Sample Article Critique: “Why We Need Violent Video Games” by Ethan Gilsdorf

Article Critique: “Why We Need Violent Video Games” by Ethan Gilsdorf

On December, 14, 2012, the American community woke up to the astonishing events of the shooting of 20 elementary school pupils and six adults by a 20 years old Adam Lanza. Following the shootings, people from all walks, including the government, the media, and physiatrists took to untangle the event. There are numerous arguments and counter arguments of people trying to explain the possible causes of the shooting. While some analysts argue that childhood exposure to violent video game might have contributed to Lanza’s action, others held that the young man might have been suffering from a psychological problem. This essay analyzes the thoughts of one analyst Ethan Gilsdorf as expressed in his article “Why We Need Violent Video Games”.

In his article published on January 17, 2013, Gilsdorf seeks to disparage the notion that exposure to violent video games might have contributed to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. According to him, violent video games are only scapegoats; it may not necessarily have played any role. Criticizing the proposals targeting to regulate children’s access to violent video games, Gilsdorf argues that video game may be adopted as a possible measure to fight school shootings (2013). For instance, he trivializes the community-based program that called for the replacement of lethal video games with more family-oriented games. In his view, the community-based program, commissioned by vice president Biden, was cut short for fear of negative publicity (2013).

While justifying the violent video games, Gilsdorf argues that they provide an opportunity for children to exercise their fantasies and outlet aggression. According to him, the human psyche needs a platform to experience violent activities, such as shootings and killings (Gildsorf, 2013). Violent games are non-harmful ways of exploring such dangerous adventures to satisfy the inner psyche. In addition, Gilsdorf refutes the view that aggressive video games may inspire real-life felonies, giving examples of games that are not exercised in reality. For instance, people do not jump out of airplanes despite the numerous video games that involve parachuting. Conversely, Gilsdorf blames underlying psychological problems for the increased incidences of school shootings.

Although Gilsdorf introduces a valid argument that violent video games may be used to curb school shootings, contrary to most American’s views, there are various loopholes in his presentation. Firstly, he fails to acknowledge or even comment on the several scientific studies that have identified a link between exposures to violent games and the school shootings. For example, a study by Bond (2011) established a positive correlation between exposure to violent video games and the school shootings. In proving the contrary, Gilsdorf ought to have paid a credit to such studies. Nonetheless, Gilsdorf’s proposition that violent games offer a platform to outlet killing fantasies lays ground for further scientific exploration.

According to Gilsdorf, playing violent video games may offer adventurous scenarios, such as hunting and killing. However, are such scenarios enough to keep a prospective shooter away from real-life shooting? The author of this paper holds that violent video games should not be upheld on the basis of their ability to prevent real-life explorations. Moreover, prolonged exposure to violent scenes has been found to increase mental desensitization to real-life brutality (Carnagey, 2007). Although not all shooters have been identified as violent game-lovers, some school shooting culprits are said to be great fans of violent games (Carnagey, 2007). For example, the Sandy Hook shooter is said to have been a great lover of violent scenes since childhood. Although his favorite game was a non-lethal “Dance Dance Revolution,” the New York Times reported that his life was predominantly occupied with video games (Berger & Santora). His love for the “Dance Dance Revolution,” a game that involves dancing with dancers, might have been as a result of his withdrawal from the society. He enjoyed interacting with dancers in the fantasy world rather than intermingling with people in the real world.

Just as Gilsdorf explains, psychosocial malfunctions are possible causes of random shooting incidences. However, this does not exclude exposure to brutal video games from the possible causes of schools shootings. Firstly, scholars have proved that most random shooters show abnormal physical and mental behaviors prior to the incidence (Dikel, 2012). For example, a prospective shooter may appear psychologically disturbed and often withdraws from the social interactions. Further, the author of this paper concurs that the society can be blamed for the increased shootings. The society does not only fail to recognize a prospective culprit but also neglects its children, exposing them to the risk of becoming violent. For example, studies have shown that social neglect may drive one into such heinous acts, including school shootings and violent crimes (Rocque, 2012).

Finally, both exposure to video games and various psychological problems can contribute to random shootings. Although the degree to which each of the two factors contributes to gun violence is debatable, none can be ruled out in favor of the other. In the attempts to establish a solution to the increased rates of school shootings, policy makers should consider how both psychological trauma and exposure to violent video games can be addressed, both individually and jointly.


Berger, J., & Santora, M. (2013, November 25). Chilling Look at Newtown Killer, but No ‘Why’. Retrieved November 25, 2014, from

Bond, D. (2011). The Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggressive Behavior and the Relationship to School Shootings (Doctoral dissertation, Bond University).

Carnagey, N. L., Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2007). The effect of video game violence on physiological desensitization to real-life violence. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology43(3), 489-496.

Dikel, W. (2012). School Shootings and Student Mental Health-What Lies Beneath the Tip of the Iceberg.

Gilsdorf, E. ( Jan 17, 2013). Why We Need Violent Video Games. Cognoscenti

Rocque, M. (2012). Exploring school rampage shootings: Research, theory, and policy. The Social Science Journal49(3), 304-313.