We love dunking on low-information people when they say “video games cause violence” because, of course, they don’t. But nobody expected Joe Rogan to jump on this sinking boomer boat.
Yes. Joe Rogan.
In a video on his show titled, “Video Games Romanticize Wars,” Joe Rogan agrees with his guest Sgt. Dakota Meyer that video games are bad.
I felt as a gamer myself, and someone rather well-versed on political theory, that I had to launch the war-cry, “SILENCE! JOE ROGAN!”
Breaking the video down
The video, an extract of a longer conversation, talks about the helpfulness of the American people.
The conversation, however, quickly flowed to how technology has made us less empathetic and sympathetic to people. Naturally, video games were spotted on the radar for the next attack.
Meyer claimed, “[Video games make people feel like] I just wanna go kick in doors and shoot people in the face.”
He further expressed his views by adding, “Kids talk about ‘did you kill somebody?’ There’s nothing cool about taking someone’s life.”
Of course, there is nothing cool about killing someone in real life. But moving on, Meyer began rambling about how the more graphic violent video games are, the more they desensitize players. “We have pushed ourselves away from being more empathetic.”
Joe Rogan eventually jumps in agreement. “We’ve had more violence in film and video games ever, but yet we’ve never had less ‘violence’ violence.” He added, “people who play these games have never seen a body. To them, it’s empty to shoot people.”
Rogan concludes by saying that people are being numbed by “fake violence” and have no experience with the “real stuff” so they conflate the two.
“What good comes out of shooting hookers in GTA V?”
So. Many. Hot. Takes. To. Take. Down.
The evidence against Rogan
According to Psychology Today, “there is not solid, irrefutable evidence that violent video games lead to aggressive behaviour.”
While reports and studies have, at times, shown mixed results. It turns out that there is no correlation or causation between the two variables.
Research conducted at Oxford University concluded the same. Professor Andre Przybylski says, “the idea that violent video games drive real-world aggression is a popular one, but it hasn’t tested very well over time. Despite interest in the topic by parents and policy-makers, the research has not demonstrated that there is cause for concern.”
“It is a red herring to blame video games,” says Patrick Markey, director of The Interpersonal Research Laboratory and professor of Psychology at Villanova University.
Rogan’s, and Meyer’s, claims are false. In a broader societal aspect, too, do we see a confirmation of the research conducted.
“We live in a society”
Meyer’s claim, that people are becoming eager to “kick doors” and “shoot people in the face” is largely false.
A survey conducted by the RAND corporation found out that most people that join the military do so due to economic reasons, rather than patriotic.
In fact, a third of the soldiers said welfare benefits (healthcare, education, etc) were the main reason they joined the military.
With the power of the military-industrial complex and its connections to sway narrative in the mainstream media and Capitol Hill, it should come as a surprise to nobody that war is a business more than it is a desire to “kill terrorists and spread democracy.”
I am pretty sure that when Rambo came about and openly supported the Mujahideen against the Soviets, no American teenager seriously wanted to immediately go fight in Afghanistan.
This goes on to explain why candidates like Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard, and even Libertarians such as Rand Paul, receive huge praise when they call for an end to wars.
As we move away from the dodgy claims of the “romanticization of wars,” we move to another obvious target: gun violence.
Guns have existed for a long time. In America, they have been legal since America has existed.
Yet, we see a spike in gun violence only in recent times. This violence has to do with tribalism and alienation more than it has to do with video games.
As a society, the rise of populism came from a general dissatisfaction with neoliberalism. The “End of History,” as Francis Fukuyama put it, is rubbish, as Fukuyama later corrected himself for.
Karl Marx, in an economic sense, has extensively written about alienation. That people cannot afford the fruit of their own labour. In an America that has seen a humungous rise in income inequality and lack of basic services for the poor, alienation should come as no surprise to anyone.
This alienation leads to anxiety which leads to a desire for change. This culminates in populism which can be championed by both the Left (Bernie Sanders) and the Right (Donald Trump).
This intense division, coupled with anxiety caused due to economic and even social alienation, leads to tribalism and radicalism.
Video games have absolutely no part to play in the culmination of our society to this stage. The US isn’t even the largest consumer of video games, for that matter.
Clearly, Joe Rogan must dig deeper, like he always does, instead of relying on cultural panic.
Gamers will win
There is no scientific evidence that highlights violent video games cause aggressive behaviour. Scaling this up, there is also no evidence that video games romanticize wars or gun violence.
In fact, as Joe Rogan quite rightly said about the video game God of War last year, violent video games are “BADASS!”