State of the Game Address: Why can the media not stop blaming videogames for shooting sprees?

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April 20, 1999

Columbine High School

 

As a former educator I know that date and place very well.  I think for a time many of those who worked with youth or with troubled teens, that the fears that arose from that event may have continued to haunt us long after the media and society forgot about it. Its the day Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into their high school with explosives and firearms and rocked our nation to it’s core. Parents, teachers, media, politicians, and victims all looked for answers. Why did this happen? What could have been done? What was the cause of the frustration and the hatred that emanated from these young boys. The scape goat they chose has never fully shaken the stigma despite numerous studies to the contrary by various scientific groups. Electronic Videogames would now forever hold the blame for events such as these. From the massacre at Virginia Tech almost a decade almost a decade later, to The Dark Knight Rises shooting last week, videogames are still blamed as a possible cause to these events. I still want to know why.

 

That are some facts that are left out of these type of events by the media, usually because they offer more rational reasoning into an event instead of whatever sensational one they are trying to sell. Eric Harris was on Luvox, an anti-depressant that now contains a black box label that states is can cause aggressive and emotionless behavior along with mania. Surely it wasn’t a major factor of the shooting right? It had to be the fact that both Harris and Klebold ran a website devoted to making levels for their favorite computer game, Doom. Surely it was Doom that caused the shooting, not a drug that was found in high therapeutic levels in Harri’s blood stream after an autopsy. For an unhealthy and troubled mind, a First Person Shooting game may not be the best influence certainly, but to insist that videogames are a cause to such behavior is ludicrous.

A common argument presented by groups opposed to videogames and freedom of speech cite that violence in games causes young children to become desensitized and “comfortable” with violence. This in turn changes the decision making process of a child’s mind to a device that will constantly choose violent options over peaceful ones. I agree on some level with these claims, if you spoon-feed a child nothing but blood and bullets in his formative years than yes, he is probably going to grow up just a little on the insane side. That is why there is a rating system on videogames, one more explanatory and detailed than the one attached to movies, music, or ANY other media form. It is simply a crime that more parents don’t pay attention to these ratings. I, along with Jared, have worked many a year in videogame retail, and watched many parent scoff and ignore the label on the back of a videogame box that outlined the violence, language, and level of blood and gore that game contained. They payed for it anyway and went home with a happy 8 year old.  Parents please watch what entertainment your kid takes in. Teach him the difference between reality and whats on the TV screen and spend enough time with your kid so you can hopefully tell if he or she is disturbed or troubled. I taught a lot of kids that had so much pent up anger and frustration but not a parent to rely on or to share that with.  The media needs to stop blaming videogames for incidents like Columbine and start focusing on building healthier families before we start talking about limiting free speech or forms of entertainment.

 

The shooting at The Dark Knight Rises premier in Colorado was horrific, and the stories coming out of it like how several of those killed where planting their bodies as a shield for their girlfriends/wives absolutely pains my heart.  Early court reports reveal this man to be mentally troubled and unable to function in society. I’m already reading articles (albeit mostly from overly conservative fringe groups) about how videogames can be linked to this terrible act. I’m going to plea yet again with the media, don’t turn this into another witch hunt. Events like this can not be rationalized and swept away with easy explanation. Some minds are troubled and are beyond saving, and not everything can be blamed on a TV screen. Sadly though, the media needs to turn a profit like anything else, and creating sensationalized stories blaming the videogame industry seems to draw a lot of ratings. So we can sit back and yet again and watch those from up high attack our past-time again and again, but my message to parents stays the same. The media and the government are not the ones to monitor our children for us, it’s parents that have that job and them only.  Read ratings, spend time with your kids, and maybe we can work on creating a world where events like this don’t happen.

About author

Brandon

Collector of retro video games, blogger of blogs, and caster of pods. I’m a resident of Northeast Mississippi where I live with my wife and hold court as the Chief Video Game consultant for the Just us Geeks empire.

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