Lots of people play violent video games. A few people who've played violent video games have gone on to do some seriously heinous violent stuff in real life. While the coincidence might provide a cheeky headline for a think piece, the actual data are not suggestive of a causal link between playing violent video games and committing actual violence; in fact, violent gaming might make us better, less violent, more "morally sensitive" human beings in real life. But why should advocates for censorship let inconvenient facts ruin a perfectly good scapegoat?
The power of moral panics to increase, rather than decrease, sales of controversial games was evident ten years ago. Commenting on the battle to censor Rockstar's Manhunt 2, Seth Scheisel of the New York Times wrote in October 2007, "Manhunt 2 has received free publicity and media attention it would have never enjoyed were it not for the presumably unwitting complicity of the ratings boards and self-appointed media watchdogs." If violent games remain on the shelves, people with keep buying them—and toothless calls for censorship become accidental advertisements for them.
In the following examples, the ensuing moral panics about violent video games probably fueled sales of the games they railed against. (In each of these instances, we're not going to waste the internet ink it would take to reprint the killers' names.) In 1999, the teenage shooters at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado were fans of id Software's Doom series. One of them even made WADs—downloadable user-made levels—for Doom II.
On June 7, 2003, an 18-year-old shot and killed three police officers at the police station in Fayette, Alabama. Later, at his arrest, he reportedly said, "Life is like a video game. Everybody's got to die sometime." (This case led to the downfall of the once and future enemy of gaming, dirty trickster and then-lawyer Jack Thompson.) Then, in December 2012, a weird kid who'd played violent games such as Call of Duty went on to murder toddlers at Sandy Hook elementary school. (Call of Duty, an immensely popular franchise, received a ton of free publicity from that tragedy, taking over headlines and inspiring major pushback from its massive fanbase.)
The shooting that happened at a camp in Norway in 2011, though, was altogether different. The shooter wasn't just a self-professed gamer; in April 2012, he gave sworn testimony that he had used Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for training purposes. As a consequence, Norway banned the series, which did have a negative effect on sales. Actual censorship is rarely good for game companies.