REPLY TO ALL: Video Games Get Blamed Again

Brandon (H21) returns as we take the REPLY TO ALL to a serious level. The recent shooting in Norway has brought out the anti video game evangelists again, with the shooter claiming Modern Warfare 2 helped him train for the event. If confronted with that argument (murder simulators aiding lunatics), how would you defend games and/or educate attackers of the medium in liue of the serious atrocities that occurred?

Video Game Violence

Mario made me do it.

Brandon (H21)

I got a lot of great insight from the comments on our GTA/London Riots article in InGamingWeTrust.com, and I am going to steal one of my favorites to start this off. There has been violence since man came into this world, and there has been violent artistic material for nearly as long. Violence is a part of humanity as much as we don’t want to admit it. To blame video games as the reasons for these heinous acts is, in some way, destroying the artistic credibility of those that put video games and their stories together. How would you like to be one of the developers on MW2 and hear almost weekly that your game, your story, is the cause for something incredibly terrible. I know I would be a little defeated by it. I have yet to come across a single article that really provides factual evidence that video games alters the mind to do horrible things in those that aren’t already prone to violence anyway.

Josh (Joshleedotcom)

Do these people have a Mad Libs they pull out when a scapegoat is needed? (Insert killer/suicide victim name here) was driven to commit the terrible act of (murder or suicide) by exposure to the (satanic or real life imitating) (video game name, Dungeons & Dragons or Metallica). There must be some sort of joke that I’m not in on. How in the nine hells can people keep buying the same line?

Of course, there is absolutely, positively no way in a million years that these morons could have been predisposed to violence by their DNA or extremely shitty parenting. There’s just no way! There must be a logical explanation that doesn’t make me look in the mirror for answers!

THIS is the kind of shit that will make ME go on a murderous rampage. FFFFFFFUUUUUCCCCCKKKK! I’m going to go play some Saints Row 2 to calm down.

Saints Row 2

Hug it out instead.

Justin L (JDevL)

It’s the lack of evidence that drives me insane. I still don’t know why I take it so personally when these attacks hit the gaming industry, but I do. It must be rooted in that it places the industry at the lowest rung of entertainment. Movies and TV used to be blamed, then it was comics, and now it is video games. It will eventually pass, but people keep trying to find causes for actions that have no simple explanation.

I would definitely start my argument with a bit of a history lesson citing that we have been through this before with other forms of media, but as with those examples, there are no facts to link these events directly to games, movies, or comics. The fact is, if some incident does happen, and we find out that the individual behind it was indeed obsessed with something, even if that is all that person did whether it was 24 hours a day of video games or 24 hours a day of Guess Who, there are larger problems with that individual.

Brandon

Exactly. Don’t forget the days when table role playing games were the target. People used to stand on a soapbox and denounce Dungeons & Dragons.

Now that I made the point from what I believe to be a creator’s point of view, let me argue from my point of view.

I have played video games since I was 4 years old. I have played every video game under the sun, and I also did play a fair share of Dungeons & Dragons and Vampire: The Masquerade. Violent video games such as shooters, survival-horror and the like were some of my favorites. I am now 28, have a wife, two kids and a great career. Video games are nothing more than a form of entertainment or hobby. That’s it. They tell stories. I get to enjoy those stories from an interactive position. Not once have I really ever reacted with or had visions of violence due to them.

I think that’s what scares people the most about video games that don’t understand them. For the first time, beyond table RPGs, we are getting to interact with a story. That story is sometimes violent which is just insane. My question is, then what do we think about actors who act out violent movies? Many idolize them. It’s okay for them to actually act out the action, but if I am shooting an enemy in a digital world that makes me an “outcast”.

What Anders Breivik did is absolutely horrible. I completely agree, but to focus on the fact he mentions the very over-dramatized Modern Warfare 2 as the “best military shooter simulation” around, and not on the 1000+ page manifesto against the immigrants and other races who live in Norway (whom he targeted), is a complete disservice to the victims and their families.

Ethan (Wizardtrain187)

As touched on in the beginning, humanity is inherently violent because humans have needed violence to survive for much longer than modern day society has been around to tell us that it’s wrong. The biggest problem is that a lot of people refuse to believe that humans are animals, thus placing themselves on this pedestal that supposebly gives them the ability to fight the instincts and genetics that have placed humans securely at the top of the Earth’s food chain.

Modern Warfare 2

When 1 person acts violent, let's get rid of all violent games.

The gentleman at the center of this story stated that games were used for training, not that he was neccesarily influenced by the games. That influence came from the xenophobic group he belonged to. The problem is, social reform is tough if not impossible and causes its own messes, so based on the majorities inability to admit weakness, they assign blame. It will never end, especially today when opinions are formed less on fact and more on the person with the loudest voice.

Justin G (GiffTor)

My guess is that video games get  “blamed” for the riots for several reasons.

There’s a very large generation of people who are unfamiliar with videogames, who I suspect get more of their news from TV than the millennials, are less skeptical of a slant coming from that news provider (who is providing an opinion and going for ratings), are well trained to respond like a herd of terrified cattle to the newest threat to Humanity, Western Civilization, Christianity, Puppies Being Cute, The Right to Drive Like A Jerk, and Jello Pudding. What to do about it? Respond logically and calmly as journalistic defenders of the medium (which doesn’t need defending, but…) and continue to encourage the industry’s advocacy groups to keep up the great work that they have been doing in fighting to keep games protected under freedom of expression. Engage the other side in dialog and gently take their arguments apart without making its members feel like the gigantic panicky lemmings that they are.

Andrew (Coopopolopolis)

I’m in the exact same position as H21. I just hit the big 30, I’m going on my 9th year of marriage, I have a daughter, another kid on the way, and a great job on top of being addicted to probably some of the bloodiest games on the planet. If game changed mental behavior then I’d be in a completely different place right now. I’ve been trying to think of something to say that hasn’t yet been said, but the simple fact is, there are just groups of people who hate certain things and will take every chance they can to try and get rid of it whether it makes sense or not. Simply saying, “We should ban violent video games!” isn’t going to get anyone’s attention because there isn’t any good reason for it. If you attach a massacre to it, more people pay attention, but as we’ve seen in the past all it really does is upset the community its affecting. I think Justin hit the nail on the head were they’re just moving down a list of things to try and come up with some lame excuse for why people are screwed up.

On the flip side, many of us have been playing games for as long as we can remember and are living very successful lives. It’s possible these outbursts are because they’re trying to hide the truth that they’ve discovered that video games make us better people. What if I’m as successful as I am today because I enjoy a good shotty to the face?

The Cursed

Well rounded individuals.

Justin G

I attribute passing the Bar Exam on the first try to a healthy daily dose of shotties to the face. Playing a violent video game is more an exercise in catharsis for me after a crappy day than something that’s going to spur me on to going on a shooting spree. Not having that outlet, on the other hand… But seriously, like you guys, I’ve been gaming since I was 4 or 5. I’m 30 now and I don’t feel like I’m a particularly violent person. Someone who goes on a shooting spree already had something wrong with them and if they hadn’t blamed video games, there would have been something else. Like Catcher in the Rye.

Brandon

So let’s take this a different direction. What can we attribute to ourselves that games made us better? I won’t go as far as saying games made me who I am today, but I will say games definitely helped in a variety off-the-cuff ways such as:

  • Problem/puzzle solving
  • Perseverance when faced with a challenge
  • My incredible hair

One of those is a stretch – but not too far. Figure it out.

Cole (Colefacekilla)

Games have been blamed for violent acts for a long time now. Doom II/Columbine being one of the first that really caught the media hell storm that uninformed news outlets often bring to the table. This isn’t the first and won’t be the last time this happens. What I want to know is not the cause of violence in people because I think it’s been clearly stated above but why are video games the scapegoat? Why does something always have to be the scapegoat? There is nothing I do in my life that I can attribute to video games being an influence on. Sure I may not be as social or might put off chores because I’m in the middle of an epic journey across a fake land but that has never once influenced me to go out and commit any act of violence.

People will always have something to blame because they can’t deal with the fact that some people are evil and do bad things to others. Like Ethan said, we are animals. Killing is something that has been done ever since the beginning of the species. And other animals do it too. What do we blame that on?

Justin L

Interesting questions, Brandon. I attribute video games with sparking my creativity as a kid. Not only did I enjoy my first Atari, I was fascinated with it. How did it work? How did this game get made? And with the graphics that time – what am I supposed to be seeing? My imagination ran wild while I played games and ever since I could remember I was always much more drawn to creating something new than experience something second hand. Of course, I’d also have to agree that video games helped in my problem solving abilities and the amount of satisfaction I got from figuring them out.

To speak to Cole’s point, I’m continuously at a loss for words when people look for simple answers to overly complex issues and tragedies. They have to pin it on something, it has to make sense to them somehow. They can’t relate it to us just being human or animals. We are an exceptional species that for some reason insists on finding an explanation to everything we do. This existed even before the 24 hour news cycle, and has only been made worse by it.

Justin G

As far as “how has gaming made me a better person,” it has definitely helped teach me persistence (in getting through hard parts without cheating), the basics of the innerworkings of computer hardware (is there any other reason to build a really powerful desktop?) and probably didn’t hurt in teaching me that sharing was important (actual lesson: take turns with your little brother or mom will ground you [because you’re older] and take away the Sega from both of you).

As far as our drive to understand and to draw causal lines, I think it’s partly evolutionary – by identifying the unknown, we can categorize it as something to a) eat; b) mate with; c) run away from; or d) rocks. So, when we’re faced with something that’s chaotic or random, it frightens us and we spend a lot of time trying to figure out (or be afraid of) something that you can’t actually fit into a rational explanation. (Prime example: people are afraid of terrorists killing them on airplanes [1:25,000,000 chance] but don’t put any thought whatsoever into the geometrically higher odds of dying in a car crash [1:303 in the United States] because it’s a risk we encounter daily. It’s human irrationality at its best and the only counter for irrationality is calm, consistent rational response and patience in waiting for the current firestorm to die down.]

Josh

Doom 2

One of the first and still a scapegoat.

I just talked about these issues with a friend of mine who just got back from a tour on the ground in Afghanistan (and Iraq prior to that) and is a Naval Petty Officer. He is an avid gamer and has put countess hours into FPS franchises such as Call of Duty and Battlefield. I asked him whether or not his gaming experiences came into play on the real battlefield in live-fire situations. His first response was “absolutely not”.

He claimed that there was no correlation between the feel of firing a real weapon and the click of his mouse. “I wish I could shoot like I do in Call of Duty” he said. As far as the mental aspect of firing at a living human target, he said that video games do not prepare you for the real thing. According to him, it is difficult enough to recall your actual training when in the thick of things, let alone some virtual experience at home. “Seek cover and don’t shoot yourself” was the first thing that popped into his head in combat, not “Wow this is just like the No Russian level of Modern Warfare 2!”

While these are the experiences of one man, I think that most well-adjusted individuals would come to the same conclusions when put into these real life situations. I have fired real weapons (at paper targets), and I know for sure that video games did not prepare me for the gravity of the situation. When you’re holding a heavy piece of hardware who’s sole purpose is to take a life, it is sobering and scary. The mere act of pointing a gun, even unloaded, at another human is taken extremely seriously by anyone familiar with gun handling.  It will get you kicked out of the gun store, a range, or a friend’s back yard.

Only a child too young to understand, or a mentally ill person could possibly fail to grasp the seriousness of picking up a weapon and the consequences that could follow.

Conclusion

I don’t know if there will be a day when video games aren’t blamed for an act of violence. With more and more people playing video games more people will look to it as an excuse for their actions. Whether or not its true is irrelevant. Forms of entertainment will always be the scapegoat for societal problems, even when those problems run a lot deeper than what media we consume.

Sources:

The Guardian (image)
Giant Bomb (images)
somegeekintn.com (image)