Opinion: Biden is wrong on violent video games, but he’s not the only one

The former vice president recently commented on how video games train people to kill. They don’t.


Jenna Galligan

Former Vice President and 2020 democratic candidate Joe Biden greets attendees following his speech at the opening of his campaign office on S. Gilbert St. on Wednesday, August 7, 2019.

Peyton Downing, Columnist

There are often moral panics about the most recent development about whatever’s popular. There’s TikTok now, and social media before that, and rock music before that. A decade ago, that panic was centered around violent video games — a panic of which former Vice President Joe Biden has apparently not let go.

In an interview with the New York Times, Biden was asked about the expansion of Silicon Valley’s power during the Obama administration. 

“At one point, one of the little creeps sitting around that table, who was a multi — close to a billionaire — who told me he was an artist because he was able to come up with games to teach you how to kill people,” Biden said in reference to a meeting some Valley executives.

It is despicable that someone being considered as a candidate for president would resort to such ludicrous rhetoric. There are multiple studies that show either no causation or correlation between playing violent video games and violent actions.

Even in studies that do find some correlation, it is lower than that of consuming other violent media such as TV shows.

Scapegoating serious issues based on whatever new thing old people don’t understand has gone on far too long. And it’s not just video games that are suffering from this mythmaking.

This isn’t just a failing on Biden’s part, however. The current administration has also decried violence in video games, having called together various members of the industry to discuss the possible link to real-world violence.

Scapegoating serious issues based on whatever new thing old people don’t understand has gone on far too long. And it’s not just video games that are suffering from this mythmaking.

Many have pilloried social media as the cause of depression in young people. And while that may be a major factor, it is not the sole one. Depression is increasing in everyone — up by 33 percent since 2013 — not just teenagers.

Relatively harmless things such as video games and Instagram may have a hand in creating some issues, but to point at them and say that they alone are what’s causing things to go wrong is irresponsible, doubly so on our policymakers.

Policymakers have an excuse to not address these issues by pinning the problems to single causes. Why bother educating yourself and fighting for sensible gun-control legislation when you can just tell people to not have their kids play video games? Why address the severe need for expanded mental-health care in schools when you can just tell people to stop using social media?

It is reprehensible to still have any politician making these points when there are much greater causes for alarm. Do we need to talk about violent video games when it’s possible that 15 to 37 percent of all species on earth in 30 years? When neo-Nazi terror cells are active inside U.S. borders?

Biden may have spoken with disdain towards video game executives, but that’s not the end of the world.

What is the end of the world is what he, and many others, are vigorously ignoring — increasing wealth gaps, far-right terror, climate extinction, and much more.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.