The Ninjabot

Video Games are a Sin and More Lies

Posted on January 16, 2013 at 5:42 pm by Stephen Janes

For as long as I have been playing video games, myself and my fellow gamers have constantly been ridiculed and put down by somebody who thinks they understand us. Back in middle school, it was the so-called popular kids who had grown out of “kiddie toys” and moved on to skateboarding and music videos. In high school it was the football team that was too busy failing out of geometry class and getting classmates pregnant who continuously told me that I was the immature one because I’d rather spend my Friday nights playing Kingdom Hearts or Golden Sun. Now in my adult years, it seems that same level of ridicule and misunderstanding is coming from the very same people we voted to run this country. I hope you’re comfortable because we’ll be discussing the idea that video games are a sin and other falsehoods that people try to attach to the medium.

A few weeks ago, the National Rifle Association (NRA) tried pushing the spotlight towards violent games and, ironically, lack of firearms among the people. Eventually, violent video games once again became the whipping boy of the masses as violent games were the reason for all of the school shootings that have taken place. The NRA tried to say that if everybody had guns then the world would be a safer place with proper gun care, while the victims of these various shootings probably never want to hear the word “firearm” again (and rightfully so). I understand that the NRA is trying to “fight fire with fire,” but you cannot fight firearm safety with more firearms. I’m not trying to say that guns should be completely banned; it is a constitutional right of every American to own and control a firearm. You’re allowed to formulate your own opinions on gun control, but understand that the person next to you might not share the same opinions and that is perfectly okay.

At the source, it’s an absolute mess when it comes to who to blame because nobody can nor will take responsibility for what really happened. One deeply troubled human being decided that he was going to hurt people and knew exactly how he was going to carry out his crime. Because one person was viewed as an outsider and bullied his entire life, he decided to exact revenge on the very same people who he perceived had held him back, resulting in terrible tragedies and broken families everywhere. If you look at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in mid-December, the perpetrator’s mother was a known gun enthusiast who was, apparently, preparing for the end of the world with her various weapons. Her son was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, personality disorder, and was apparently autistic, although that last one has yet to be released officially. This is not the genetic make-up of somebody that I want remotely close to any weapons of any kind. It boggles my mind why the mother did not do a better job of locking away these weapons, knowing the mental status of her son. Yes, I agree that it is very easy to say what went wrong after the fact, but I want to know how many people would be willing to keep their guns and various firearms in the open with children. Period.

Decline in Violence

This chart shows that total violent crimes have actually decreased with video games sales going up, including controversial titles such as Manhunt, Call of Duty and more.

Shortly after the Sandy Hook shootings, everybody tried to jump on the violent video game bandwagon. Some reports claim that the shooter locked himself in his room and played violent games for hours before shooting up a school full of innocent kids. I find this completely irrational as video games do not breed violent people. Video games can reassure people and their feelings, sure, but they do not provide us with the need or the urge to go out and commit crimes. When I was in middle school and received a Nintendo 64 for Christmas, one of the first games that I opened was Goldeneye 007. Before I had a chance to even open the shrink wrap from the game, my father pulled me aside and told me that this was just a game; nothing more. It was not real and that just because I could do things in the game did not mean I could do them anywhere else. I was also assured that if the video games were starting to have a physical influence on me, they would take everything away for good. I had this reality talk with my dad before playing violent games, and I know several friends who had the same talk.

So who really is to blame for these violent crimes? Simple—it is equal parts the parent and the person who committed the crime. Nothing more, nothing less. Many of us grew up wearing super hero capes and trying to fly off of our roofs like Superman until our parents brought us back to earth (literally) and told us the truth of why we couldn’t be superheroes. Shouldn’t parents be responsible for teaching their kids the different between reality and virtual reality? At the same time, it should be the responsibility of the video game consumer to understand his (or her) place and what they are getting into. There is nothing wrong with dreaming, but there is nothing right about emulating a pixelated figment and emulating them.

Getting back to the main subject, you cannot blame video games for Sandy Hook, Taft Bakersfield High School, or any other violent outbursts that recently happened. In these examples, you can’t blame the gun or the NRA, either, because none of them personally told somebody to break into a school and start shooting people. I have played all of the games in the Grand Theft Auto franchise, beaten nearly all Call of Duty games and have played more obscure shooting games than you can imagine and not once did these disgusting ideas enter my head. If a driver runs over somebody and the pedestrian dies as a result, nobody chirps about better motor vehicle laws or blames the DMV for what happened. In this example, the driver is one-hundred percent responsible and rightfully so. If somebody dies of alcohol poisoning due to too much partying, the brewery is not held responsible. Why can’t we take the same approach with violent crimes where a gun is involved? I have no clue, honestly.

videogameviolencechart

This chart shows milestone violent games, their release date and how crime victims have decreased in that time.

To make matters worse, now the government wants to step in as if they have any idea what they are doing. President Obama recently called for the Center of Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research on the relationship between media, violent games, and violence. Granted, this is only research, and it came bundled with many other ideas on how to increase gun safety. While this didn’t upset me too much, I could not understand why money was to be invested in this idea, especially considering the fact that there’s no evidence to suggest that playing violent games makes one a violent killer. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. There are many reports that show that violent crimes have actually decreased when consumption of violent media is increased. Everybody has a different theory, but I believe that sometimes video games provide the consumer with the perfect “release valve” for ones feelings, frustrations, and trials, not to mention that for many of us (myself included) it serves as a perfect way to keep our minds away from what’s really bothering us. It’s the same effect that movies, books, and interacting with friends and family provides. Don’t even bother reading into that, because the government will just dismiss it and assume it was the work of video games either way.

To top it all off, there is a politician who’s now proposing that violent video games should have a one-percent tax included, which would help pay for mental health services and law enforcement mental illness. Missouri State Representative Diane Franklin believes that, “History shows there is a mental health component to these shootings (referring to Connecticut and Colorado, specifically).” She continues by saying that violent video games are a sin, hoping to, “create a discussion on the relationship between violent video games and mental illness.” This honestly sounds like she’s trying to troll everybody with these remarks. I don’t think “sin” is the word that Franklin is looking for here—maybe more along the likes of, “wrongfully accused with no concrete evidence or factual reasoning.” If violent video games breed killers and mental illness as Franklin would suggest, then based on my video game history, I should be a silent ninja who casts fire from one hand, summons dragons from the other, and also plays quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts on the weekend.

All in all, you are allowed to make your own judgement based on the information you have gathered; but before you do that, please be sure to understand both sides of the story. I have gotten into various arguments about this with friends, co-workers, that moron that keeps talking to me at work, and family members. Nearly all of them fail to realize that violence has been around far longer than video games. If video games truly create violent people, then how do you explain Gengis Khan? Jack the Ripper? Joseph Stalin? I mentioned how video games are not a scapegoat to what’s really the problem, and here I finally get to expand on that condensed idea. Guns don’t kill people, nor do video games or violent media—it’s irresponsible people.

    • David

      Great article and insight. Two things, though.

      1. Like you, I'm not opposed to additional research into whether violence is correlated with violent video games, because we've already seen plenty of research about that and most of them conclude that there is no correlation. The others have concluded that immediate behavior afterwards was more aggressive or long-term perhaps linked to depression, but their methodology is iffy.

      The unfortunate problem with a lot of private academic research is that there is a strong incentive to find correlations, even where none exist. Studies require funding and grant money, much of which often comes with its own agenda. (Ever wonder why chocolate seems to be on a 2-3 year cycle of "it's good for you" and "omg it's gonna kill you!"?) So when there is a null result (i.e. no correlation), it often doesn't get as much publishing or notoriety through academic journals. However, reports such as those from the GAO and CDC more frequently publish null results.

      2. Video games don't kill people, but I think not enough give you an incentive not to kill people. I guess it's a difference between linear vs. open world gameplay, but I find it fascinating when a game does take actively take into account whether you kill someone or not, and alters the game accordingly. Think along the lines of Fallout, Bioshock, Dishonored, Skyrim, etc. In other words, if you want to play the game without killing anyone, go for it – there are ways to do that. Or if you want to be the meanest sumbitch that ever drew breath, go for it – but you have to live (or die) with those consequences, too.

    • One problem is everybody makes the correlation that video games make people more aggressive, then automatically assume that makes us more violent. Aggressive and violent are two different things, in my opinion.

      Great point on the linear versus open-world gameplay. Games like Metal Gear Solid actually do everything that they can to avoid you killing people by rewarding stealthier and non-lethal gameplay. I also think that if they want to argue violent games make us violent, the same can and should be said about movies, television, books and other media where children are just as involved.

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