An almost infinite number of academic articles and essays have been published on the topic of media causality, however, Christopher J. Ferguson’s, Ph.D., The School Shooting/Violent Video Game Link: Causal Relationship or Moral Panic? (2008: 25-37) is one that is particularly effective in its investigation and evaluation of this highly debated and divisive issue. In this article, Ferguson critically examines and evaluates the increased interest and debate within the media, politics and social sciences on the potential causal role of violent video game exposure on youth behaviour since the seemingly concurrent growth of the video game industry and incidence of “serious acts of school violence” and school shootings in the United States during the 1990s (2008: 25). Some of the reasons for the article’s effectiveness include Ferguson’s expertise in the area, inclusion of a wide variety of supporting and critical sources, the depth of his investigation and use of a structured, objective writing form suited to his audience.
As the associate professor and department chair of psychology at Stetson University and editor for the American Psychological Association’s journal on the relationship between video game exposure and mental health, Ferguson brings a highly qualified perspective on the field of media psychology to this ever-raging debate (Stetson University, 2015: 1-2). However, despite his position, Ferguson manages to maintain refreshingly objective throughout the article. Ferguson achieves this by employing sixty one diverse, credible sources, including the widely acclaimed Secret Service report (2002) and FBI report (1999), and examining the evidence on both sides of the debate, all of which facilitate his formulation of a more informed conclusion. This differs to most articles written on this topic, which normally only use conveniently supportive sources and fail to include any counter-evidence or critical studies.
Furthermore, Ferguson actually directly addresses the issue of politicians and social scientists cherry-picking data when debating video game causality by citing the case of ESA, VSDA and IRMA v. Blagojevich, Madigan and Devine (2005), in which the presiding Judge stated that a number of the most ‘acclaimed’ pro-media causality articles had failed “to cite any peer-reviewed studies that had shown a definitive causal link between violent video game play and aggression… (and had) ignored research that reached conflicting conclusions” (2005: 14-15).
Ferguson’s objectivity and formal writing style comes as a result of the intended audience for this article. Published in the Journal of Investigate Psychology and Offender Profiling, Ferguson’s audience is almost entirely made up of academics and experts within the field of media and criminal psychology, as well as policy-makers interested in creating, amending or abolishing legislation concerning the regulation of violent media.
After examining a wide variety of sources and studies related to the media causality theory, Ferguson comes to the conclusion that “no significant relationship between violent video game exposure and school shooting incidents has been demonstrated in the existing scientific literature, and that data from real world violence call such a link into question” (2008: 25). However, Ferguson still asserts that the purpose of this article is not to sway public view towards either side of this debate, but rather to simply stimulate further debate on media causality and violent video games by acting as a “platform for further discourse and research, as well as a potential source of information for public policy” (2008: 34).
For some more info and opinions about the possible link between violent video games and violent behaviour check out any of these Youtube videos!
1. Video games won’t cause violent behaviour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2Jq7vPxYGg
2. Video games can cause short-term violent behaviour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jm_l4jEb6us
3. Video games will cause violent behaviour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMWEg-DdUDg
ESA, VSDA and IRMA v. Blagojevich, Madigan and Devine 2005, case no. 05 C 4265.
Federal Bureau of Investigation 1999, The school shooter: A threat assessment perspective.
Ferguson, C.J. 2008, ‘The School Shooting/Violent Video Game Link: Causal Relationship or Moral Panic?’, Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 5th edition, Behavioural, Applied Sciences and Criminal Justice Department of Texas A&M International University, Laredo, pp 25-37.
Gibbs, N & Roche, T 1999, The Columbine Tapes, Time Magazine, New York City, pp 1.
Klein, E 2012, Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., pp 2.
Stetson University 2015, Christopher Ferguson, Stetson University, DeLand, pp 1-2.
United States Secret Service and United States Department of Education 2002, The final report and findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the prevention of school attacks in the United States.