I have been mostly silent about the appalling tragedy in Connecticut as to give the families of the victims the respect they deserve. However I have been closely watching the steady stream of accusations, excuses, and scapegoats stream forward. From the lack of gun control to the lack of media control, from the lack of mental help to the lack of understanding for people who need help, from the lack of social reform to the lack of God in society have been all major points discussed. Discussing these points would not have been appropriate, since I believe I am not fully educated on each. All that would have been done is aggregating talking points by people who are educated within those fields, and have an invested interest that co-aligns with whatever agenda they hold.
However, today the NRA condemned video games as a “Shadow Industry” that “sows violence against its own people”. Being deeply involved with games this ignorant statement angered me and finally broke my silence. Here is what I have to say,
VIDEO GAMES DO NOT CREATE KILLERS!!! BUT KILLERS LOVE TO PLAY VIDEO GAMES!!!
There have been many failed studies trying to link violent video games to violent actions, but all they have shown is that violent games temporarily increases the level of aggression in the person playing it. This does not create killers. On a personal note the most aggressive I have ever become while playing any game was during Mario Kart, which is not a violent video game.
I grew up post industry crash of 1983 when everything involving games was starting over and evolving. Playing games like the Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros, Sonic was a staple of my childhood. As I grew a little older I played games like Doom and Mortal Kombat and remembered seeing on the news how people like Joseph Lieberman condemned those games as corrupting the youth and calling them nothing more than “killing simulators”. Today I play all sorts of games ranging from indie to triple A titles, and even go back and play some retro games I missed, and within each of these classifications they include very violent games. So what does all of this make me? I am the product of growing up in world that has always had video games. I am a teacher. I am a performer. I am a creator. I am a thinker. However, I am not a killer.
The only real connection I can see behind killers and video games is that killers love to play video games. So why is this the case? Games provide an escape for people to play out their fantasies in a safe environment. The industry makes games where people can act out their violence because they sell. Granted I am tired of playing a bald (space) marine killing either aliens or foreigners.
Then why would they want to act out violence and buy these games? That is a hard question to answer. Some feel they have been wronged by society and they must seek vengeance against the people who have wronged them. Sadly this is what many people are taught in our society, and ironically goes against our society’s most pervasive moral system Christianity; where forgiveness and love is put above vengeance and hate.
Now how can we prevent this from happening again? There is no easy or even right answer to this one. More available mental help, reformation of gun laws, anti bullying initiatives, not stigmatizing people who need mental help, are all very good ideas in the short term. Here is what I would suggest for the long term. I believe we need to teach people that love, forgiveness, understanding, and compassion is not a sign of weakness, but a badge of strength. It is very easy to be angry and hate, but it is very hard to forgive and love. Granted I still got a long ways to go with learning those lessons and I try to practice what I preach, but I slip up.
Games are not to blame here. They are a byproduct of a deeper seated problem. Let’s learn to forgive and love, so that we can avoid these tragedies.