Monday, February 2, 2009

Dear News Media: I Play Video Games and I’m not a terrorist

Now a major pet peeve of mine, apart from not writing a new article in over a week, is the need that us as a society have to scapegoat high profile targets as quickly as possible in the even that anything goes wrong no matter how unjustified it may be. Anyone who considers themselves a “gamer” more than likely already knows where I’m going with this and probably shares my opinion. If you’re not a “gamer” then I have no idea why you’re reading this and I’ll wait for you to leave.

Ok, I think they’re gone and we can continue. I’ve been playing games my entire life in one form or another so I’ve only seen this trend grow over the years as video games have become more of a mainstream enterprise. I remember being a young nerd at the age of 12 and staring wide eyed and slack jawed at a bright shiny new cabinet in the arcade called Mortal Kombat and despite its poor spelling I knew I was witnessing something big that would have a profound impact on our society. Soon thereafter I would overhear my parents discussing a video game that they had seen on the news that glorified violence and encouraged kids to kill each other in horrible, bloody spectacles of 16bit glory. They quickly questioned me about the aforementioned game and I gave a performance that to this day rivals Charlton Heston in Ben Hur, and explained to my parents how I did not know that game and would stay far away from its murderous influences. Thankfully my parents did not know what a liar their sweet young boy was and how he had spent every cent he had on that game just the day before. I remember making it a point to listen in on the news when they would discuss that marvelous fighter and my young mind started to make certain connections. The news could be wrong, my parents could be misinformed and I could dive headfirst into all sorts of simulated violence.

Now nearly 15 years later I’m a functioning member of society, I have a clean criminal record, I hold down a steady job and am in a healthy relationship with a girl whose only physical harm comes from the Ninja the Cat. So needless to say that when I hear more and more how video games are the cause of the majority of society’s ills I get a little upset. I’ve gored, dismembered, stabbed, shot, impaled and torn apart literally thousands of species in my gaming over the years and never once felt the need to go and perform these actions. In fact, none of my gaming friends have. So why is it that when a kid shoots up a school or a disillusioned twenty-something shoots up a bar that one of the first places people rush to point their fingers is the video gaming industry. In the wake of a recent shooting one of the first sentences in every article I read was that the person in question was “an avid video gamer” and made it a point to mention that he owned a copy of Grand Theft Auto 4 and Halo 3. Well, who doesn’t? Those two games combined have sold well over 10 million copies so finding one in the home of a suspect isn’t that shocking. To me it’d be very similar to reading an article claiming that “the suspected killer was an avid fan of eating and police reported that a refrigerator and microwave oven were found in his home and at this time no actions are being taken against the nation’s beef industry.” The fact that suspects play video games is always brought into the public eye much quicker and more frequently than issues such as: where did this kid get a gun in the first place or where was a parent? Now, granted I do have a Bachelors Degree in History and therefore more privy to this kind of information but the shocking truth is that neither Hitler, Mussolini nor Napoleon ever owned any type of video game. Not only that but video games didn’t even exist. I know it’s shocking and I’ll allow a moment for you all to process that information. So how is it that violence existed before video games or that devil rock and roll music? Could it be that certain people due to very specific and individual events in their lives led to very specific points where they had to make a choice and maybe because of those very specific things that happened to them they weren’t equipped with the necessary balance and mentality that the rest of us have? No, I’m pretty sure that The Son of Sam was thinking about Frogger.

So long story short, I know it’s too late for that, video games do not create violence. If a person is willing to commit real violence because of the influence of video games than the person in question wasn’t emotionally stable in the first place and it would only be a matter of time before something triggered them whether it be a video game, a movie or just having someone give them a funny look on the street. Which is why the recent road warning sign prank made me laugh. Not the prank itself, or when 200 people told me about it before noon, but the fact that the news media whose normally so eager to jump down the pixilated video game throat completely missed blaming the industry when this was actually for once, the fault of a video game. Now ok, granted if I was a like minded prankster who had access to write whatever I wanted on an electric road warning sign sure, I’d think of something, anything really to say whether it be video game related or not. But for once, an honest to goodness link to a video game in a crime and the media dropped the ball. Shame on you media.. shame.


Doug Tilley said...

Strongly agreed, though I have to admit pulling out someone's spine (a la Sub Zero) proved more difficult in reality than it looked in the game.

In seriousness, i've never had difficulty separating reality from the enhanced reality of television, movies or video games. I find real life violence deplorable, and hard to stomach. I can draw that line, and I could draw it as easily when I was 12.

That said, I do believe that some people use video games as a way to safely act out aggression. I'd suggest that this is actually a good thing, though treating this sort of aggression at the source would probably be healthier. People with unhealthy violent aggression will find a way to let it out.. and simply won't be provoked by being able to run a few people down in GTA IV.

Epic Fail said...

Good point, I know a lot of people who are very squeemish around the site of blood but can watch the most brutal horror movies you've ever seen. And it's exactly what you said, they have a clear understanding of the difference between reality and fiction. Yes ideally people would work out their shit at the source but that's not always an option. I know when I'm in a pissed off mood I go to the gym and lift weights until I fall over, everyone has their own methods of release and yes a lot of times it's video games since they're an escape to a fantasy world where you're not governed by the normal rules of society. The people who fail to make that distinction between fantasy and reality who act out in violent crimes are unstable for other reasons, not because of games/movies/television.

Bad Fish said...

Well said.