Taking aim at violent games
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 23:01
After the horrific events that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, it was revealed that Adam Lanza, the killer of 27 people and then himself, frequently played violent video games on his home computer, the hard drive of which was violently destroyed. Authorities say they will likely never fully recover the information it held.
Almost immediately, questions began to fly across the political spectrum: did video games contribute to Lanza’s terrible actions by normalizing extreme violence in Lanza’s eyes, and in so doing inspire his bloodshed or have some other unknown effect on him? Wayne LaPierre, the vice president of the National Rifle Association, railed against violent games as a symptom of deeper problems in America’s culture in a speech a week after the events, specifically calling out games like 2011’s “Bulletstorm,” the “Mortal Kombat” franchise and an early-2000s Internet Flash game called “Kindergarten Killers” as catalysts to violence.
It’s hard to deny that video games can affect their players emotionally, especially at young ages. Studies show that children who play violent video games do show some amount of aggressive behavior. A 2006 Indiana University study found that children who played a first-person shooter, “Medal of Honor: Frontline,” experienced stronger senses of emotion with lessened reasoning, while those who played a racing game, “Need for Speed: Underground,” did not. But other studies found stark differences from Indiana University’s conclusions; for instance, a study from the Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health found no connection between violence and video game usage.
From a legal sense, the law has been much more cut-and-dry about the controversy. There has never been a successful lawsuit tying video games and physical violence, despite more than a decade of controversy. In 1997, a mother’s lawsuit against former “Mortal Kombat” owner Midway Games, filed after her son was killed by a friend supposedly copying a character’s “finishing move,” was dismissed after the court saw no valid claim to damages; the supposed move did not exist. While many serious crimes have been caused involving video games, none of them were found to have been directly caused by them.
This isn’t to say violent video games don’t need to be examined in modern society. As graphics continue to improve and games become more realistic, death and violence in video games will too become more vivid and are sometimes used as a selling point. In 2009, major controversy was raised when “No Russian,” a mission in “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2,” was revealed to be an interactive terrorism minigame, taking place in a Russian airport where players are asked to slaughter citizens with real-life brands of machine guns. Recent advertisements for other shooting games, including “Medal of Honor: Warfighter” and “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2” advertised warfare as a game, desensitizing their violence by making it look “cool.”
While a growing number of games express the disturbing nature of bloodshed, for instance the twists of “Spec Ops: The Line,” the others' lack of awareness shows their flippant view toward the true nature of shootouts and fistfights in our culture are the real problem. Then again, when films like “Bullet to the Head,” television like the serial-killer drama “The Following” and even books about teenage slaughter like “The Hunger Games” are a dime-a-dozen, it’s clear violent video games are a small part of a bigger problem.