Published on January 13th, 2013 | by Mark Gibson, Editor/Community Manager
Editorial | Violent Video Games: The Scapegoat
It’s no secret that there seems to be a wave of violence in schools these days. With kids bringing guns to schools and tragic, horrifying shootings taking place, the most recent occurring in Taft, CA, we are all looking for answers. Over the decades, a vast variety of entertainment sources are blamed for violent outcries. Movies, television, books, and for quite some time now, video games.
When the National Rifle Association was petitioned to comment on gun control in light of the the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, they pointed fingers at the video game industry. Everyone is looking for a someone to blame, and video games are an easy target.
“There exists in this country a callous, corrupt, and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people. Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, and Splatterhouse. And here’s one: it’s called Kindergarten Killers. It’s been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn’t or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it?” said NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre.
If you are wondering what the heck Kindergarten Killers even is: it was a flash game that has been inactive since 2005 after the official launch site was disabled. Much like anything on the Internet, the game can still be accessed regardless of its attempted censoring. The game was criticized for being crude and also attributed with the Scandinavian shooting of 2008, even after the game’s launch site had been inactive for three years. Needless to say, Kindergarten Killers is an obscure anomaly title to throw in the mix with Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto.
A recent study conducted by Common Sense Media has found that 89 percent of parents in the United States feel violence in videogames is a problem. In fact, 75 percent of parents find it difficult to shield their child from violence in media. I find that interesting and slightly amusing. It’s true that the young mind is easily influenced, but I find it hard to believe that controlling your child as to what games they play is “difficult”.
It’s hard to really define what a violent video game is. Naturally you would think of a game like Call of Duty, a war based first person shooter, but if you’ve ever actually looked at the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s rating on the back of a game, the list of reasons for the rating are interesting. “Comic mischief” is one that has always amused me. It’s technically another term for violence, but in a kid friendly cute way. Pokémon is comic mischief, so is any Spongebob Squarepants game. If that constitutes violence, maybe we should stop children from playing these games as well.
When I was a young lad, my parents were very careful as to what type of media I was exposed to. I got my first gaming system when I was nine years old, the GameBoy Pocket. I had been begging for it for a long time, and finally getting one of my own was nothing short of nirvana. However, my parents didn’t just hand it over and give me free reign to play any game I wanted. They made sure that I was only playing rated “E” games.
The ESRB reviews games in the same way as the movie industry. Publishers send their games to the ESRB and they are reviewed by a collection of trained employees. According to the ESRB’s website: “All ESRB raters are adults who typically have experience with children, whether through prior work experience, education or as parents or caregivers.” In other words, they are looking out for your best interest.
The ESRB’s rating system isn’t just there to annoy you when you try to buy a rated “M” game from the store. It’s there for a reason, and my parents knew that. Granted, it’s hard to monitor what your child is exposed to when they are at school, a friends house, or an arcade. However, I was always taught that unnecessary violence was wrong, and even though I would sneak in some playtime with Grand Theft Auto when I wasn’t home, I didn’t think “I’m going to go steal a car and beat people up on the street!” My moral judgement knew it was wrong.
Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, expressed on “CBS This Morning” that violent video games need to be examined:
“We’ve got to talk about violence in these video games,” Christie said. “I have four kids at home; I don’t allow Call of Duty or these other [violent] games in. We have to start talking about that as parents.”
He then went on to say:
“You look at what happened in Connecticut; that young man was obviously mentally ill. He needed to be getting treatment, and I think there’s such a stigma about mental illness and mental illness treatment in our country because we don’t talk about it. It’s an illness just like anything else.”
The problem with Governor Christie’s statement is that he stated what was most likely a fact and blamed it loosely on video games. There was no proof that the Connecticut shooter was a gamer. And to blame his violent actions on games is essentially calling the gaming community “violent”. And that, is quite simply, the most generalized and absurd conclusion.
On Jan. 3rd, Congress rejected a bill by West Virginia senator Jay Rockefeller that called for a study on the effects of violent games on children. He plans to resubmit the bill. Not only has this study already been conducted a few years ago, but the study proved to be “inconclusive”.
If you really examine the issue at hand, it is up to parents to monitor what their child is exposed to. It is also imperative to recognize if your child has a mental disorder. We don’t need a government issued study to know that a violent video games will have different effects on different child. Is it really the government’s job to tell us what games we are allowed to make and play? If we go down that route, then we might as well stop Hollywood from making violent movies and television shows. Or, stop kids from reading Justice League comics, and watching Looney Toons. It’s a slippery slope.
The war with violent video games will never end, and the attention to it won’t die down until there is a new media source to blame. However, instead of pointing fingers, maybe its time we examine ourselves first, and remember that there are more important issues at hand in today’s world than worrying what games we play for fun.