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Psychiatrist says there's no relationship between video games and gun violence

Posted: 3:28 PM, Aug 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-14 18:29:31-04
Psychiatrist says no relationship between video games and gun violence

Video game enthusiast George Gracin hosts a YouTube video game channel called “G to the Next Level”.

"Honestly, it's kind of hard to figure what my life would be without them now," Gracin says of video games.

Since their creation, video games have become a big part of society.

Gamer Kyle Moseley feels the same. Both Gracin and Moseley agree the games are not only fun, it's an escape from reality if you're having a bad day.

"It's about the moment, the feeling, just having fun. That's really what it is. It's a release," Moseley describes.

They call it interactive entertainment.

"You feel like you're actually a part of the experience," Gracin explains.

But in the last few days, the two avid video gamers have been defending their passion, as the games have come into question with recent mass shootings.

Speaking about the shootings, President Trump partly blamed video games for the mass shootings in America.

"We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace," the president said.

In the same week, Walmart issued a memo asking employees to take down video game signage and displays referencing violence. However, they are leaving the games on the shelf, as well as guns and ammunition.

Walmart was the site of the mass shooting in El Paso. In Mississippi, investigators say a former employee shot and killed two supervisors at a Walmart. In Missouri, a man was arrested after police say he walked into a Walmart, heavily armed and wearing body armor.

Walmart customers we spoke with say they support the steps the company is taking to remove the violent video game imagery from stores.

“They're games, but without parental supervision, they can get to be pretty bad," Walmart shopper Glen Ekstrom says.

"I was against them when they first came out for that reason, and look what's going on," another Walmart shopper, Rick Hathaway, says.

A third customer, Luisa Candelo, expressed similar sentiment, stating "No me gustan mucho porque creo que incentivan mas a la violencia." (Translation: I don't really like them because I believe they encourage more violence).

So, what is considered a violent video game? And is it actually dangerous?

Dr. Asim Shah, a professor and Psychiatry Executive Vice Chair at Baylor College of Medicine, says the potential relationship between video games and gun violence has been studied for over a decade.

"In the past, people used to think that there is a relationship, but the latest studies show that there is no correlation," Dr. Shah says.

While many studies have been done, Dr. Shah says there's still a need for more in-depth research since people play video games for different lengths of time, and video games could have a larger impact on people with a pre-existing condition.

"If somebody especially is paranoid, if somebody especially is delusional or hearing voices, they may be the population who may need to avoid certain games certainly because they already have some element of underlying disorder," Dr. Shah explains.

What psychiatrists know for sure, is that video gamers can experience frustration and sometimes anger when they lose.

"Would it link to gun violence? That is not established," Dr. Shah says.

Walmart didn't respond to our request for a statement about why the company pulled the video game signage, but they continue to sell the games, as well as firearms. We do know Walmart is one of the biggest sellers of guns and ammo in the world, although it doesn't break down exactly how much money it makes from those sales.

Gracin and Moseley say they'll continue to pursue their passion, standing behind the industry that they know and love so well.

"I don't really think it's the video games at all. If anything, video games are actually helpful because now, whatever aggressions you have, you can take it out on a fictional character in a game," Gracin says.

“I just would like to see to the point where people see video games as a form of entertainment. Not as a triggering mechanism for a violent acts," Moseley says.

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If you’d like to contact the journalist for this story, email Elizabeth Ruiz at elizabeth.ruiz@scripps.com