A former World of Warcraft designer has thrown blame on “video games that use modern day firearms to shoot other humans” for the tragic school shooting that recently occurred in Uvalde, Texas.
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On May 24th, an 18-year-old male gunman named Salvador Ramos entered the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and proceeded to kill nineteen students, two teachers, and wounded two officers.
The perpetrator was reportedly shot and killed by a Border Patrol Tactical Unit agent after barricading himself inside the school.
Unsurprisingly, with emotions running high and gun control debates raging on in the aftermath of the tragedy, video games have once again found themselves being blamed as a direct contributor to the horrific event.
One such individual who turned to scapegoat the medium was former lead rewards designer for World of Warcraft and current Possibility Space gameplay director Russ Petersen, who on May 25th tweeted, “If you work on a video game that uses modern day firearms to shoot other humans you need a real hard look in the mirror tonight.”
However, rather than an uproar of support, Petersen’s order was soon met with a massive amount of pushback from both players and developers.
“No Russ, they don’t,” stamped out YouTuber and Bellular Games managing director Michael “Bellular Warcraft” Bell.
Bell also shared a 2019 graph visualizing the “violent gun death data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation”.
Created by Vox for a 2019 article headlined “Why video games aren’t causing America’s gun problem, in one chart”, the chart shows no correlation between gun violence and the popularity of video games, as evidenced by the lower amount of gun deaths in other countries with high amounts of video game revenue..
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@YokaiRiderVT highlighted the hypocrisy of Petersen’s claim in light of his love of Warhammer 40,000, asserting, “Sir your background image is literally a battalion of fascist space marines hell-bent on killing everything in their path, please be silent.”
“No Russ, I think it’s you who needs the look in the mirror,” countered former Activision and Blizzard entertainment social media manager and strategist Alex Ackerman, before denouncing, “This rhetoric is wrong. And the fact that you, as a senior leader in this industry are pushing it is atrocious.”
“Video games don’t kill people, guns do, period. We don’t need game dev reform, we need gun control,” demanded the current Apex Legends Global Social Media Lead.
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“Guns are a cultural problem in the US,” Petersen replied to Ackerman. “The way we portray guns in media is not the root cause, but it is also blind ignorance to say that glorification of that gun culture in video games is not a contributor to desensitization. I want reform. Our industry is not helping.”
“I am personally not okay with that being what I put out in to the world anymore,” he continued. “Everyone has to make their own decisions about where they draw the line. I don’t know what else I can do to help in the face of such a massive problem, but I can make things not worse.”
“Russ, If you don’t want to contribute to creating games like this that is your personal choice,” said Twitch streamer @Nerdacide. “Shaming others and adding to the rhetoric that video games are the cause of gun violence isn’t the way. The US needs gun controls and reform.”
“I have never said that video games cause violence,” Petersen insisted to the streamer. “What I am saying is that the pro-gun culture being promoted is antithetical to the controls and reform that are necessary. Laws are written and have not been passed because of ideology and cultural norms that games contribute to.”
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“It is essential to recognize the connection between those things and make choices about to proceed,” Petersen concluded. “The primary cause of gun violence is the prevalence of guns. Guns are prevalent in the US because of our culture. Media shapes culture. Games are media. Games have a lot of guns.”
However, despite the insistence of Petersen and numerous others that the playing of violent video games translates to real world violence, the fact that it does not has already been settled multiple times over.
A 2020 paper from New Zealand’s Massey University found that “longitudinal studies do not appear to support substantive long-term links between aggressive game content and youth aggression”, nor did they find “evidence for the assertion that these small effects might accumulate over time.”
This is in addition to similar studies from 2020, two – one being a self-declared “definitive” study from Oxford University – from 2019, 2017, two from 2016, 2015, and 2008.
Many of these studies involved psychologist Chris Ferguson, a noted researcher on the topic of video game violence and real-world behaviors who has routinely found no correlation between the two, who himself eventually pushed back against Petersen’s declarations.
“Moral panic,” Ferguson dismissed in reply to Petersen’s initial tweet.
What do you think? Let us know on social media and in the comments below!
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