With the recent furor over the issue of gun control being brought to the forefront of the media due to the horrific shooting last December, the gaming industry has once again been brought into this controversy. Does violence in video games truly influence our kids to commit said violence in the real world? Are violent movies and, more recently, video games to blame for young kids feeling the need to take matters into their own hands and resort to violence?
I want to start off with a disclaimer. I am a card carrying member of the vast right-wing conspiracy, so some of my views will come off this way. This, of course is an opinion piece, so it should no way reflect the views of the hosts on this great network.
In the wake of any national tragedy, we all strive to find out “why” this happened. How did it happen? Were there any signs to prevent this? Notably with violent crimes, people start to ask how we can prevent this from happening again. Blame is passed around, but never in the right places it seems. Gun-Violence, especially when the perpetrater is a Teen or young adult, is typically associated with the entertainment industry and their seeming glorification of violent acts.
Whenever this argument is brought up, I am reminded of a quote from a late ’90s comic book by Jhonen Vasquez:
“Any pile of stunted growth unaware that entertainment is just that and nothing else should doom themselves to some dank cell somewhere for having been so stupid. Movies, books, TV, music: they’re all just entertainment, not guidebooks for damning yourselves.” – Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Issue 1
Yes you read the name of that comic book correctly. “Johhny the Homicidal Maniac” was a comic strip that pushed a lot of boundaries. The protagonist was a villain, and this quote from the main character was the author’s way of silencing critics of his piece of art.
Video games are also forms of art. The sheer amount of creativity and passion that goes into the development of these games is on a level we only saw before in the movie industry. Certain game studios’ legacies are defined by one game sometimes, but that one game is heralded as a moving and unique experience. Games allow us as people to interact with our entertainment on a level never previously seen. When you go watch a live musician play a room, you sit and listen but that is where the interaction ends. In a game, especially a game like Skyrim or any major MMO, YOU define the world around you through your actions.
Actions in a game and actions in reality are two separate things entirely. Anti-game politicians would like to make us think differently. If they can prove that shooting a Nazi soldier in an early Call of Duty game caused a 16 year old boy to bring a gun to school, they would shove it down our throats in a heartbeat. Anything to pass the buck from the real issues in the child’s life to something else. Everything and everybody needs a scapegoat. It couldn’t possibly be the fault of the system the politician helped put in place. No, games, and violent games especially are to blame.
But if violent media brings on violent actions in people, why are we having this conversation now as opposed to the early days of cinema? Books with violent scenes are never to blame, nor are movies anymore, because we have come to accept the violence they portray as pure fiction. Why can’t people accept that games are the same way? It’s simple really: that would mean that the parents of these kids would be blamed, and we can’t have that anymore. Personal accountability and good parenting seem to be at a minimum in this great country of ours.
When a child goes into a game store to buy a game, there are systems in place already to prohibit the sale of certain titles to kids under a certain age. M-rated games can only be bought by those 17 or older, and if a 13 year old wants to purchase one, the parent needs to be present to give consent. It starts with the parents. We have a responsibility to our children to make sure they understand right from wrong, real from fake. If you don’t want your child to play a super gory zombie game, don’t let them buy it. Tell the parents of their friends what rules you have in place pertaining to the games they are allowed to play. Discipline your child when they break that rule. Most importantly though, talk to them. Explain why they do not need to be exposed to this type of content until they are a bit older and more mature.
No scientific evidence shows that violent games bring out violent tendencies in those who play them. A Supreme Court ruling agreed with the science and gave video games the same First Amendment protections as other Art forms. Justice Antonin Scalia in his majority opinion states this fact very plainly:
“Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively.”
In fact, while America does have the highest gun violence rate in the world, when it comes to gun related violence and video game spending per capita, it is the lowest in terms of how many games are purchased. So if that is the case and more violent video games cause more violent crimes, wouldn’t our crime rate be lower than all the other countries who spend more on games? As long as we spend our time and energy going after something that won’t fix our issues, these same crimes will keep happening.
As I stated at the beginning of this: I am a conservative. I believe in the freedoms afforded us in our Constitution. I believe that we as a citizenry should have access to firearms, but I also believe that stricter regulations need to be put in place in order to obtain them. The right to bear arms and the ability to bear arms are two totally different things. I hate guns, but I also know that guns aren’t what kill people. It is the tool in which another person uses. Forks don’t make you fat, but they are instrumental in being the tool to help get you there.
People who really want to weed out violent crimes, whether it be guns or otherwise, need to stop pointing a finger in the direction of an industry that does not influence the crime themselves. Look to the broken homes of those who commit them. Look to the ghettos and the gangs on the streets. Clean that up, not our games. Allow us as parents to do our job and teach our children while you may be able to shoot this person in game, it is in the end just that: a game. Teach your children to put the controller down once and a while and go play some football, tennis or just plain get out of the house. Vote politicians into office who will crack down on areas where science supports correlations to gun violence.
In conclusion, the point I’m trying to stress is that we need to become more accountable for our actions. Infinity Ward is not responsible for someone pulling a trigger, the person holding that gun is. Nobody else. And until we as a people recognize that the way to fix this issue starts at home with parents actually parenting, putting our children in an environment to succeed and stop making excuses for failures, this cycle will continue. Washington needs to stop looking where the problem isn’t and start trying to come up with meaningful solutions instead of passing blame.