Video Games, Not Always Behind School Shootings

While many people believe that the use of video games is the reason for violence in adolescents, the people who commit these school massacres are not always proven to be avid gamers.

The Virginia Tech massacre was a school shooting consisting of two separate attacks approximately two hours apart on April 16, 2007 in Blacksburg, Virginia. The perpetrator, Seung-Hui Cho, killed 32 people and wounded many others before committing suicide. The Virginia Tech massacre was the deadliest school shooting in United States history,

As we first heard the news about the Virginia Tech shootings many were pondering what could have caused Seung-Hui Cho to lash out the way he did? While many figured he may have been bullied or was mentally unstable, Attorney Jack Thompson was certain that video games were the reason dozens were dead. Thompson is a avid critic the of video game industry and believed "Counter-Strike," which is a popular team-based tactical shooting game that puts players in the heavily armed boots of either a counter-terrorist or terrorist, to be the reason behind Cho’s shooting spree. Violent video games have been shown to increase aggression in adolescents and have been factors in shootings such as Columbine, but that does not mean that everyone that commits murder is a gamer. Game players and industry advocates were outraged that the brutal acts of a deeply disturbed and depressed loner with a history of mental illness would be blamed so quickly on video and computer games. But whether Seung-Hui Cho, the student who opened fire Monday, was an avid player of video games and whether he was a fan of "Counter-Strike" in particular remains uncertain.

Factors that lead analysts to believe video games were not behind the massacre are:

Authorities released a search warrant listing the items found in Cho's dorm room. Not a single video game, console or gaming gadget was on the list, though a computer was confiscated.

An interview with Chris Matthews of "Hardball," Cho's university suite-mate said he had never seen Cho play video games.


Dr. Karen Sternheimer, a sociologist at the University of Southern Calfornia and author of the book " Kids These Days: Facts and Fictions About Today's Youth," disagrees with the belief that Cho must have played video games to learn the skills to kill 32 people. She believes that it didn't require much skill for Cho to shoot as many people as he did. This is supported by eye witness accounts that indicate that many of the victims were shot at point-blank range.

She also stated that the "One thing that people often don't realize is that in the years since video game sales have really exploded, not only have youth violence rates decreased but violence rates in the U.S. have declined precipitously.”

While in the past the video game industry has taken the brunt of abuse for violence in schools and amongst kids and teens, it is important to know that video games and violence affect each person differently. Although violent media causes increases in aggression in many it does not mean that it is to blame for any act of violence that is committed. Video games are not believed to be the cause of the tragic incident at Virginia Tech. Cho was probably influenced by much deeper issues than increased exposure to video games. "I think in our search to find some kind of answer as to why this happened, the video game explanation seems easy." "It seems like there's an easy answer to preventing this from happening again and that feels good on some level." -Dr. Karen Sternheimer