Ten years ago today, Columbine High School students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered their campus armed to the teeth and killed 12 students and one teacher, and wounded 23 other people. Then they killed themselves. In the hysteria following the tragedy, many people attempted to blame video games for the violence. A decade later, Youth Radio's Noah Nelson looks at whether the correlation between video games and violence correlation is still all the rage. From Youth Radio:
“What we’ve found is that violent crime has decreased dramatically starting in 1996 while video games sales have soared. More than doubling last year,” said Dan Hewitt, a spokesman for the Entertainment Software Association the trade association for the video game industry. He cites a report that contrasts the Department of Justice numbers on violent crime and sales figures for games. Hewitt contends that “if there was some type of causal connection between video games and real life violence that the rate of real lifer violence would actually be going up, but actually the opposite is true.”"Legacy Of Change: Gaming After Columbine"
(Dr. Karen Sternheimer, a professor of Sociology at USC and the author of “It’s Not the Media: The Truth About Pop Culture’s Influence on Children”) says that because a game is “interactive it seems like logically that it could cause some kind of casual effect.” She notes that the decline in the rate of violence “is most notable in youth, especially juveniles.” While the data and the perceived connection don’t agree, the perception remains “compelling because it’s really easy for us to understand.” The professor points to Dave Cullen’s recent book on Columbine that paints a picture of Klebold and Harris as “not just everyday kids who played video games, and just kind of became crazy from too many video games. These were seriously disturbed individuals. We make a really big mistake when we overlook issues like that.”
In many ways what happened at Columbine High is a kind of prologue to the wave of violence that has shocked the country in recent weeks. A wave that adds weight to Professor Sternheimer’s assertion that “we don’t just have a health care crisis-- we have a mental health care crisis in this country.”
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.