I-Team: Studies Conflict on Video Game Violence - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Studies Conflict on Video Game Violence

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Chance Bonaventura Chance Bonaventura

LAS VEGAS -- America is a violent nation. Studies show the rate of death by gunfire in our country is much higher than most of the civilized world, but defenders of the Second Amendment say guns are not the root cause of violence here.

For decades, social scientists have tried to figure out if violent images in mass media, including movies, TV, and, more recently, video games, have desensitized Americans to violence in real life.

High school junior Chance Bonaventura doesn't play video games as much as he did when he was younger, but says many of his friends from school spend hours each day immersed in other worlds and personas. Many of the games are hyperviolent, he said.

"You just go into the airport and kill a bunch of civilian people, clearing out the airport," Chance said. "Then you just shoot all these civilians. You can get your grenade launcher and shoot grenades at people."

I-Team: "It has people screaming."

"They start screaming," Chance said. "It's a real gun, like the real gun in real life."

Does the violence in video games eventually cause violence in real life?

The two teenage boys who went amok at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in 1999 reportedly gorged themselves on violent images via games and movies. Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza played violent video games for hours every day in the months leading up to his bloody rampage this past December. But does one activity cause the other?

Experts Debate Impact of Video Game Violence

The chief of the National Rifle Association thinks so. Wayne LaPierre says guns are not to blame for the deaths they cause, but that violent video games might be because they promote "criminal cruelty."

During a White House briefing about gun violence earlier this year, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie lobbied President Barack Obama to study the larger picture about the root causes of violence in America.

"Let's move in that direction, and let's not ignore the video games," Gillespie said. "Let's not ignore the videos on TV. Let's look at it to see if it's a causal factor leading up to some of these incidents."

Science has looked, and as with everything else, the results so far are conflicting. One study looked at violence and video games in 10 nations and found that young people in other countries play more violent games more often, but that death rates in America are markedly higher.

"There is what we call a correlation, meaning yes, those individuals who tend to play violent video games will tend to show higher propensities toward aggressive behavior, aggressive emotions, aggressive thoughts," UNLV sociologist Simon Gottschalk said.

Gottschalk has written some of the best-known papers on the possible link between games and violence. The evidence is not conclusive. He says the overwhelming majority of those who play violent games are not affected in real life, but he worries about a small percentage of young, impressionable, or already-troubled teens.

"The violent video game is a real problem in terms of what it does to people who are growing up and developing a sense of what is right, what is acceptable behavior," he said.

It's the same conclusion Chance reached on his own.

"I think the younger you are, the less there is for you to differentiate from what's real in the game and what's not real in real life," he said.

But defenders of online gaming say it's a bogus claim. They've heard the same allegations about rap music.

"Chris Rock said, he was talking about how hip-hop was being picked on back in the 90's," Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist and game reviewer Doug Elfman said. "Just like video games are now. His quote was, ‘What was Hitler listening to? Right.' And that is a good point. Mussolini, Napoleon, Hitler, none of them had video games."

Elfman is passionate in his defense of games. He tests and writes reviews of most new games as they come out, and says that contrary to perceptions, only 13 percent of the best-selling games involve shooting people. He said the NRA wants to divert attention away from the bloody consequences of America's obsession with guns.

"So, here is a gun. It has a bullet in it. Bam," he said. "Here is a video game. Here is my question for you. You wake up in the middle of the night, come downstairs and see me. Would you rather see this, or this? If you say this is more dangerous than this, you are looney.

"You have people buying guns, then shooting people with those guns, but that's off the table. We cant stop that from happening, so we have to look for some ancillary solution which is to try and George Orwell their brains to say, let's pick on something else. I have news for the Second Amendment people. The First Amendment is first for a reason. It was the most important thing."

Disclosure: Chance Bonaventura is the nephew of George Knapp's wife.

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