Not 20-minutes ago while I was washing my hair, I was thinking about video games and their recent history as an excuse for vile, immoral behaviour. The people who blame video games may be trying to escape responsibility for their own actions.
For as long as I can remember, the English-speaking media blamed video games such as GTA (Grand Theft Auto) for children as young as 12 rioting and looting, but quickly revoked that idea from intense pressure from outside sources. The ACL’s (Australian Christian Lobby) representative Jim Wallace blamed the Norway massacre on video games after he leaned that Anders Breivik’s manifesto was made mention of how he used the game Modern Warfare 2 as “training.” This pushed his anti-gaming agenda into the public spotlight again. The ACL also neglected to mention that Breivik was one of their own, a conservative Christian.
I’m in agreement that there is some evidence video games can impair a young person’s attention span, desensitise them or even lead them to violent behaviour, it’s not the only cause of such personality changes. There is evidence that aggressive children were already displaying these tendencies before they began playing video games.
I was at a GAME store one afternoon after I finished work. I was looking for the Batman: Arkham Asylum game. While I was talking to a staff member a young mother came up to the counter with her son who didn’t look any older than eight. She held a copy of Call of Duty 4 in her hand.
“I’d like to purchase this please,” she placed the copy of the game on the counter. The MA15+ sticker on the cover was clearly visible. She placed her hand on the back of her son’s neck. For a second, I thought about telling this woman off. Thankfully, the clerk restored my faith in gamers. “You realise this game isn’t suitable for your son? This is rated R18 for adults. I’d recommend buying him a different game,”
Maybe she hadn’t thought of it; he had provided her with a reasonable suggestion. She might not have been aware of the contents of the game, but she blew him off with, “I’m sure he can handle it. He’s mature for his age.”
This is where I really wanted the clerk to make her sign a legal document waiving her right to bitch, moan, complain or subsequently blame video games on her son becoming a deviant.
Thankfully, the government will soon be introducing an appropriate rating for adult-themed games ensuring that young people won’t be able to buy games so easily and get the rest of us in trouble.
As the gaming community’s voice grows, I feel we need to take a greater responsibility for our actions and the actions of others around us. As I wrote above, the ACL found it easy to lay all responsibility upon the shoulders of video games without looking his own religion. What I took away from his speech was that he thought the entire gaming community to be a bunch of murdering, corrupt psychos-in-waiting and that we’re all as bad as each other. A counter-statement during the same interview was presented by Seamus Byrne. He said, (sic) “Breivik referenced the Bible and Christianity hundreds of times, but I don’t hold all Christians to blame.”
Somehow, Wallace’s close-minded statement can be related back to an old proverb, “People fear what they do not understand”. The gaming community is a hard community to understand from the outside. We play games where we shoot people, pilot spaceships to far away galaxies and even simulate real life. We indulge in games that take the player away from reality. Often, we could take an active role in the activities we’re simulating in the games we play if we were motivated enough, but we instead sit on a comfy chair and switch off for a few hours. I understand how we might be seen as brainless miscreants, but I’ve seen the gaming community do more. We have been pro-active in our quest to ensure that our pastime isn’t misinterpreted as merely an interactive cartoon for children, but we also aren’t the most understanding people in the world either.
Those who play games tend to interpret criticism as a personal attack and respond as so which perpetuates the idea that we’re aggressive, short-tempered people. I know I’ve been guilty of it from time to time myself. This is another part of gaming responsibly that we need to be aware of. While others may bait gamers, tear gamers down or call us horrible names. We collectively need to remember that words should not hurt or worry us and we can take the high road.
Gaming probably will always be looked upon as an easy target for blame because of the topics that are sometimes encountered in our hobby. While gaming can be used to bring people together, discuss difficult topics, educate, and engage us in new ways , those who don’t devote time or try to understand it will find it easy to abuse their lack of knowledge or use their own agenda to over-shadow the good video games can do.