Friday, March 9, 2018

Video Games: The Latest Scapegoat

There they go again.

Every time there is a shooting under the age of 25 (sometimes even older), there is a cycle to the pattern of blame.

Blame the NRA: They don't even sell guns, and have been adding suggestions to "gun safety" for as long as I've been alive.

Blame Republicans: Because "They haven't done anything about guns." Ignore that all of the shootings happen in gun free zones, and more laws won't stop anybody who is already committed to a spree killing.

Blame Video Games. "Because Video games are violent."

Oh please. These are the people who will usually never blame the shooter. They will never blame the pharmaceuticals that the shooter is on or should have been on. They will never blame the permissive environment created by public schools that allow bullies to torture the freaks / nerds / geeks / outsiders without any recourse. They'll blame guns, they'll blame Republicans, then they'll eventually blame video games.

This is getting to the point where I should put together a "shooting press pack," starting with all of the arguments against all of the usual stupidity, and just repost it on the blog every time someone mouths off.

Even without a shooting, every few years (or every few months, depending), there is someone out there who spends a lot of time and energy trying the place the blame of the world’s ills on video games.  Right now it's President Trump and Matt Walsh, two people who I usually haven't disagreed with.

But now it's back. “Oh no! Video games are violent and will warp the brains of poor little children! We must ban / control / destroy them!”  Didn’t you hear? “Studies show” that video games turn your kids into werewolves, or some such nonsense. I suspect these are the same people who declared that “90% of Catholic women use contraceptives!”

If you believe either, I’ve got a Bridge in Brooklyn to sell you if you like.

In Halo 4, a human in a battle suit fights "aliens" who don't even have blood spatter. They disintegrate. If one were to believe this incredibly stupid theory, I should be a mass murderer. I have been killing turtles with fireballs since I was eight-years-old and the game was Super Mario Brothers. The amount of aliens I’ve slaughtered in Halo easily number in the hundreds, if not the thousands. Mysteriously, I manage to go to Mass every Sunday and eight holy days a year, and other strange and abhorrent things in this society – like believe most, if not all, of your standard Baltimore Catechism (I put in “most“ because I skimmed it a little).

Half of Hitman is going from point A to point B without being seen.Now there are modern games that deal with much more mature themes.  The premise of the Hitman series is obvious by the title, but they are mostly a matter of, well, murder puzzles. Think of it as playing through an episode of Columbo from the murderer’s perspective.  I’ve played it, using it mostly as a thought exercise before I go back to writing.

The Mass Effect series is one that combines an epic storyline (violence) with the option for a love story (sex), but with surprising amount of character thrown in for fun. For the most part, that last bit is the real fun for players.

mass effect

Mass Effect — an epic science fiction choose-your-own adventure where your morals are your character’s morals.
My body count? 300,000. I’m still sane. Ish.
It is, at its core, amoral when it comes to the romantic aspects – in this case, it’s a moral as you allow it to be. That actually caused a bit of a stir a while ago, with religious groups condemning the game for allowing same-sex relationships.  The response from the game designers was simple: If you don’t like that option, don’t play that option, have a nice day. The entire premise behind the series is that the whole universe is dictated by the player’s actions, where you can show apathy, interest, or utter disdain.

Are there video games that are too violent? Sure. Look at a recent Mortal Kombat game, if you have a strong stomach and don’t mind people being decapitated or cut in half. But I’m not that big into horror movies either. Are there games that focus too much on sex? I’ve heard that they exist, but I think they’re only available in Japanese.

They’re just video games. They are what you make of them – and if you don’t like the content, don’t buy them. They're, as a whole morally neutral, they are what you make of them, and the violent, profanity-ridden video games are clearly labeled for your protection. Now please shut up and let me violently murder these alien hordes, okay? Thanks.

But there are always, ALWAYS two objections from the knee-jerk cliché department. “Well, I played video games and there are no positives. It makes you anti-social.”

And where we are now: “video games are a prevalent factor in mass shootings” argument.

You're Stupid

Both arguments are so full of inaccuracies, it is obvious that neurons have died just reading those words – some of those neurons are mine, by the way.


I love this argument. I truly do. I've been killing turtles with fireballs since I was eight and the game was Super Mario Brothers. I have yet to find time to plot out my murder spree between going to Catholic school from K-PhD, and going to church every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation.

First, a constant issue in discussing video games is that people seem to think that video games are still for children. I was the first generation to play the first Nintendo Entertainment System. In fact, I still have it. Guess what – my generation grew up, and we're still playing.

As of 2011, the average gamer is between 32 and 37 years old.

Now, 82% of gamers are adults, and 72% of American households play video games.

42% of gamers are women – in fact, 30% of all gamers are women over 18 years old.

Hmm, 72% of American households. So that's 72% of 300,000,000 people means that … over two hundred million people in America play video games (Yes, I rounded down).

“Yes,” says the critic who may have a clue, “but how many of those are family games, like Wii games?” Well, the top ten best-selling video games for 2012 were violent, rated M(ature) games for gamers 17+ only.

So, to say that “video games are a prevalent factor in mass shootings” is roughly the equivalent of saying that “having the ability to speak English is a prevalent factor in American mass shootings.” When nearly three quarters of the country plays video games, it is almost certain that you're going to get a crazy or two in there.

If video games make you into a psychotic mass murderer, we should be hip deep in blood and the planet should have looked like the book of Revelations sometime after the first Mortal Kombat games were released.

The usual counter is to say that it will bring out the inner crazy in people … so might a commercial for Mountain Dew, does that mean we unplug all the signs in Times Square? Or shut down Las Vegas? Either of those might be a good idea, but I can make better arguments than inspiring one or two people with sociopathic tendencies.

Guess what? The ECA – the Entertainment Consumer Association -- released an open letter to the Vice President in 2010 entitled “Policy Considerations post-Newtown, CT School Shooting”. (You can see the full letter here.)
Studies show that media does not cause violence. Christopher J. Ferguson, Chair of Texas AM International University’s Department of Psychology &; Communication, has shown through his work that there’s no link between violent video games and real world violence like mass shooting, bullying or youth aggression ….
Media consumption has risen as the number of violent crimes has dropped. While video game sales have increased, violent crime has been steadily decreasing according to FBI statistics. In 2011, video game sales increased to over $27 billion dollars and violent crimes nationwide have decreased 3.8% from 2010. Since 2002, violent crime has decreased 15.5%. This is all during the time when games like Call of Duty and Halo have dominated sales.
Oops. Someone should check their numbers.

Luckily, I already checked it for them. So there.

Not Impressed Larry Correia

Now, of course, there is the argument that:


Oh, for the love of …

Usually when I have this discussion, I'm not sure which is more fun, being told that I was using only my personal experience, and my argument was therefore garbage, or if someone told me my argument was garbage because of their personal experience.

I'm going to limit this to a format that everyone can understand – the infographic on your right (click to enlarge, otherwise it will take up half the column length).

When eHarmony, the #1 dating site in the world, isn't as successful at bringing people together as World of Warcraft (WoW), telling me that video games make you anti-social and isolationist is the punchline to a bad joke.

The argument that “well, I played video games and it was a waste of time and kept me from talking to people” only tells me either 1) the person saying this is a liar who just wants to score points on the internet or 2) a statistical abnormality.

Another point I've heard, this time on a Catholic website,  was that "video games can't be used for evangelization."

Really? Playing WoW can people one player in touch with over twelve million fellow players. If someone really wants to spread the Word, I'm sure they can figure out something. Otherwise, they just suffer from a lack of imagination.

If you don't believe me, then I recommend you read Infinite Space, Infinite God II for some ideas – particularly “Otherworld,” by Karina Fabian.

This of course, assumes that everything one does must be to spread the Word.


At the end of the day, this entire argument comes down to your standard, boiler-plate thought control. Even the “discussion” on guns -- which consists of a gun owner being yelled at for a period of time before having his property taken away – is a joke in itself.

I mean, heck, the guns least likely to kill anyone … happen to be the ones everyone talks about banning.


Banning video games – that have nothing to do with violence – or banning rifles that have even less to do with mass murder, is just playing to the ignorance of people in general. It's one part Orwellian thought control, and one part finding a scapegoat – be it video games, media violence, rock music, bullying, etc. The Sandy Hook shooter was also Catholic, so I guess we all dodged a bullet on that one.

As C.S. Lewis once noted, "Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”

1 comment:

  1. I kind of wish it was DOOM they were dumping on. Then it would really hammer in how little things have changed over the last 30 years when it comes to these stupid arguments.


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