The years-long debate over violent video games has reignited after this week's deadly shooting spree at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard. The shooter, Aaron Alexis, was reported by friends to have spent countless hours playing first-person shooter games like Call of Duty. Alexis also had exhibited signs of mental health issues like paranoid schizophrenia. The combination of mental issues and violent games can be dangerous, according to Houston clinical psychologist Ed Reitman. "This eventually can lead to a confusion between reality and the game," he tells KTRH. "And after awhile, your reality becomes the game."
That theory is at odds with a recent study from Texas A&M that suggests violent video games do not fuel aggressive behavior. Dr. Reitman says that is true for most people, but for people with mental issues like Alexis, violent games can definitely impact their behavior. "You have an individual who is sick to begin with, and anything of that nature--a hostile, provocative type of interaction--is going to send him over the edge." Whether video games are what ultimately sent Aaron Alexis "over the edge" is debatable, but there is nearly universal agreement about the need to better recognize and deal with mental health disorders. "The only way we can help is by dealing more effectively with individuals who have mental health problems," says Reitman. "So that when they're exposed to violent content, their mental health is in a better condition."
Coincidentally, the debate about violent video games in the aftermath of the D.C. shootings comes on the same week that one of the most anticipated video games of the year was released--Grand Theft Auto V. Already, critics are calling out the new game for its violent content, including one torture scene called "most disturbing" by the gaming site Eurogamer. Nevertheless, gamers were lined up by the thousands for GTA's release, and it will likely be as successful as its predecessors in the franchise.