So it seems we’re all destined to repeatedly refute and rebuke the same arguments over and over again until we’re blue in the face. Big people sitting in big chairs in their big houses seem intent on proclaiming that video game violence plays a part in causing violent behavior in real life. Instead of doing proper investigations in to what medley of external influences can cause a person to inflict harm on other people, blaming video games always seems to be the cop-out answer, the scapegoat so that those in power can shield themselves from the knowledge that they’ve created a society in which terrible things like mass school shootings can occur.
Real Guns = Good, Digital Guns = Bad
And of course, it’s never the guns themselves – just the graphical representation of guns in video games. Being able to obtain a gun just as easily as you can obtain a video game isn’t the problem, they tell us. Even though the guns are the actual device by which people are murdered on a daily basis. Why aren’t the wars we see being fought all across the world ever to blame for influencing a generation that diplomacy through force is the answer to your problems? Why don’t we ban the news for showing us the destruction we all wreak upon each other? It’s all so backwards, and so insane, that I cannot believe the people we trust with running our countries can even consider video game violence as a way to deflect from their own inadequacies of governance.
Admittedly, in some instances, video game violence can have an effect on a person, but only if that person already has a propensity to violence, or is in some way a troubled individual. An individual that may have mental health issues, and doesn’t understand the difference between fantasy and reality. But then surely video games wouldn’t be the sole reason a person like this would go on to commit mass murder. They could have just as easily been influenced by movies, TV shows, the news, newspapers, other people, Twitter, Facebook, and so on and so on.
Out Comes the Trump Card …
This whole argument seems to have been gone off the simmer for years, but has been brought to the boil again recently by President Trump. Here’s what he said to Florida’s attorney general a little less than a week after the Douglas High School shooting:
We have to look at the Internet because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds, and their minds are being formed. And we have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it. And also video games. I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts. And then you go the further step, and that’s the movies. You see these movies, they’re so violent. And yet a kid is able to see the movie if sex isn’t involved, but killing is involved, and maybe they have to put a rating system for that.
On the back of that, it was announced that Trump was going to meet with certain members of the video game industry to discuss the issue at the White House. And on Thursday, the White House published the list of invitees:
Among the names you’ll see CEO of ZeniMax (parent company of Bethesda), and Strauss Zelnick, chief executive of Take-Two (publisher of the Grand Theft Auto series). But also in attendance are some video game critics, such as Brent Bozell, founder of the Parents Television Council, and a man who once praised a 60 Minute Report that condemned GTA. Below is the lovely video that was shown to all these people. Keep in mind, it’s completely without context, and features
the kinds of events that are never ever seen in other forms of media and are totally unique to evil evil gaming a montage of clips from various video games.
Looks shocking, right? That’s the point. If you don’t know anything about gaming (as I’m sure a lot of the attendees don’t), and you’re shown this, it’s going to horrify you. Imagine being a parent to a young child, and of course you’re going to want to protect them from these kinds of images … yet still millions of parents allow their underage children to play games meant only for 18+. Is that still the game company’s fault then? Here’s part of a statement from the White House giving some details about what was discussed during the meeting:
The group spoke with the President about the effect that violent video games have on our youth, especially young males. The President acknowledged some studies have indicated there is a correlation between video game violence and real violence. The conversation centered on whether violent video games, including games that graphically simulate killing, desensitize our community to violence.
Apart from a mere spattering of statistically insignificant studies, the vast majority have shown that there is no link between video game violence and real life violence. It seems now that those who are against video games have come up with every argument under the sun, and yet they’re still no further to achieving their nonsensical goals.
Game Over? No Chance
So here we are, back where we were all those years ago, having learned nothing. Instead of perhaps taking a long hard look at the Second Amendment, we’re trying to limit people’s freedom of expression (a fundamental tenet of the First Amendment, right?) through video games, a medium that was given the same protection from prohibition as literature, art and film by the Supreme Court in 2011: “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“. That was a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Brown Vs Entertainment Merchants Association. This should no longer be an issue of contention. Done. Dusted. Get over it … yet here we are. With still no studies proving DEFINITIVELY that there’s a link between video game violence and real life violence.
Millions and millions of healthy, rational, intelligent individuals play video games every day across the world. So if games were such a bad influence, why aren’t we all going into schools with an AK47 to reenact our favorite Call of Duty montages? Or at least, why doesn’t what happens in America happen with the same frequency in other countries? Because being able to arm up and kill dozens of innocent people is a distinctly American problem. It’s about time the people in power took a good, long, hard look at themselves in the mirror, and really thought about how to fix their country, rather than thinking that banning video game violence is going to cure all of societies ills.
Disclaimer: the views and opinions of the author do not reflect those of Gamer Professionals as a whole.