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Under the Knife: Video Games, the Popular Political Scapegoat

The last few months have seen a drastic turn of events for the video game community. We have suffered scrutiny and criticism of the most immature nature. The naivety of those who believe themselves to know the best course of action for security knows no bounds. As a result, I have taken it upon myself to address those who claim video games are some primordial evil that corrupt the minds of ordinary citizens. I say to you, my fellow gamers, that this has gone on long enough. It is time that the politicians, the NRA, the parents, and the news media to finally be put in their place; however, it does not require us to shout at them, but rather present a counter argument.

The counter argument in question is that never have video games nor any piece of pop culture over the course of history have ever influenced someone into committing atrocities you and I would never do. This all merely stems from the misinformed. Most of the anti-video game sentiment comes from politics and news media. Next to that would be parents who are more than willing to blame video games for children acting out rather than analyzing themselves as parents. It is very unfortunate that hardly anyone these days ever claim responsibility for their own actions. Rather, it's unfortunate that no one ever blames the perpetrator of a crime they committed.

Video games are just the latest victim of this unjust blame. In the past, rock music, comic books, and Dungeons and Dragons have been blamed for influencing the minds of youth in negative ways. It always seems easier to blame other things or people for one's failures, but to blame violent actions on non-sentient objects is the very definition of grasping at straws.

Taking a look at a recent headline, I find myself dumbfounded by the sheer amount of determination this particular person had to try to make her point valid. I am, of course, referring to the CNN news correspondent Erin Burnett. In a segment that focused on if video games make kids violent, Erin Burnett fished for the much wanted answer of, "Yes." Her attempts failed, however, as her guest William Pollack disagreed with her.

To avoid writing their whole conversation, I will briefly write what they exchanged. Erin Burnett was attempting to goad the answer out of Pollack by phrasing her questions and supposed "facts" as truth. One comment to her follow up question is as follows, "This is accepted as fact: that all these violent games, and by the way they are horrifically violent, is why we are seeing...this seemingly explosion of mass shootings. True?"

It is here that Burnett's motives are clear. She is trying to prove that without a shadow of a doubt that video games corrupt children. Furthermore, the corruption leads to extreme outbursts of violence. The problem with her attempts, however, is that her examples are of poor choice and they don't hold any actual evidence to support them.

Now, the interesting thing here is that Pollack did not agree with her completely. He finds video games to be violent and a need to "put some controls on those violent video games", but that they are not the cause of violent outbursts. He actually presents a case against assault weapons being owned freely and that no one should need them as a recreational item. Further, he mentions that assault weapons cause heavy damage and even brings up case studies into school shootings that reflect on the shooters being hateful toward school and people.

While Pollack presented the idea of regulating violence in video games, I do not agree with him there, but do support the efforts by him and others to study people willing to cause damage with guns. However, you cannot control or censor one form of an entertainment medium because then people would protest the very idea of it. The American government tried to put regulations on the internet through SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) about a year ago and there was a huge outcry from the public because of the bill's very loose wording which would potentially shut down websites for ridiculous reasons. I can say that I was proud to have been a part of raising awareness of the bill so people could defend the internet and will be proud to do so again should something like that happen to film, video games, or music.

Pollack's ideas aside, this was a rare case of two people who both oppose the violence in video games, but could not agree on it affecting children as opposed to guns being the bigger problem. In the case of when politicians have their own quotes when they are by themselves, they come across as heartless and out of touch. We have seen many of them come out of the woodwork, but they certainly don't prove their cases. Every example they try to bring up in regards to violence being a byproduct of fictional violence have no bearings of truth to them.

Take Ralph Nader as an example and look at his latest stint. Known for his extreme views, Nader was recently commented on his description of Obama's inauguration as "political bullsh*t". He even goes so far as to compare video games to pedophilia. I am not joking there.

I know politicians need to have a presentable image, but Nader comes off as a juvenile kid who is throwing a temper tantrum because he doesn't have his favorite toy. He wants all of the attention, but the more he complains the more everyone stops giving a damn about his incessant whining. Everything that comes out of his mouth proves how out of touch with society he is and how immature he can be.

Some people fail to realize that there are other factors that result in someone going on a violent rampage. For that matter, there are many things that don't factor in at all. They just simply refuse to accept anything else and are more comfortable with blaming an object that cannot act on its own nor convince someone to shoot their neighbor. They refuse to acknowledge human error.

Something that should be taken into account are the many violent crimes that make headlines. A shooting near the Empire State Building resulted in the deaths of the shooter (who was gunned down by the police) and his target (killed by the shooter). Another more recent incident involved a young child being held hostage by an older man in Alabama. There was recently a shooting on the highway in Chicago where the perpetrator shot from a bridge onto bypassing vehicles. I ask, are these cases the result of pop culture "influencing" these people to do these things?

I say no. This isn't even counting the numerous armed robberies that take place nearly every day in the United States. There is no feasible way that anyone can make it convincing that some video game or film motivated a person to commit a crime. People make their own choices. As such, they should be held accountable for those choices, not what they had for a hobby. People create real violence, not video games.

Once the news media learns that a gunman played Grand Theft Auto or watched Rambo or listened to Insane Clown Posse, then they swarm that story like sharks to blood. They would be more than willing to target video games, movies, and music as the reason for why someone did what they did. This is not the case. There are a variety of reasons for why people brandish weapons at random times or start fights on the street.

Look at how the global economy is and you tell me that there is no way that people would not be motivated to rob a store for money. Look at how things are in certain areas of both the Middle East and Africa with terrorist extremists and paramilitary groups killing innocent civilians and you tell me that there is no way that power and religion have no influence there. Look at how inner city gangs tear cities and lives apart in their turf wars and you tell me that money and drugs are not involved. Look at how people who are diagnosed with mental health conditions that are supposed to be taking medication and don't do so go on a violent rampage and you tell me that that is not their fault or the fault of their doctors who should be checking on them. Look at how domestic abuse cases occur and you tell me that any person involved don't have anger management issues.

This is the world we live in. It sure as hell isn't perfect, but these things happen. It is time that people stop blaming pop culture for the atrocities that occur. There is no reason for the blame to be shifted to people who are trying to make a living and doing so with something that they have a passion for. There is no reason for the blame to be shifted to something that has no sentience.

Everything that the NRA and the politicians are trying to do are all for personal gain. Everything that worrisome parents are trying to do comes from misinformation about video games or attempts to divert their responsibilities toward their children unto making them the victims. Everything that the news media does is to drive up viewership so they can cash in and get exclusives. They are all wrong. They do what they do so that something else suffers for the crimes that happen. The video game industry suffers for it. We, the gamers, suffer for it.

What can be done? Well, as news media and politicians continue to butt heads with gamers, I notice that the more antagonistic they are toward us the more aggressive we get. We should not let our emotions get the better of us in the case of these people trying to prove that we are all raging maniacs because of our beloved hobby. We should instead present a very strong case in support of video games and do so in a calm, mature manner. It is the only way to fight back and not prove their harebrained ideas right. It is time to fight back, but we must do so in a positive way.

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thorstein1867d ago

The real problem is that all these "journos" and "politicos" are more interested in "talking points" than actually addressing the true reasons why violence occurs.

The science doesn't back up any of their claims: that violent media creates violent individuals.

Before video games it was Dungeons and Dragons, before that it was books... whatever new media comes along is often pointed at as the culprit.

AtomicGerbil1867d ago

Well said. I've been meaning to write a blog on the very same subject, you seem to have done a better job than I could.

HonestDragon1860d ago

In a time of when our source of entertainment that we are so invested in gets attacked as a social virus that infects innocent people, then it's also the time that our community pull together to defend it. Everyone has their opinions on the matter of gun violence and pop culture's influence, but the fact remains that people hurt people through crime. There is no clean way around it.

I bet you can make a great case on this topic. What would be some of the main things you would cover? Politics? News media? Gun violence?

AtomicGerbil1860d ago

Primarily I think it would have to be the political side and the habit of politicians to jump on a controversial subject for the sake of popularity without any tangible evidence.

Secondly the gaming media and industry in general need a kick up the backside for not standing up in defence of what is essentially their occupation.

I'm no writer so it may be a hard slog to produce something, but I'll give it a shot so at least there will be another opinion out there.

HonestDragon1857d ago

Yeah, go for it. We can use all of the great articles we can get to defend the industry.