Video Games and Violence: Why Take Responsibility when we have Such a Good Scapegoat?

Nobody wants to see people die at the hands of other people. When it does happen, we as a unified humanity seek out what might have caused something so difficult for the average person to fathom: the desire and will to contemplate and then execute a plan to kill another person. While we never really know what goes through a killer’s head before, during or after a violent attack, we do know that every time it happens, somebody from the peanut gallery jumps up and screams “Did they play violent video games? I bet they did!” as though the solution has been found. To me, that exclamation means literally nothing. What it comes down to is this: video games can be very violent, but they do not encourage violent behavior in the real world.

I enjoy playing video games from time to time, and one of my personal favorites is called “Killing Floor 2.” Basically, you and your team have to kill off the mutated monsters before they kill you. Now, I can’t say that I wouldn’t protect myself in a fight to the death with mutated monsters should the situation present itself, but I will tell you that playing that game has in no way convinced me that I have a right to go out and use excessive or fatal force on somebody that I dislike or disagree with. That’s just not how it works.

A report from the American Psychological Association cited in a CBS article found that “there is evidence showing the games increase aggression but not enough to demonstrate that playing the games lead to criminal behavior or delinquency,” and that makes sense (Casey). Being absorbing in a pulse-pounding, kill-or-be-killed environment, even if you are sitting at a computer, puts a person on the defensive and may cause them to feel more aggressive. However, it does not encourage a person to get up and carry that aggression or line of thinking in the real world. As I said, “Killing Floor 2” does not lead me to believe that I should walk around heavily armed in order to protect myself. The world I live in is, thankfully, quite different from the world of the game. The same goes for most games. Nobody should really be led to believe that pulling somebody out of their car by the hair and driving away is a reasonable mode of transportation, but there are at least five “Grand Theft Autos” that let you do just that. No video game world tells you to apply its logic to your everyday life. They simply give you the rules of their world and let you play in it.

Now, I am not saying that for some people the lines between a game and reality aren’t blurred. In fact, I think that happens more often than it should. However, that isn’t the video game encouraging anything. That is a person who is underdeveloped socially, mentally and/or emotionally. I’m not saying somebody who falls into those categories can’t play video games, but they do need to be watched a bit closer or take some time to debrief on the different rules in two very different worlds. When Adam Lanza killed the people he did at Sandy Hook, people were quick to find out that he was obsessed with violent video games, prompting calls from some members of Congress for restrictions on them” (Casey). This, to me, is silly. It also came to light that Lanza was likely mentally underdeveloped and had some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder, but nobody cried for all people with that same mental ability level to be locked away. That would be ridiculous. Both of those things may have been a factor in what happened, but neither of them can carry the blame. I guarantee none of those video games told Lanza to take a gun into a school and cut short lives shorter. That’s not how things work.

Violent video games do get people amped up. They make your heart race, your mind race and your logical decision making adjusted so that you will kill what threatens you. But that is all on screen. I’ve yet to see a video game in which you can level up by killing people in an elementary school, in a Lane Bryant store or at school. You don’t earn points for ending the lives of normal people who can do you no harm. Video game worlds have video game rules, and any person can see that they do not overlap in the real world. So, while I can agree that some people cannot handle and should not play violent video games, it is not for me to decide how we judge that. I love to say that it falls to parents, guardians and other adults (because it does), but more than that, I have to say that it does not fall to game designers. Smacking virtual monsters with a modified shovel is something I enjoy doing from time to time, but it doesn’t change how I deal with my everyday life. In reality, it’s just entertainment. It’s not brainwashing. It’s not giving violent orders. It’s not encouraging violent behaviors. I think it’s time we stopped blaming video games and started compiling real lists of real issues that really lead to senseless violence and recognized that, though video games may be a factor in some violent acts, they are not the monster-makers we have turned them into over the years.

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