(This is going to be a long one, mostly because of quotes. Bear with me.)
Advanced Media Network: Do Video Games Create Killers?
I found this interesting – it’s basically several short editorials on the same page. I don’t agree with all of them, but there were some good ones. Here’s the first one that caught my eye, and I’m going to post it in its entirety here, it’s a good read:
Any time a tragedy such as the one at Virginia Tech occurs the first reaction is to search for answers. Video games have been a very popular answer for those looking to find a simple reason that doesn’t involve personal responsibility. This scrutiny has escalated over the last few years as the medium has grown and its content matured into more adult territory. Without the ability to unquestionably call games an art form it’s inevitable that the media would scapegoat the content of certain titles for many of societyÂ?s ills. I’m afraid this won’t change in the future, at least for a generation or more.
But the simple fact is personal responsibility is out of style in America. For whatever reason people are more comfortable saying X caused this person to commit an atrocity then simply stating the obvious fact they had a psychological problem and even if X had never existed they would have still done the terrible actions. The fact no video games were found in the apartment of the Virginia Tech killer caused me to breathe a sigh of relief. Not because I even remotely believed they could have been the cause of the murders, but because I knew they would be get much of the blame regardless of other factual information.
Games are relatively new in our culture, they’ve only been around for a few decades. Murders happened before games, and they will continue to happen if games for some reason cease to be produced. To blame games for murders is short-sighted and causes the real problems to be overlooked. Rather than blame an interactive program perhaps we should spend more time attempting to understand and correct the psychological condition of those who commit these crimes. It isn’t nearly as convenient, and not as lucrative for sensationalist lawyers, but it has a much better chance of yielding information that could stop something like this from happening again. And isn’t that the most important thing?
Definitely one of the more well-written and to-the-point opinion pieces I’ve read in recent days. Here’s some more tidbits from others:
People can’t predict who will go insane and when. It just isn’t possible. Society wants to find something that they can say was the cause after the fact, but sometimes it’s just because someone was too disturbed to begin with and nobody paid attention until it was too late. (…) There is a distinct difference between what is real, and what is fiction. Polygons and pixels and flesh and blood are worlds apart. There is no simulation in this world that can prepare someone to take a human life. (…) Video games had nothing to do with it, but it is a part of our popular culture that people commonly affix with violence so it takes the blame, just like other popular mediums of the past and present. Rock & Roll, Movies, Radio, Television–it’s all the same.
People fail to offer assistance when there is time, but they are quick to assign blame when the deed is done.
That last line is an excellent summation of this entire charade.
The problem I have with the Jack Thompson’s of the world is they believe there is a “magic bullet” that is the root of the issue.
The man who killed all those people at Virginia Tech was a deeply disturbed individual. We need to know why he did it, and simple answers are the ones we accept the most. The public likes to latch onto the idea that something outside of us affected us.
Blaming video games for creating killers isn’t a truth, itÂ?s a scapegoat. ItÂ?s an easy answer for a situation that has none.
I suspect politicians, media, and the like realize that there’s no simple answer or solution to what happened. Sadly, that frequently takes a back seat to fueling ratings or political agendas.
Killers are psychotic people. They are drawn to violent content. They read books about violence/with violence in them, watch films with violence in them, watch TV shows with violence in them–so they’ll seek out violent video games as well.
America has always been a “scapegoat of the decade”-sort of country. Rock and roll ruined us, rap and/or hip-hop continue to threaten our very existence, and video games erase our sense of right and wrong and turn us into killers. (…) Video games aren’t creating killers–their reputation is just being killed by politics.
I liked the scapegoat of the decade comment – and how true. Comic books, radio, television, movies, rock and roll, rap… go back farther and you find what? The waltz, witchcraft… if I’d studied history more I could probably come up with a dozen other examples.
Finally, the page ends with one of the writers quoting Roger Ebert from 2003 – and I have to say, after reading this quote, I’ve actually gained some respect for the guy:
“Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, “that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about ‘Basketball Diaries’?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?” The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it. The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory.
“Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”