Columbine High School Massacre and Best-selling Video Games Essay

Submitted By sherrieevelyn
Words: 1408
Pages: 6

97% of 12-17 year olds in the US played video games in 2008, thus fueling an $11.7 billion domestic video game industry. In 2008, 10 of the top 20 best-selling video games in the US contained violence. [1]

Violent video games have been blamed for school shootings, increases in bullying, and violence towards women. Critics argue that these games desensitize players to violence, reward players for simulating violence, and teach children that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflicts.

Video game advocates contend that a majority of the research on the topic is deeply flawed and that no causal relationship has been found between video games and social violence. They argue that violent video games may reduce violence by serving as a substitute for rough and tumble play and by providing a safe outlet for aggressive and angry feelings.

The debate over violent video games can be traced back to the 1976 release of the game Death Race (191 KB) . The object of the game was to run over screaming "gremlins" with a car, at which point they would turn into tombstones. Controversy erupted because the "gremlins" resembled stick-figure humans, and it was reported that the working title of the game was Pedestrian. After protestors dragged Death Race machines out of arcades and burned them in parking lots, production of the game ceased.

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Chart showing the decline in violent crime offenses and increases in video game sales from 1996-2004.
Source: "Chasing the Dream,", Aug. 4, 2005In 1993, public outcry following the release of violent video games Mortal Kombat and Night Trap prompted Congress to hold hearings on regulating the sale of video games. During the hearings, California Attorney General Dan Lungren testified that violent video games have "a desensitizing impact on young, impressionable minds." [14] Threatened with the creation of a federal regulatory commission, the video game industry voluntarily established the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) on Sep. 1, 1994 to create a ratings system. Based on the video game's content, the ESRB assigns one of the following ratings: "Early Childhood," "Everyone," "Everyone 10+," "Teen," "Mature," or "Adults Only." In a 2008 survey, 50% of boys and 14% of girls aged 12-17 listed a game with a "Mature" or "Adults Only" rating (6.78 MB) in their current top three favorite games.

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Political cartoon about video games and school shootings.
Source: Brian Fairrington, "School Shooting Influence," available on, Mar. 29, 2005The controversy over violent video games resurfaced following the massacre of 13 people at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, CO on Apr. 20, 1999. The two teenage shooters were revealed to be avid players of weapon-based combat games Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. Following the shooting, 176 newspaper articles across the country focused on the allegation that video games were the cause of the tragedy (955 KB) .

A 2005 resolution (47 KB) by the American Psychological Association called for the reduction of violence in video games marketed to youth because of possible links between video games and aggression towards women. In response to the discovery of disabled but accessible sexual content in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, then-Senator of New York Hillary Clinton introduced a bill in 2005 to criminalize selling "Mature" or "Adults Only" rated video games to minors, arguing that video games were a "silent epidemic of desensitization." [15] The bill died in committee at the end of the 109th Congress.

On Oct. 7, 2005, California passed a law that required violent video games to include an "18" label and criminalized the sale of these games to minors.

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Screenshot of controversial violent video game Death Race. The object of this 1976 game was to run over "gremlins" with your car.
Source: "Death Race Remake Recalls First