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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Role of Asperger’s Syndrome and Violet Videogames in Sandy Hook School Shootings

I am writing as I watch the news coverage on the school shootings. It is terribly sad. It is hard to imagine anyone who could hurt innocent children and innocent teachers trying hard to be good educators.

As I learn more about Adam Lanza, I understand that the shooter suffered from Asperger's syndrome and also played violent video games. My research on Internet addiction shows these two variables can lead to aggressive and violent behavior. I have seen how Asperger's syndrome is a significant risk factor in developing online gaming addiction and work with parents on prevention.

Asperger’s syndrome does not cause violent behavior, although, much has been discussed in the media about its role in the tragic school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary.  It is common that Asperger’s children have a loss of impulse-control, making them unpredictable, and they have trouble processing and expressing feelings. This can make them volatile and angry, as Adam Lanza is described.

Asperger’s children tend to be highly intelligent children who suffer significant difficulties in social interaction. My research has found that these same children are attracted to the Internet because it equalizes their social difficulties in real life by communicating through the computer. Plus, they often become addicted to online games for the mental and intellectual stimulation that they offer.

If the game is a violent game, like the ones that Adam played, this may create violent behavior. Games play is active whereas watching TV is passive. People learn better when they are actively involved. Players of violent video games are more likely to identify with a violent character. Asperger's children as well as children in general are more likely to behave aggressively themselves when they identify with a violent character. Asperger's children lack a clear identity in the real world but online they gain a sense of identity through their gaming characters (earning status and power) which makes these games very addictive.

Violent games directly reward violent behavior, such as by awarding points or by allowing players to advance to the next game level. In some games, players are rewarded through verbal praise, such as hearing the words "Nice shot!" after killing an enemy. It is well known that rewarding behavior increases its frequency.

We should not underestimate the role of violent games in the events of the Sandy Hook school shootings. These games allow players to practice killing and to get into the mindset to shoot and to kill. Given that Asperger’s children have difficulties expressing emotion – these games can feed into feeling of underlying rage or aggression. These games dehumanize people. To Adam Lanza, he may have harbored so much rage and anger that he killed children without thinking of them as human beings. Unfortunately, none of these children had another game life.