Last week while talking about guns and violence in America I briefly mentioned Vice President Joe Biden’s meeting with leading video game industry executives. The thought was rather misguided at best, and a contemptible attempt to avoid real action by blaming an entertainment industry for real-world violence.
The idea that video games, even violent ones, somehow cause tragedies like in Newtown or Aurora is completely absurd. There are mountains of anecdotal, as well as scientific, evidence that show video games have—at best—a tenuous relation to aggression.
Aggression, but not violence.
As anyone who plays games knows, the gaming industry is self-regulated, with ratings determining if a game is suitable for children or not. Retailers abide by these ratings and won’t sell to underaged players unless acompanied by an adult. Thus, parents and not game makers are responsible for a child’s well-being.
Unfortunately not all parents are quite so aware. Adam Sessler, former co-host of X-Play on G4 and current editor-in-chief of Revision3, told Fox News that games like Grand Theft Auto aren’t intended for kids to play.
“For parents, if your game has the name of a felony in it, it’s probably unwise to have your children engage in that,” Sessler said, succinctly wrapping up many gamers’ point of view on the subject.
Yet, by the very presence of a ratings system we admit that games could, at least, present some psychological damage to young people who play them. The problem is more evident in movies and especially TV, where even the ads can contain sexual content and violence, let alone the shows themselves.
So there’s something we as people who enjoy these things need to acknowledge. Namely, that we don’t really know what the effects of violence in media is, and we should do all we can to find out.
The Entertainment Software Association, the lobbying arm of the games industry, responded appropriately with a statement after Biden’s meeting, stating they welcomed any further research into the matter. Even so, the group added, “Scientific research and international and domestic crime data all point toward the same conclusion: Entertainment does not cause violent behavior in the real world.”
So there are much bigger influencers of violent crime than video games. But even with that said, let’s remove all doubt. So many people—in the news media and in our personal lives—still think there’s a connection or even causal link between all this.
And as mentioned above, we as a society seem to believe there’s a reason to protect young eyes from seeing violent or sexual images, yet we probably know or were once ourselves exposed to those same things at an early age.
We seem to be sane enough, right? Well, just because we can handle something doesn’t make it good for us though.
Games don’t cause us to commit crimes, but that doesn’t mean they don’t do anything to us at all. Seeing violent images has been known to cause numbness to real violence, that alone is something we should consider. Our empathy is an essential human emotion, we should be wary of eroding that, even slowly.
So let’s be willing to be examined! Let’s be secure enough to take criticism and respond, not with anger or attacks at others, but with eagerness to show the rest of the world there’s nothing to fear from video games. Games and gamers are under attack because they are “new and alien,” but rather than lashing back we can open the doors and show we have nothing to hide.
On that note, let’s show the difference between those of us who play games and those like National Rifle Association spokesman Wayne LaPierre, who instead of taking any responsibility for any shooting violence, simply turned the blame on anyone and everyone he could.
This is the person who, less than a week after the Newton shooting, said, “There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people … through vicious and violent games.”
Do we want to sound like that? Merely yelling back, we might as well be on a cable news special report.
No. We can be better. Let’s show everyone we’re not as alien as some want them to think.