It seems like it has been years since video games have been blamed for violence and tragedies. Since the 90s, video games had been under fire for causing youth violence. This swelling of outrage became a tumult after Columbine and continued to rise each time a major shooting involving a youth happened after that. Laws had been passed trying to ban the sale of violent games to minors and each of those laws had been struck down by the courts, ending with the US Supreme Court ruling that video games are protected speech and can’t be regulated in such a manner.
There were plenty of good things to come from all this commotion though. The ESRB rating system was a direct result of this outrage and has been used effectively for years by console manufacturers to give parents control over what games their children can play. It resulted in video game retailers denying the sale of M rated games to minors nearly 90% of the time, even while movie theaters and movie retailers retained a terrible track record for R rated movies.
After the Supreme Court weighed in on the issue, it had seemed that things were pretty settled. Only the very fringes of would blame games after a tragedy since then. That is until the Parkland, Florida shooting. It isn’t clear what made this particular tragedy different from those that came before it, but it sparked an outcry of blame against violent movies and games. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin blames violence in movies and games for school shootings. Kentucky suffered its own school shooting in January. In Rhode Island, Representative Nardolillo plans to introduce a bill to tax M rated games an additional 10% to fund mental health programs in schools. Even President Donald Trump called out violence in games and movies calling for a “rating system for that.” Finally, NewsOK is reporting that Representatives Mullin and Russell have both put the blame on video games for the recent tragedies. There is a lot to unpack in this but let’s give it a try.