How about another approach? The psychology looks at the behavior of individuals. Let’s get big-picture.
If a poisonous media environment to which games contribute is really the driving force behind gun violence, then it would be reasonable to assume populations that play more games would be more violent. Sure would be nice to have some numbers about that.
Oh, there they are. If that chart looks familiar, it’s because it’s from a Washington Post article and has been making the rounds lately. I recreated it using the same data, and I think it does a pretty solid job of illustrating an interesting point. If gun violence were the result of too much violent video-game playing, then one would think societies even more awash in video games than the United States would have an even bigger problem with it than we do. The data suggest otherwise. Who knew that the Netherlands spent the most per capita on video games and that the United States and Japan are around the middle of the pack? The gun homicide data is from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and I’ll admit right now that I couldn’t find the data the Washington Post used for video game spending per capita, so I just eyeballed it off the chart.
Look at what a ridiculous outlier the United States is. Total dollars spent on games here is huge, because we’re a huge country, but we apparently don’t even rank that high in per capita spending on games. Of the top 10 video game markets, no one else comes even close to our gun homicide rate. Now, I’ll concede that this is total spending on any games. Maybe the U.S. plays nothing but Call of Duty and Mortal Kombat while the Dutch are spending $110 per person per year on Farmvillle…but I kinda doubt it. Still, I’m sure it would be informative to research country-by-country differences in sales for the various ESRB rating notes. We could replot this chart by per capita spending on “rated M for violence and gore.”
Food for thought. Hey, while you’re chewing on that, you want to see what the graph would look like if there were some kind of positive correlation between variables?
There we go. Except, you may have noticed, instead of video game spending, this graph shows gun ownership rates, as compiled by the Geneva Graduate Institute of International Studies Small Arms Survey. I went through every country in that Small Arms Survey and looked up their rates of gun homicide. Then I deleted every country that is now or has recently experienced armed political conflict (Syria, Egypt, most of Africa), or is having major drug cartel problems (Mexico, most of South America, and the Pacific), and countries that didn’t report homicide rates to the UN (Russia, China). I consulted the CIA World Factbook (a geographer’s best friend) to help make a snap judgment about these issues. Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile are sort of on the fence for cartel problems, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt. What’s left are mostly industrialized countries who, if not necessarily super economically and politically stable, are at least not tearing themselves apart about it and thereby skewing homicide rates to ridiculous levels.
You know what? The United States is still an obvious outlier, pulling my trendline out and up and making my point too strongly for me. Let’s see what the chart looks like without us.
Well I’ll be damned. Looks like gun ownership rates still definitely correlate with gun homicides more than video game consumption does. If you’re wondering why all these countries aren’t also on the graph about per capita video game spending, it’s because they all spent less per capita on games than Taiwan.
If you still think video games, movies, books, music, old-timey radio dramas, Web videos, campfire ghost stories, paintings, or graphic tales told via smoke signals are the engine behind – or even a significant contributing factor to – gun violence in America, then I don’t know what else to tell you. Go re-examine the evidence again, I guess. Dr. Anderson sure thinks there’s a link there, and he’s a much smarter dude than me. But if you can perhaps set aside this conviction for just a couple minutes and give a chance to any other explanation, you might finds patterns elsewhere.