Violent video games teach kids to kill using the same mechanisms of classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and social learning employed to train soldiers. The major psychological differentiator between a soldier’s training and a video game player’s training is that soldiers are taught to kill while simultaneously being taught strict discipline. This safeguard operates as a secondary safety catch that prevents soldiers from unlawful or unauthorized killing.In the late 1990s, I was called as an expert witness and consultant in the Timothy McVeigh Oklahoma City bombing case. The defense lawyers contacted me first, explaining that they wanted me to tell the jury how McVeigh’s military experience and his Gulf War training had turned him into a killer. I refused. Since I was on active duty at the time, the lawyers were able to commission a court order signed by the judge that required me to serve as an expert witness as a part of my duty to the army. But in the end it didn’t matter. The defense lawyers did not have the facts on their side. I told them that the reason I would not serve as their expert witness was because they were wrong about McVeigh’s military experience. The returning veteran is less likely to use his skills inappropriately than a nonveteran of the same age and sex. The attorneys continued to push, and then told me something that I found to be very interesting: “You don’t usually admit this as a defense attorney, but we know that our client is guilty and our primary concern is to prevent the death penalty. Timothy McVeigh might die if you don’t help with his defense.” Again, I said no— with a clear conscience.
Are Video Games Teaching Children to Kill?