Violent Video Games: Background
Violent video games are popular with male and female children, adolescents, and adults. They have been successfully marketed to youth and are easily obtained regardless of age (e.g., Buchman & Funk, 1996; Federal Trade Commission, 2000; Walsh, 1999). Even the U.S. government has created and distributes violent video games to youths, and does so without checking the ages of those to whom it distributes the game (i.e., the game America's Army, which can be downloaded from the Internet or can be obtained from recruiting offices).
Public attention and debate about violent video games has been one of the few positive outcomes of the horrendous spate of school shootings by boys with a history of playing violent video games [e.g., West Paducah, Kentucky (December, 1997); Jonesboro, Arkansas (March, 1998); Springfield, Oregon (May, 1998), Littleton, Colorado (April, 1999), Santee, California (March, 2001), Wellsboro, Pennsylvania (June, 2003) and Red Lion, Pennsylvania (April, 2003)]. Other violent crimes have also been linked by the news media to violent video games, including a violent crime spree in Oakland, California (January, 2003); five homicides in Long Prairie and Minneapolis, Minnesota (May, 2003); beating deaths in Medina, Ohio (November, 2002) and Wyoming, Michigan (November, 2002); and the Washington, DC, “Beltway” sniper shootings (Fall, 2002). As early as 2000 the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation included “fascination with violence-filled entertainment” as one of the warning signs characteristic of school shooters (O'Toole, 2000, p. 20). More directly relevant to video games, this report noted that the high-risk student “spends inordinate amounts of time playing video games with violent