A researcher at Texas A&M International University has concluded that there is "no significant relationship" between school shootings and playing violent video games.
Writing for the Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, Prof. Christopher Ferguson criticizes the methodology used in earlier research linking games to violence and aggression. He also points out that no evidence of violent game play was found in recent high-profile incidents such as the Virginia Tech massacre, the Utah Trolley Stop mall shooting and the February, 2008 shooting on the campus of Northern Illinois University.
Ferguson examines the notion of "moral panic" as it relates to the supposed relationship between violent video games and school shootings:
Moral panics may emerge from ‘culture wars’ occurring in a society… politicians, news media and social scientists, arguably [have] motives for promoting hysterical beliefs about media violence, and video games specifically. Actual causes of violent crime, such as family environment, genetics, poverty, and inequality, are oftentimes difficult, controversial, and intractable problems. By contrast, video games present something of a ‘straw man’ by which politicians can create an appearance of taking action against crime…
As for the news media, it has long been recognised that negative news… ‘sell’ better than do positive news… As for social scientists, it has been observed that a small group of researchers have been most vocal in promoting the anti-game message… oftentimes ignoring research from other researchers, or failing to disclose problems with their own research…
Ferguson, who cites GamePolitics among his numerous sources, notes that many video game critics are unfamiliar with the medium:
It has been the observation of this author, for instance, that the majority of individuals critical of video games are above the age of 35 (many are elderly) and oftentimes admit to not having directly experienced the games. Some commentators make claims betraying their unfamiliarity, such as that games like Grant Theft Auto ‘award points’ for antisocial behaviour… despite that few games award points for anything anymore, instead focusing on stories.
By way of illustration, Ferguson makes reference to last year’s well-known Cooper Lawrence/Mass Effect incident.
Ferguson also points out what he sees as design flaws in a number of studies relating to video games and aggression. He also examines school shooting research conducted by the FBI and Secret Service before concluding:
School shootings, although exceedingly rare, are an important issue worthy of serious consideration. However, for our understanding of this phenomenon to progress, we must move past the moral panic on video games and other media and take a hard look at the real causes of serious aggression and violence…
the wealth of evidence… fails to establish a link between violent video games and violent crimes, including school shootings. The link has not merely been unproven; I argue that the wealth of available data simply weighs against any causal relationship.