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By the Way... Sex, Guns, and Videogames

"Xenophobia is a dislike or fear of people from other countries or of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange. Some definitions suggest xenophobia as arising from irrationality or unreason."
-Wikipedia the greatest (and might I add, the most accurate and unbiased) source there is.

Over the past 20 or so years, there has been an increase in mass shootings and school violence among young people in my country. There were 31 school shootings from 2010 to today, as compared to 30 in the 2000's, and 29 the decade before that. That is a massive spike by anyone's standards. These shootings have been attributed namely to high school aged males. It is an unfortunate trend that these young men seem to be taking out anger, frustration, and their sadness, their abandoned sense of belonging in extremely violent ways, often at the cost of their own lives, and more often than not, the lives of their peers.

Now, many of us are asking why? Why would these often times brilliant you men acting out so violently? And in my country at least, it seems that the consensus of the public is that the blame lies squarely in the hands of video games. Video games after all, are a rather new form of media, and their inception happened to come shortly before this wave of mass killings. Where there is smoke, there is fire as they say. Many of these mass murderers have been known to be avid gamers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were both hardcore Doom and Quake players, so the glove seems to fit.

But I don't think so. See, whenever a new form of media appears, television, comic books, films, the public seems to have a sort of knee jerk reaction to it. As Adam Sessler has said before me, it is a matter of language. These new forms of media are like a foreign language to those who don't understand them. They see someone sitting alone in their room, simulating a war, shooting people, hurting people, though virtual they may be, for fun. They see this person, a gamer, hurting virtual people for fun, and it scares them. It makes them think "hey, this guy isn't right in the head. He must have something wrong with him." and that is where the line of though stops most of the time. We live in a xenophobic world, and conclusion-jumping like this is common. It happened in the 50's and 60's with comic books, parents would see their kids reading these magazines with incredibly violent scenarios, with women being taken by monsters into swamps, and they would think "maybe this is having an effect on my kids?" So all across America, you would see these groups of people destroying comics, trying to get comics banned, or even burning comics in the street. This of course seems silly today, we wouldn't bat an eyelash if someone lets their kids read comics. They promote literacy. But we are going through the same xenophobic phase with video games.

I think we all just need to step back and evaluate what we are looking at here. It has been alleged many times over, and over, and many times over again that video games, violent or in general, cause violent behavior in players. Now, put aside the whole "self control" thing that apparently people have never heard of, I don't think there is a single thing out there that can actually cause violent behavior. I don't think so. The only cause of violent behavior is a violent person. Video games, and lets just get crazy here ALL games, whether video, board, or reindeer, are at their core competitive. Even solitaire is competitive, given you are competing against the clock and against your self. All games are competitive, and they bring out a certain edge in people. They can put you on edge and make you more tense. I know a person or two that has lost their shit playing Monopoly. I myself have become rather stressed out over a tense game of Jenga. Don't even get me started on the tension caused by physical sports. But Monopoly was never called to question in the Columbine investigations. No board games, no physical sports, nothing of the sort. I find that interesting, but not surprising. It all comes down to xenophobia then. People don't fear Monopoly, Checkers, or any traditional game because they are familiar with it.

Video games then, could be said to be the equivalent to a high tech game of chess. Given that your play methods are a bit different, but the same rule applies. You are playing a game, and your brain knows it. You have become competitive, and your adrenaline starts pumping. Are you then, ready to go out and shoot up your school or place of work? I still don't think so, and I have 2 reasons why.

The first reason, is that your competitive buzz, your high, your adrenaline boost doesn't last very long. You feel great while you are playing, but that surely won't last you more than 15 minutes after you put down the controller/your Jenga tower falls over. Your body knows you aren't playing a game any more and it reacts accordingly. You are no longer in a competitive environment so you settle down. You aren't on edge. You aren't being threatened with losing, so you stop feeling that adrenaline anymore, so there is no reason to go out taking your Jenga stress out on your colleagues, so you don't.

My second reason is that we, as in you, your brother and I, are all rational, normal headed people. We understand the difference between a game environment and the real world. You aren't going to go out after a game of Monopoly and begin acquiring all the hotels you can just to show up your friends, and you certainly don't believe you can own your own parkway. After an extended session of Persona 3, I don't go out wooing all the kawaii Japanese school girls I meet, because I know that I am a grown ass man. We are, the most of us, rational, level headed people that don't need hand holding to be told Doom isn't real.

So why then, why do these young men snap? Why do you think, gentle reader? These boys are always revealed to be outcasts with few friends that people at their schools, places of work, and communities nearly always paint as lonely, sad people. The media and society tend to attribute this aspect of their personalities to video games as well, but it cannot be denied now, in this day and age that Activision (regrettably) has entered the lives of a rather large portion of society, and these people don't become violent loners. So it could be asserted that video games did not cause, and were really almost uninvolved entirely with the fact that these kids were loners. Video games are not part of this equation in the slightest. It should instead be investigated WHY these kids were outcast. What made them loners. And why nobody tried to help them or hear them out.

When you are alone, or you feel alone. When you feel you are different or outcast from society, your mind tends to think the worst of yourself and those around you. Eric and Dylan didn't need to be lectured to, or institutionalized, they needed someone to listen to them. They were sad, and they were rejected from their peers. But they were not helped. They were bullied to the point of no return, and felt alienated and unwanted, so they turned to what they felt was their last resort, and it ended in a tragic way. I don't think is the bullies' fault that these kids did what they did. Nor do I think that the bullies had it coming, nobody, especially a child, deserves to be cut short in such a horrific way. I think it is society's fault for letting it happen. We promote bullying and exclusionary behavior. We hold athletes, and beautiful women on a pedestal, and we reject, outcast, and ostracize anyone who doesn't fit what we think is the beautiful mold. It is a sad human flaw that we cannot be assed to help those in need, like Dylan and Eric. We just ignore them.

Tonight, I want you to hug your child, your brother, your sister. Tell them you love them and that you are there for them. You don't have any idea what they might be going through. You don't have any idea the pain they might harbor in their hearts. Nobody could have stopped Columbine. Because nobody cared to stop it in the years, months and weeks before it happened.

Another contributing factor to this tragic trend in our society is the stigma put on the mentally ill. I know it is still a fresh wound in our nation, but I believe that if Adam Lanza were to have been given the help he needed, had he been provided mental counseling, medication if necessary, he would not have done what he did. The same goes for Seung-Hui Cho. Neither one of these young men received adequate care for their conditions, it is believed that Adam suffered from autism, and it is well documented that Seung-Hui Cho had suffered from selective mutism as well as major depressive disorder. I say they didn't receive "adequate" care, because Seung-Hui Cho was indeed in treatment after his diagnosis, but obviously the treatment was not enough. Light counseling doesn't go very far, and the alienation of the mentally ill, or mentally handicapped in our society only furthers the depression of a man like Seung-Hui Cho. Cho showed signs of violent tenancies in papers he submitted to his teachers. They all admitted they were concerned about him after the fact. But hind-sight is 20/20. The man should have gotten mandatory care or counseling after his first or second violent paper, and if not, the teachers could have at least reached out to him.

People with mental illness don't think the same way you and I do, gentle reader. They may have a warped perception of reality, or a feeling of being preyed upon, which is only compounded with incidents of bullying. Instead of staying away from these "freaks" and "weirdos" we should be reaching out. We should be lending a hand. These men could have become wonderful, functioning members of society, but were abandoned to too little therapy and a lonely sad life. Sad people do sad things, and when their mental state is warped, fractured, or otherwise different than the rational, level headed, straight thinking person, this sad person may be capable of things we can't even imagine. Mental illness is something to be treated, not ignored. It may feel awkward, or wrong to you, but reach out. You could be a hero to someone by just being there. And though it may sound cliche, get out and vote dammit. Put people in office that will make a difference. Put people in office that can push for more treatment for the mentally ill. Government can be a tool or a weapon. Use it wisely.

All of the young men I have described have had their violence attributed to video games. Even after all the arguments are made, video games still seem to be the whipping boy here. Now I won't babble on much longer, but I have one more thing to say, gentle reader. Attributing this avoidable death to video games is like attributing the cause of Sun Burns to Bikini sales. Correlation is not causation, and if we continue to skirt around the problem, we will just see more and more of this happen.

Below are some of my sources, since I have been called into question. Might I add, this is a blog. Not a news story. If you were hoping to read a news article, journalistic paper, or other wise academic piece, I am sorry. Head on over to the news section.

Major school shootings in recent US history

On MASS shootings in the US

School shootings in general WITH casualties (1999-2012)

These sources mainly cover school shootings that had casualties. There are school shootings with no casualties, and they are just as important, if not as well documented.

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