In the wake of the devastating Sandy Hook tragedy, the country has been scrambling for answers. As is often the case in the aftermath, people need to find reasons or someone to blame for what could only be considered a heinous act perpetrated by a disturbed individual.
Video games have been singled out both by genuinely concerned individuals as well as any and seemingly every politician who needs a platform to stand on. We have also seen utter hypocrisy in action as the NRA quickly points to video games as the cause for this tragedy and shortly after releases a shooting game on the IOS platform.
Normally, I would steer clear of this discussion as it has already been shown in studies that video games aren’t a cause for terrible events such as Sandy Hook and the discussion itself has been beaten to death but watching a video from my favorite video game reviewer/journalist/guru Adam Sessler brought up some interesting points about language and how we as a community might be part to blame for becoming the scapegoat during times of terrible violence.
Why I call myself a Gamer
The term gamer is a label I happily associate with, it is a way that signifies not only do I play games but I embrace the culture surrounding it. It also is shorthand for describing a particular mindset that would otherwise require a lengthy explanation. Gamers are those who help cure diseases, we spend days on end raising money for charities, we help support the economy, and we are responsible for bringing games into the mainstream so much in fact a video game is the top grossing entertainment product of all time. I also believe that Gamers are individuals who question the world around them, challenge norms, and most importantly have stayed connected to our childhood in a way most others cannot.
It’s not all sunshine and roses though, the gamer culture is still predominantly male and as such can have a predilection to sexism or chauvinism. We tend to become absorbed in our hobby, sometimes to the detriment of other things in our lives.
The reason I call myself a gamer is that I love games, I enjoy reading about them, watching videos about them, playing them, and debating about them. I enjoy participating in a story or creating my own through a series of random events that happen in that world.
Games don’t kill people, Violent people kill people
It is no secret that a large proportion of video game titles feature violence, that top grossing entertainment product I mentioned? Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, a game that is all about shooting enemies and then going into multiplayer and doing the same to other players participating. I will be the first to say that I enjoy these competitive games and there is something cathartic in besting other living opponents. What is so often overlooked is that for someone to think to themselves, “Hey ya know what? I quite like shooting people in the face in this video game. I bet it would be a riot to do it in real life” they have a serious mental condition. If there were no violent video games, these same individuals would find another impetus for their terror. You can also consider the fact that these games are played all across the world yet the statistics for violent behavior vary greatly from one country to the next. I don’t claim to have an solution to this problem, claiming I did would be an act of hubris on my part. Solving is requires honest, frank discussion free of political leaning with everyone participating. My only point is that one entertainment product cannot be singled out when all media contains serious amounts of terrible violence in it.
The other argument is that by putting the player in control of the action it makes the violence worse which I strongly disagree with. Some of the most extreme violence I have seen in video games also tends to place significant weight on it and by being in control of the action I have felt a very real and deep reaction to it that in no way resembled “yeah I could do this in real life.” You might say that the mentally unstable among us would be unable to infer that weight and you would be correct. The solution isn’t banning violent video games though, because the mentally unstable will remain unstable and will still have trouble suppressing violent urges. What we need to be rallying for is greater support for mental health and supporting legislation that makes seeking that help and getting the required medication easier and cheaper to obtain. Violence will always be a part of the world, it is a sad fact. All we can do is try and do our best to counter and stop it, but getting rid of one product in a sea of violent media will not solve it nor will getting rid of all violent media. We need to dig to the heart of the problem and have meaningful dialogue about the nature of the problem before we will ever be able to resolve the issue.
Cracked.com has also written an article that is as funny as it is informative and insightful.