The Most Dangerous Game

As touched upon in my response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, it seems every time tragedy strikes we find some unrelated scapegoat, be it South Park, Marilyn Manson, Shakespeare (yes, they really did blame Lincoln’s assassination on Shakespeare. I shit you not.), comic books, violent movies, or the ever-maligned medium we cast as a villain every time we need one to blame: video games.

It came up after Columbine and once again, when we need something, anything to talk about other than the actual issues, when we need someone to condemn to avoid our own guilt, our own failures, video games are under fire.

I remember reading an article about video game scapegoating back when I was in elementary school. I was never much one for playing video games (though I did while away some hours with my special edition pokemon Game Boy Color), but I enjoyed the art, storytelling, and worldbuilding of video games and was surrounded by those who played them avidly. As a child, it outraged me that people would blame Columbine on this medium simply because it was an easy out. The defense of video games then is as true as it is today.

1) Video games do not make killers. There is no proven relationship between video game exposure and violent behaviour. In fact, if you subscribe to the realistic view of evil rather than the romantic view, video games with violent content may actually serve as a socially acceptable way of expressing desires or frustrations, such as beating on a punching bag at the gym instead of going off on your boss or ex or noisy neighbor. Nobody plays a video game and then goes on a homicidal rampage just for kicks. There had to have been serious underlying issues beforehand.

2) Many developed nations play the same video games and watch the same violent and sexually explicit movies that we do, yet their gun-related death rates are drastically lower than ours. Clearly there are other factors playing a far greater role.

3) Video games are already censored and regulated more than just about any other medium. They have ratings for a reason. Don’t buy a nine-year-old an M-rated game and then blame video games for exposing your child to violence or sexual content. Be a parent. Pay attention to what your children are playing and watching and discuss it with them. Model acceptable ways of dealing with negative emotions for your children instead of expecting the media to do it for you.

Why does it make sense to attack the first amendment instead of looking into the ‘well regulated’ part of the second? Why is it better to point the finger at games like Arkham Asylum instead of examining the state of our mental healthcare system or our culture’s perception/reception of the mentally ill? The day a kid brings Mario Kart to school and beats their classmates to death with it, we’ll talk. The day someone takes an innocent bystander hostage with a copy of Okami, I’ll concede. But until that day, video games cannot be held accountable for the evils of our society.

It’s no surprise that video games have been indicted. New media and fringe media have long borne the blame for society’s ills, from penny dreadfuls and pulp fiction to genre fiction and graphic novels. In the early days of cinema, the Hollywood Production Code sought to keep movies squeaky clean, even going so far as to ban images of milking cows for being too sexual (this in a time when many Americans still made their living farming). Similarly, the Comics Code Authority answered the cries of those blaming comic books for the rise in juvenile delinquency by imposing sweeping restrictions on comic book content. The CCA put several companies out of business, resulted in the cancellation of numerous titles, and reduced the Comic Book industry to a shadow of its former sales.

One would think we would have grown beyond this knee-jerk censorship. Movies did not cause the fall of Western Civilization. Comics did not unleash a generation of hardened criminals. Video games are not the reason a troubled young man went into a school and killed twenty little kids. This is 2013: video games, gamers, and gamer culture are not some sinister ‘other’ misunderstood by the masses. Jocks play video games, successful adults play video games, even Grandma can get her cardio in with some Wii Sports. It is time we stopping blaming anything and everything just to avoid actually taking a good, hard look at ourselves. It’s time we stop casting an entire genre or medium as villainous and corrupting because some of its content is not fit for all ages. It’s time we all grow up and have an adult discussion instead of silencing storytellers just to make the conversation stop. It’s time we stop overreacting to keep from having to take any real action.

Also, there’s this. While Boy Scouts is off deciding whether or not to join the 21st century, it seems World of Warcraft has taken up the slack in the wilderness survival department. And here you thought it just complicated running for senate.

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About boundandgaggedbooks

Shannon is a freelance writer and folklore buff. She has a degree from Hampshire College in Creative Writing/Mythology & Religion, with an emphasis on epic/oral traditions, their anthropological implications, and their modern counterparts. Her work can be found in Fabulously Feminist, Wolf Wariors: The National Wolfwatcher Coalition Anthology, The Concord Monitor, Redhead Magazine, and The Climax.

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