background; psyche of the subject etc.
Video games, it is worth remembering, are now part of the cultural diet of many people. Someone will remember the case of the Norwegian Anders Breivik. Even with respect to the author of the Utoya massacre (2011) it was said that he was a gamer. As if that in itself were enough to identify a murderer. It was later discovered that the video game used most by the Oslo monster was actually Minecraft. It is therefore difficult to hypothesize a connection. And if we really wanted to be picky: how do we justify all the murders and massacres committed before the invention of video games? And how do we justify those who commit brutal crimes despite never having used a video game? As a youtuber dear to me would say: do you know what they all had in common? Everyone regularly consumed oxygen.
Unfortunately, it seems evident that the videogame medium has yet to be “tamed” by that segment of the population that simply does not understand it. The axiom that predicts behavior adopted uncritically after exposure to a certain type of message is expounded by Umberto Eco in its volume “Apocalyptic and Integrated”Where, retracing the history of the media, he recounts that one of the first theories formulated – defined as the hypodermic needle or magic bullet – described the audience as unable to make a discernment between reality and scenic fiction. Between message and meaning. Over time, fortunately, this theory was abandoned.
What the video game is subject to was also the fate of cinema, television, Rock’n Roll, the Internet and even pinball machines in the early years of their lives. Now, video games have something like 50 years on their shoulders. It is also time that we began to think about what are the real responsibilities of these events which, by chance, often occur in southern Canada.