Recently, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Massacre two competing, and yet oddly coherent, narratives have emerged. Mainly, it is all the Video Games fault, or it is all the guns fault.
Now guns, they have their defenders, whole organizations devoted to their defense, and some very good points have been made in their defense. The national attention is there and the message is well articulated…but there seems to be little defense for Video Games. Or at least none who have made this point.
In response to this and other tragedies Glenn Beck hosted a noted military psychologist on his TV program the other day, and the claim was that we are now raising a generation of killers through video games and the media. That Video Games are teaching people to kill, desensitizing people to kill, and is in effect causing the violence. Media and the rest of the ‘culture’ for that matter.
Now the arguments were very compelling actually, the idea that was presented that video game companies could be using the same tactics that the US Military uses to forge soldiers to sell a product, is interesting. I would buy it even, if it weren’t for one thing.
It’s never happened to me.
Now I want to make it very clear here, Glenn is not advocating for Government actions and bans, he is advocating for the individual to take action. He is simply pointing out what he believes this is a dangerous cultural problem that needs to be fixed through the individual and individual family. The day after his program aired his co host announced he had removed all the violent games, including Lego Indiana Jones, from his home. Beck even said that technology is like fire, it is good if you are the master of it, but bad if it is the master of you. So even he seems to be close to the answer to this problem….
Because it all comes down to the individual.
I am struck by this fact because I have been playing violent video games on and off since I have been..what? Six? Seven? Somewhere around then.
I was playing games like Ape Escape, Spyro the fire-breathing dragon. Crash Bandicoot which involved a…Bandicoot which twisted around in a tornado like pattern and blasted people out-of-the-way… well by people I mean demon spawned animals and stuff…or something…owned by a fat headed guy. Which then later evolved into a game where you were running around a race track launching missiles and bombs and TNT and Nitro at your fellow drivers, either human controlled or not.
To my early teens, playing games like the Medal of Honor Frontline, and Conflict Desert Storm I and II. Battling the Iraqi and Nazi Regimes, taking down tyranny by waging a special war as a Delta or OSS operative.
To my late teens waging a different kind of war in Conflict Global Terror, my first rated M game, which coincidentally involved the charters from Desert Storm fighting Neo Nazis…today.
To my early 20s with the Mass Effect series, the Call of Duty franchises, with blood and guts galore.
But yet, with roughly a 15 year ‘career’ in Video Games, by killing and destroying millions of beings from Nazis, to Trolls, to Cyber Zombies, I have not committed a murder, had nary a violent thought about a classmate or fellow human being, and in point of fact I was a lot more violent before my video game career then after it. But then again I was five, and mighty confused.
In fact I have often used Video Games as a stress relief, when I have had a bad day of school, stressful, or just really pissed, gone on the Play station, and went Orc hunting in Lord of the Rings.
Video games can inspire people to do a whole lot of things, out of jealousy, or ‘teaching them’, or whatever. But it is irresponsible to blame an inanimate object on any of our societies problems. After all it is a lot harder to kill someone with a video game, then a gun! I mean can you just imagine grinding away at a person’s head with a DVD?
The fault is with the individual, the lessons are from the individual, and the lessons are to the individual. The inspiration is to the individual.
Because during the program the Psychologist friend of Glenn’s made the argument that gaming is actually teaching people marksmanship. That people who play Video games aim for the head.
Now this is something I wonder. If I play Ace Combat or Madden NFL can I be a Fighter Ace or an effective football coach? So this argument fascinates me.
But this argument also has two big problems:
First of all most games that involve shooting aspects you get the message often loud and clear ‘aim for the head’. But that is a sound Marksmanship principle you can pick up almost anywhere, from television, to documentaries, to army training manuals, to the mere fact that your biological computer is in your head, might be a good place to shoot! And games can also teach one that it might be better to shoot people elsewhere, their chest for ease of accuracy, their legs to show them down, but again anyone can almost tell you the same thing.
And then the principle might be there, but often enough the actual combat situations aren’t. When you shoot a character in a video game there is no recoil, no wind, nothing for you to gauge how a real life shot should behave. All of these need to be taken into account in the real world.
And even games who do that, like the sniping missions in the Call of Duty series, taking in wind and the Coreilas effect, you don’t feel the wind on your face, you do not have the gun in your hand, you do not and cannot judge how the wind affects the bullet in the real world. Never mind other considerations.
But even then it is the individual who is important.
Sure a video game can ‘teach’ a gang member in east LA where to shoot a cop. But it could also teach a cop in Atlanta how and where to shoot, or what the situation calls for in a bank robbery and a hostage situation. Or it could teach a kid how to act to defend his kid sister from a robbery.
It is not the technology, not the media, not the fiction, not the gun, and certainly not the oven toaster causes deaths. Its how we use them, its how we chose to act with this technology.
And for other opinions on this issue visit this article: http://kotaku.com/5814601/violent-video-games-contribute-to-dropping-crime-rate-study-suggests