I am old enough to remember the days of Jack Thompson and his crusade against video games. I remember cheering after seeing him get straight up annihilated on TV and rejoicing when legal decisions recognized video games as art protected under the First Amendment. I thought that was it, video games can be whatever their developers want them to be and it would be up to parents and guardians to “protect” their kids from whatever they thought the games would do to them. That was almost a decade ago, so you can imagine my surprise when the flimsy argument that “violent video games cause real world violence” resurfaced under Trump and his minions. In absolutely refusing to recognize the true roots of this country’s history of violence, the Trumpites and all other kinds of idiots have once again missed the mark. The arguments from my high school and early college days are back since Trump has blamed video games for the most recent mass shootings and I’m honestly stunned that we’re still doing this in 2019.
So let’s just get this out of the way right now: video games are not solely the cause of real world violence. There has been plenty of research to disprove this foolish theory. Yes, some violent shooters may have played video games, but that correlation does not imply causation. Let me put this another way: let’s say you’re in school and you go to the club pretty often. You fail a course and have to tell your parents that you failed. If your parents are anything like mine, if they find out how often you were in the club they could easily (and likely will) point to that and say that it was the reason why you failed. But going to the club alone isn’t going to make you fail; you have to go to the club AND miss class or go to the club AND fail assignments. Going to the club can be a contributing factor, but it simply cannot be the only factor. Your grades aren’t going to magically drop because you walked into a club. Playing video games with violence in them is the same way. There are just too many reports of people who play video games who haven’t gone on shooting sprees to straight up say that video games cause real world violence. There is more to that equation but people like to ignore the other variables and take the easy way out most of the time. In the case of these shooters, yeah they probably played video games and its possible that they didn’t help the situation, but neither did their racist manifestos. It is absolutely foolish to ignore all the obvious issues there and place the blame on video games, so why do it? Simple. It’s easier to blame big bad video games rather than the real problems: radicalized white supremacist terrorism, toxic gamer culture, and the obscene love affair this country has with guns.
We live in a country where you can literally buy a gun at the same time you buy milk for your cereal and people are being taught to use those guns as soon as they can pull a trigger. We also live in a country where angry yt guys can walk into any establishment uninhibited, kill a bunch of people, and still be handled like precious cargo by police and the news. Its far easier to blame video games than to deal with the reality that people are racist as fuck and our government is in the hands of the NRA. I get it because, you know, the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy gonna do what its gonna do. What I don’t get though is how do people keep believing BS like “it’s video games’ fault”. All it takes is an idiot like Jack Thompson and his flunkies or Trump and his minions talking loud enough and long enough and we believe it. A simple Google search will show you that the video games and violence debate is just not that simple. Come on people, we have GOT to be able to look beyond the headlines and stop falling for the click bait. More importantly, we have GOT to understand that as powerful as the media is it cannot force us to do anything by itself. This is a large reason why I teach my media literacy classes, to combat this idea we have that media is just all bad. We talk throughout the class about the great things media can expose us to as well as the negatives it can create. I take special care to push back against the idea that media (music, books, TV, movies, video games, and even social media) can force anyone to do anything because it’s just not true, at least not by itself. Seeing gay characters cannot turn a person gay who wasn’t already gay, misogynistic music won’t make a person misogynistic if they’re not already exposed to misogyny, and violent video games won’t make a person violent if they don’t already have violent thoughts. Media (and art at large) can definitely add to the problem, even the staunchest video game advocates can admit to that, but like in the example with failing a class and the club, it cannot be the only reason behind it.
I admit that I personally have a big issue with demonizing video games, especially because of what they have done for me growing up. That doesn’t erase the fact that this renewed war against video games is just as idiotic as it was in the 90s and the early 00s. It all just becomes a scapegoat, a way to avoid talking about the country’s REAL problem (white supremacy) by pinning it on a medium that’s easy for people to hate. Shifting the blame to video games isn’t going to stop the mass shootings that are occurring almost every other day, nor is removing video game ads but keeping the guns. If we really want to honor those people who were murdered in the El Paso, Dayton, Baton Rouge, and the hundreds of recent shootings across the country, we have to look beyond our media to the culture that creates it. We HAVE to address the root of this issue otherwise we will all just be playing the blame game forever, and honestly that’s one game I think I’ll pass on.
What do you think can be done to address the REAL problem(s) behind these mass shootings? Can violent media (video games included) REALLY be a part of the problem? Feel free to leave your comments, questions, and concerns below and don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe!