Few doubt the enormous influence of Hollywood on culture and politics, but the video game industry is many times larger and more consequential. In video games, spectators do not merely watch while eating popcorn, but are drawn into the game as participants who win or lose based on how many people they kill. As America tries to grapple with the question of what is causing the unconscionable evil being committed by boys and young men in mass shootings, we should not discount the influence of violent video games.
By comparison, the film industry had box office receipts of only $11 billion at its peak, in 2019, before the Covid pandemic caused movie revenue to drop sharply. Meanwhile, the video game industry surged in revenue during the pandemic, as more teenage boys stayed in their rooms playing these games for many more hours each day. Video game playing is up 14% over its already-high levels in 2020, such that the average player wastes nearly 8.5 hours weekly on video games. A quarter of all players spend more than 12 hours per week on these games, which is enough time to hold a part-time job or learn a useful skill instead.
The next time you’re waiting endlessly on hold for customer service, you might wonder if the workers are playing video games instead. One survey found that 14% of respondents play video games daily during work hours. Binge gaming, which may be a key factor in mass shootings, has also increased by 13% since 2020. A third of gamers say that they sometimes play for five hours in a row, which further desensitizes them to the depravity of killing someone.
The video game industry is always quick to point out that studies have not yet proven a link between exposure to violent video games and violent actions, but those studies fail to account for the host of other contributing factors which can combine to severely damage a teenager’s development. Does anyone really believe that staring at a screen engaging in glorified depictions of gratuitous violence for a dozen hours a week won’t have an effect on a developing brain? Conservatives should never back down from common sense.