Updated: Oct 6
It is an exciting time to be involved with esports! More and more schools are adopting scholastic gaming programs every semester, and more and more colleges are taking notice and offering esports scholarships. As esports become more widespread in schools, the concern about gun violence in video games is often a topic of discussion. With school shootings and the safety of staff and students at the forefront of people’s minds, it is understandable that there can be hesitancy about implementing the very popular first-person shooter games in schools.
As video games have become a given in almost every child’s life, robust research has been done to understand the connection between violent video games and violence among students. Research continues to show that there is not a connection between violence in video games and violence in the real world. It is important that stakeholders have all the information they can to make the best decisions about including some of the most popular esports games in their scholastic gaming programs.
The American Psychological Association (APA) has recently reaffirmed their 2015 resolution that strongly suggested that video games are not the cause of violent behavior, stating, “Attributing violence to video gaming is not scientifically sound and draws attention away from other factors, such as a history of violence, which [we] know from the research is a major predictor of future violence.” Violence is a very “complex social problem” according to the APA, and there are many factors that contribute to it…but video game violence isn’t one of them (Varsity Esports Foundation).
Other associations have also come to similar conclusions with their own studies. In their report Essential Facts About Games and Violence, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) also shared compelling data. Since 1998, the United States has seen a steady decrease in violent crimes while video game sales have steadily increased (Varsity Esports Foundation).
The news group Vox demonstrated this idea in a different way. Vox pointed out that the US is the only country with high video games sales which also has a serious problem with violent gun deaths. Out of the top 10 countries in terms of video games sales, the United States is the only country that has a violent gun death rate of over 1 per 100,000 people–and the US far surpasses every other country on that list by a factor of more than three (Varsity Esports Foundation).
One safeguard that concerned parties can rely on is the ESRB rating system. Most of the popular esports that include guns are rated “T for Teen,” and are suggested for ages 13+. These games include popular titles such as Overwatch, Valorant, and League of Legends. Although these games include guns, the violence is very much of the cartoon and fantasy variety. Guns are not realistic and characters are using magical or sci-fi powers as much as they are shooting. The level of violence in these games is similar to popular film franchises such as the universally-loved Marvel and Star Wars movies.
If there is any type of controversy about video games, why even include them? Esports helps schools meet students where they are. Ninety-nine percent of boys and 94% of girls under 18 play video games (Varsity Esports Foundation). Harnessing that passion as a positive tool for your school is powerful. Esports clubs and video game-related classes give educators a great way to connect with their students. These programs help educators and students connect. Scholastic gaming gives students who have nothing keeping them at school a place to belong, compete, and see success. Early data for schools adopting esports clubs and curriculum are seeing an increase in GPA of up to 1.7 and an increase in attendance by 10% (Custer).
Parents and school districts make the safety of their students and staff their number one priority, so efforts to protect them from violence are understandable. Data demonstrates that exposure to video game gun violence does not contribute to real-life violence and can help schools make informed decisions about what games to include in their programs. Esports is an amazing resource that schools can use to engage and connect with students and give them a pathway to success and graduation doing something that they love!
Michael Watson is a former high school English teacher and esports advisor. He is now helping schools develop esports programs across the nation at Generation Esports.