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Gabrielle Giffords and NRA are both right about one thing: US culture of violence

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Meanwhile, the video game industry works closely with the military and gun manufacturers to ensure that their virtual weaponry, from the PM-63 submachine gun to the C-130 gunship, behaves just like the real thing. Some game companies have direct contracts with the Department of Defense, manufacturing hardware and software for military applications.

It’s easy to see why the US Army runs recruitment ads in gamer magazines and maintains a popular online game called America’s Army.

While the industry denies any link between violent interactive media and real-world beliefs and behaviors, studies have shown that playing violent video games is associated with higher rates of hostility, more pro-violence attitudes, and a decrease in players’ ability to empathize with others, particularly those who are suffering.

Computer video games are in fact the most powerful medium ever devised for altering perception and behavior. That’s why psychologists use them to help patients overcome post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), why pilots are trained on flight simulators, and why the military uses them to train soldiers.

So what does it mean that millions of boys and young men are spending their free time “training” to kill?

Whether knifing or setting fire to prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto, or mowing down scores of racially stereotyped Arabs in some fictional Middle Eastern country, male video-game players are being taught to associate representations of mass slaughter, torture, and other antisocial acts with play and pleasure. They are being told that to be a “real” man is to come to others heavily armed.

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