The Game and the Gun

Mikey 13 comments
The Game and the Gun

In the wake of , the topic of video game violence has again been resurrected. Opinions are strong on both sides, with gamers unsurprisingly rejecting the notion that playing Counter-Strike gives them homicidal tendencies, and conservative parents erring on the side of caution.

As a life long gamer with 30+ years of exposure to games that involve shooting, blasting, decapitating, bashing and some things you just don't want to know about, any of my family and friends will testify I don't have a violent bone in my body. So I side with the gamers on this one.

But there is more to the total equation than the media and certain lawyers will have you believe, and it makes you wonder whose interests they really have at heart. The result is law suites unfairly thrown at video game companies.

"It's easy to point the finger at something that immediately sticks out. But playing video games or listening to rock music doesn't create killers."

I am now going to attempt to convince you why suing the video game manufacturers is wrong in these instances. If I do my job correctly by the end you will agree that not only are video game companies not the target, but they shouldn't even be on the radar.

Allow me to introduce Johnny Hypothetical. We'll just call him Johnny for this exercise.

Johnny is an average student, perhaps below average, in his 2nd year of high school. Like other kids his age he plays video games whenever he gets the time, which is quite often because he doesn't have many friends. Counter-Strike is his favourite. The games let him temporarily forget about the sad reality of his life. He isn't very popular with the other kids and gets bullied a lot. He is socially awkward which makes connecting with people difficult.

The truth is that Johnny's social awkwardness is the result of years of physical and mentalĀ  abuse from a drunk Dad, who also beat up on his Mum. His Dad used to pick on him a lot in fact, regularly reminding Johnny that he was an accident that should never have happened. His Dad died of liver disease not so long ago, so it doesn't matter like it used to. When Dad died he didn't feel anything, but his Mum started drinking.

Johnny's grades are slipping because he has problems concentrating in class. All up Johnny isn't very happy with the hand life has dealt him, and if it weren't for the retilin his doctor prescribed, those suicidal tenancies might resurface.

One day, it all becomes too much. The criticism, the bullying, the low grades, and the ever-present thought that it can't get any better than this. Johnny knows where his Dad kept his rifle.

The new breaks. A teenager kills 7 class mates and injures 13 before turning the rifle on himself. Through the confusion the killer is eventually identified. "He was a quiet boy" they would say. "Mostly kept to himself". "He played video games a lot..."

And there it is. He played video games. And before anyone can say "where's the evidence" the media machine runs with it. All anyone knows about this kid is he was quiet, mostly kept to himself, was an average student, and played video games. His entire life summed up in four small statements, one of which stands out as an 'obvious cause'.

My question to you that have politely read this far is: Looking at the real evidence, the truth, should the parents of the victims hold the video game company responsible? Take that as rhetorical if you must.

If you don't feel like answering that question, then try this one. If Johnny never played video games, but listened to Marilyn Manson and other bands labelled by the media as 'satanic', should the parents hold the record labels responsible? I'm sorry it's the same question I know. But you see my point by now?

The point I am trying to get across is: It's easy to point the finger at something that immediately sticks out. But playing video games or listening to rock music doesn't create killers. Underlying psychological problems, be they the result of abuse, neglect, bad parenting, bullying, or a myriad of underlying reasons, creates killers.

Foot Notes

If you want something a bit more substantial than my rhetoric, have a look at the childhoods of some of the killers still in living memory. The pictures are not too dissimilar to the one I painted for Johnny Hypothetical.

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Wednesday 20th February 2008 | 11:28 PM

there always has to be a scapegoat and i guess it is easy to blame the video games, or the music or the movies that have some sort of violence in them or the satanic verses in the music.
but i guess there could be a Johnny Hypothetical in a "normal" family as well. they are not all from broken family's.

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Thursday 21st February 2008 | 01:07 AM

Millions and millions of people play counter strike, without ever hurting a fly in the real World. If you trialled a cancer vaccine and found 1 in 20 million cured, you wouldn't call it a success but 1 in 20 million counter strike players goes nuts and suddenly the game is evil.

Clearly, the correlation between gamer and killer here is the textbook definition of "negligible"; so it's time the media started to concentrate on root causes and not on end-symptoms.

One day, as a society, we're going to have to accept the simply massive, negative social effect bullying can have on kids and do something about it, rather than just expect them all to "tough it out".

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Thursday 21st February 2008 | 03:58 AM

Its absolute idiocy to be honest, trying to say video games are the cause of any type of violence (non-digital anyway). As your hypothetical story pointed out and many, many real world example have shown, the people that do this stuff , at worst, have some serious problems before hand, and at best have a serious lack of common sense (check youtube for example).

The scapegoat tendency goes back quite a ways, the first real issue I paid attention to was the gun industry, with some major companies that were basically part of the history of the US being all but put out of business. They are trying the same thing with video games, and while few or no lawsuits will actually make through on a video game company, they are changing the way they make the games just to avoid the possibility of a lawsuit, which adversely affects the quality and content of the games I want to play.

The bottom line on all of it is the parents are ultimately responsible for any child under 18, and their actions. Any person over 18 is responsible for their own actions. No TV show, rock band, or video game can force a person into doing something they were not willing to do anyway. Honestly I think the lawyers involved in stuff like this just want to milk it for all the cash they can and the politicians just want to scare monger some votes.

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Parker Lewis

Thursday 21st February 2008 | 09:50 AM

Perfectly stated. Looking at the wikis you linked...

Martin Bryant..."Dr Eric Cunningham Dax described him as mentally retarded and stated that he had a personality disorder. Because of his mental disability, other kids gave him the nickname "Stupid Marty."

Ted Kaczynski..."He remembers not fitting in with the older children and being subjected to verbal abuse and teasing from them."

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold..."Harris and Klebold were unpopular and frequent targets of bullying at their high school."

Barry Loukaitis..."he himself claimed that relentless bullying at the school impelled him to this murderous rampage"

Evan Ramsey..."Ramsey was reportedly picked on frequently at school. According to friends, Ramsey wasn't very smart and was often called names such as "retard", "spaz" or "braindead".

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are the only ones to have played video games in this list but they all have the same pre-existing trauma of being bullied during a period when they are most vulnerable and impressionable.

I understand the community wants to hold someone accountable but the game companies had nothing to do with the way these kids were treated.

Thanks again. Passing the link around.

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Thursday 21st February 2008 | 04:14 PM

To blame the game is obviously wrong, but to neglect the games influence on people would also be naive. We are all a product of our enviroment, surely bullying, games and music all have a part to play. Never mind the fact that we are all individuals with different morals and values.
Watching Black Hawk Down, I would imagine that the average Somalian doesnt have access to a computer never mind counter strike, but dont they love a good gun rampage.
What if it is our nature.

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Joe Marco

Thursday 21st February 2008 | 05:21 PM

Killers are made, they are not born that way. Blaming any industry for the woes of man is reaching for blame that falls back upon the individual and those responsible for raising that child. Do we sue car manufacturers for drunk drivers? Do we sue Jack Daniels for the same offense?

A gun is tool, like any other tool, such as a hammer or a screwdriver, both deadly weapons in the hands of someone intent on killing. Once a person wants to kill, what's to stop them?

Suing video games is a blatant strong arming of crooked ass lawyers looking for a scape goat and a large settlement.

Parents need to take charge of the solemn responsibility of raising a life. For F@cks sake, if one has to take lessons on how to drive a car and earn a license, then why can't the same logic apply for a marriage license or having a child? Not everyone is fit, nor capable of being a decent parent.
Humanity as a whole is too large of a bloated beast, and with our rising numbers, the probability rate of 'bad' things occurring increases.

We play the odds everyday.

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Nine Lives

Thursday 21st February 2008 | 09:56 PM

Thanks for giving me something to shut my dad up about.

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Damned straight

Thursday 21st February 2008 | 10:13 PM

Games don't kill people - people kill people.

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Friday 22nd February 2008 | 10:20 AM

It's surprisingly easy to turn a kid into a time bomb. Lazy parents and bullies do it all the time. Joe Marco mentioned parents should have a licence to have kids...I would be in favour of that.

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Bob Dobalina

Friday 22nd February 2008 | 07:08 PM

Fox are manipulating headlines to favour the video game angle. Have a look at this..

Its damn shameful but what do we expect from Fox?

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Friday 22nd February 2008 | 11:24 PM

prior to video games there were still violent people out there killing, what was their excuse?

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Joe Marco

Saturday 23rd February 2008 | 06:11 AM

Violent bed time stories...the Brothers Grimm should be held liable!

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Saturday 17th May 2008 | 06:54 PM

You made your point with a great example. Thanks for a great read.

P.S. - I just came from stumbleupon and this is a nice little site you have happening here. You can expect me to keep coming back.

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