I’m not American. I am British but that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally look beyond my own borders to see what is going on in the outside world. The most horrific story of late has been of course the Sandy Hook shooting incident that happened on 14th December in Connecticut. While coverage of events like this isn’t exactly a common occurrence here the criticism from the NRA President Wayne LaPierre of the so called “shadow industry ”- video games. As an avid player and supporter of the video game industry, as I’m sure many of you are, I feel obliged to point out to LaPierre that this really isn’t the case.
[springboard type="video" id="629689" player="scin001" width="560" height="315" ]
Pointing to games like Bulletstorm and Grand Theft Auto LaPierre, in a shaking voice, all but blames the video game industry for the causing events similar to that that went on in Connecticut. And perhaps he has a point. The Columbine shooters played Doom , Anders Brevik, who killed 69 people in Norway last year, told a court he played a Call of Duty game to practice his hand-eye coordination. But does the fact that three killers enjoyed video games actually amount to anything? As a child I played Super Mario Bros Deluxe on my Gameboy Colour- I have yet to steal gold coins nor take mushrooms. As a teen I played Call of Duty but I have yet to open fire on an unsuspecting crowd in an airport. The number of video-game-enjoying-killers is totally disproportionate to the number of people who enjoy a casual game of team deathmatch.
What is even more irritating than the NRA’s accusations is their lack of of suggestions- what more can be done to censor video games? The establishment the Entertainment Software Rating Board in 1994 went a long way in compartmentalising and organising games into age categories based on their content, which ought to mean only those old enough see the type of violence or acts that might “corrupt” an individual. Would the NRA favour censoring video games? LaPierre slates the wider media calling upon films like American Psycho as an example of “corrupting” media, so, by the same token as their attitude towards video games, should the wider media be censored?
No. No it really should not. For the case of video games Robert VerBruggen of the National Review argues effectively saying:
Video-game violence has been pervasive for the last two decades: The 1990s saw the introduction of popular blood-spattering fare such as Mortal Kombat and Doom, and since then game graphics have inched ever closer to photorealism. Total video-game sales have soared, and some of the most popular series (Grand Theft Auto, God of War) are incredibly violent. The people most likely to be violent, young males, are disproportionate consumers of these games. And yet violent-crime rates in this demographic have fallen. If games inspire violence, the effect is overwhelmed by larger trends…blaming violence on video games is unfair — and, worse, unlikely to lead to effective policies.”
Video games will always be violent and in some cases perhaps too violent (Manhunt is a case in point) but this does not mean that people will inevitably go on and carry out video-game-inspired horrific acts of violence. There is no simply answer, no one person or collective to blame and gun control will now be an issue that will come to the forefront of Obama’s second term of presidency. Meanwhile I’ll be waiting with my controller to fend off anyone who wants to try and take away my copy of Assassin’s Creed.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or continue the conversation on Twitter @JC_WaitWat