Do Video Games Kill?
By Karen Sternheimer
• When white, middle-class teens kill, the media and politicians are quick to blame video games. Are they right?
As soon as it was released in 1993, a video game called Doom became a target for critics. Not the first, but certainly one of the most popular first-person shooter games, Doom galvanized fears that such games would teach kids to kill. In the years after its release, Doom helped video gaming grow into a multibillion dollar industry, surpassing Hollywood box-office revenues and further fanning public anxieties.
Then came the school shootings in Paducah, Kentucky; Springfield, Oregon; and Littleton, Colorado. In all three cases, press accounts emphasized that the
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These headlines all appeared immediately after the Littleton shooting, which had the highest death toll and inspired most (176) of the news stories alleging a video game connection. Across the country, the press attributed much of the blame to video games specifically, and to Hollywood more generally. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article "Days of Doom" noted that "eighteen people have now died at the hands of avid Doom players." The New York Times article noted above began, "By producing increasingly violent media, the entertainment industry has for decades engaged in a lucrative dance with the devil," evoking imagery of a fight against evil. It went on to construct video games as a central link: "The two boys apparently responsible for the massacre in Littleton, Colo., last week were, among many other things, accomplished players of the ultraviolent video game Doom. And Michael Carneal, the 14-year-old boy who opened fire on a prayer group in a Paducah, Ky., school foyer in 1997, was also known to be a video-game expert."
Just as many stories insisted that video games deserved at least partial blame, editorial pages around the country made the connection as well:
President Bill Clinton is right. He said this