Santa Barbara Killings Remind Us of Violent Video Games’ Role in Culture

Profile view of a young man

Video games are in the news more and more – and usually, it’s not for good reasons.

Gaming is sometimes blamed in the growing trend where young men are finding it increasingly difficult to achieve major life milestones like moving out of their parents’ house, going to college, getting married and starting a family. Some of these men are stuck in a prolonged adolescence; one stat says 18-to- 34-year-old men spend more time playing video games than 12-to- 17-year-old boys.

The connection between many of our nation’s troubled young men and violent video games has also become increasingly worrisome.

Young man looks into sunsetThe tragic killings in Santa Barbara are just the latest example of a young man who enjoyed violent video games committing unspeakable, deadly acts.  NBC News reports an unauthenticated document purportedly written by Elliot Rodger describes how “the writer’s only release was to disappear into marathon sessions playing … World of Warcraft.”

Obviously, connection doesn’t mean causation. Cases like the Santa Barbara murders are complicated, with many factors at play, and ultimately it comes down to sin in the human heart. Like Focus’ own media discernment ministry, Plugged In, recently wrote:

It’s impossible to say that games create killers or cause them to go on bloody rampages, of course. But what’s more clear is the correlation between violent games and how they affect young players’ behavior. A number of studies have documented significant ways that games seem to shape the moral development of young gamers…

But it is safe to say this: something that has the potential to impact the development and future of our young people is something moms and dads should diligently monitor and be up-to-date on.

Helping parents understand video games

Today’s Focus on the Family broadcast, “Addressing Video Games in Today’s Culture,” is designed to help parents learn about the mainstream culture of video gaming. The two-part broadcast featuring a panel of video game players and reviewers describes how video games and gamers have changed significantly in just a generation. Most importantly, the broadcast will provide moms and dads with practical takeaways that will equip them to teach their children discernment when it comes to games.

Cover art for Plugged-In Parenting bookAs always, you can tune in to the broadcast through your local radio station, online or via our free, downloadable app.

You can also receive a free copy of “Plugged-In Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids with Love, Not War,” which tackles the issue of family-based media discernment, for your gift of any size.


Focus on the Family has helped 560,000 parents manage a significant family crisis within the last year alone. Partner with our ministry and join Friends of Family to help us ensure that families have access to Christian counsel and Bible-based resources year-round.

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Leave a Comment

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree with this article.
Mike Ruman More than 1 year ago
I have young kids. If they play a violent video game, and I'm talking mild violence, I see a direct correlation to their behavior. 

For example, one game my son and I LOVE to play is Lego Marvel Superheros. The only problem is once we're done playing that I notice him thumping on his younger brother and sisters. I talk to him about his behavior and if he does that after playing the game we won't be able to play that game anymore. I think he gets it. I put the burden on my, the parent, to watch what he plays and how he reacts after playing it.

Darren Terpstra More than 1 year ago
I think that the over-use of video games comes from a sense of isolation. These days we are more "connected" than ever with our social media, but is it true connection? I think this is pushing people further and further into isolation as they see the highlights of their "friends'" lives, but they never actually hang out or do anything exciting with real-life friends. This pushes people into an imaginary world where their alternative life has some sort of meaning. Eventually their identity becomes more ingrained there than in reality.