Why the blame does not lie with video games
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 22:01
In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, discussion aimed at ending gun violence has focused on the popularity of violent video games. This has lead Joe Biden to hold talks with the game industry. As has been the case with many shootings in the past, video games have become a scapegoat. This has led to the mindset that eliminating violent video games will somehow resolve the problem. As a gamer, it pains me to see such misplaced outcry.
A lot of the flack that violent video games receives is not deserved. In fact, the game industry often takes a lot more heat than other media such as movies and television, which are often just as violent. If Quentin Tarantino can make films that contain over-the-top violence, then game developers deserve the same freedom within their medium.
The Bioshock series contains some of the most violent games an individual can play. That being said, the series is probably one of my all- time favorites, and I personally haven’t gotten any more aggressive as a result. In fact, numerous studies have shown that, when isolated, video games and violent media in general hardly contribute to an increase in aggression or violent behavior. Most people that play video games are able to distinguish between reality and fantasy and thus will not put down a controller and go out to perform grand theft auto. There are also numerous shootings every year in which the culprits have had little to no interaction with video games. Mental and behavioral disorders also need to be considered when looking at the causes of mass shootings. In fact, the NRA has about as much basis for blaming Call of Duty for shootings and gun violence as PETA does for blaming Mario for violence against turtles.
One of the other big issues with video game violence that is often overlooked is the ESRB (Entertainment Service Rating Board). They give ratings based on the content in the game and attribute it to the appropriate age group. People complain about the influence violent games have on little kids. What they fail to realize is that almost all of the violent games that people are up in arms about receive a rating of M, meaning no individual under the age of 17 can purchase the game. Further, the game industry cannot control a parent who decides to buy the new Call of Duty for their 12-year-old.
There is also a lingering sense of hypocrisy in the gun control debate when talking about video games. For example, the NRA, which attributes fault to violent video games, argues that the majority of legal gun owners in the US are responsible and not sociopathic mass murderers. In a society where violent video games are a popular pastime, sociopathic mass murderers remain the rare exception. In fact, in a time of ever-increasing video game usage, youth violence has actually hit a 40-year low. Japan consumes more video games than the United States, but still has less violence. Sadly, some critics do not seem to see it that way.
This is not anything new. Video games were blamed after the Virginia Tech shooting, even though the shooter didn’t play violent video games. After the Columbine shooting, proposals of violent video game laws were properly shot down as unconstitutional. Not only would banning violent video games be an issue from a legal perspective, but it also would not do much to curb the problem of gun violence.
Gun control is a multifaceted issue with a wide variety of factors such as mental health, background checks and cracking down on illegal guns. However, it confuses me that video games are receiving so much attention. Research has shown, barring some outliers, there really is no link between violent video games and actual violence. Therefore, for what video games actually contribute to gun violence in America, they are receiving an unfair amount of criticism.