In the weeks since the horrible incident in Newtown, Connecticut, the Obama administration has started an initiative to look into the causes of gun violence. As part of the investigation, Vice President Joe Biden sat down with game makers to have a discussion about video games, and the possible impact violent video games have on young minds.
Video games have been in the cross hairs of investigations involving their impact on adolescents in the past. Can you guess what they determined? If you guessed, despite depicting gore and desensitizing gamers to animated blood shed, there were no links between gun violence and video games, you’d be right.
But some still make claims to the contrary, and I am going to argue with those individuals. I have been playing video games for over two decades now, and the last thing any game has made me want to do is go out and commit mass murder. Furthermore, I would be willing to bet that more than a few consumers of certain violent video games feel the same.
This beckons the question then, why does the game industry, and in particular violent games, continue to find themselves in law makers’ scopes? Some people would say politicians honestly just don’t understand the medium.
But even that argument is mediocre at best. If gamers paid attention to the news during election season, a headline that stuck out as unbelievable was a smear campaign against a candidate running for a state senate seat in Maine. Colleen Lachowicz was outed as being a player of video games, including the extremely popular MMORPG World of Warcraft. Her opponent claimed she was unfit for office because of the “fantasy double life she lived”, which at times could be violent. These claims are based on out of context statements that Lachowitz had made on the WoW forums under her character’s name.
There was a point when the “Colleen’s World” smear site went on to slander not just Lachowitz, but all gamers by explaining acronyms we use in game incorrectly. An example is that DPS was explained to be ‘Deaths per Second.’ For people who don’t play games and don’t understand some gaming mechanics, ‘Deaths per Second’ can have a disturbing mass murder like ring to it.
The fact remains that some gamers can’t help but feel belittled by lawmakers. One such insulting statement came from a different state senator last week. California State Senator, Leland Yee – D said, “Gamers have got to just quiet down[...] Gamers have no credibility in this argument. This is all about their lust for violence and the industry’s lust for money. This is a billion-dollar industry. This is about their self-interest.”
As you may imagine, this put a lot of heat on Yee, who since then has rephrased his statement and apologized. Regardless, this doesn’t change the fact that it was said and the light it sheds on how he sees our community.
So, let’s get this straight. As gamers, we are being depicted as simple minded individuals, whom have an overwhelming lust for blood, have a constant desire for violence, and have zero credibility to defend an activity in which our time is dedicated? We know that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Celebrities such as Jodie Foster, Vin Diesel, Mike Myers, and Robin Williams are on record as being gamers. Now Maine has their own state senator whom is a gamer (the campaign against her failed). There are journalists and even individuals with PhDs whom identify as gamers.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s estimated to be over 180 million Americans alone who identify as gamers. So according to one senator, there are quite a few Americans who aren’t even qualified to talk about their hobby. Furthermore, if there are so many gamers in the United States and video games cause violence, we as a country would have an epidemic on our hands… but we don’t.
So this circles back around to the conversation that the Vice President had this week with representatives of our industry. Why is it insisted that games are the cause of violence? It’s been constantly proven otherwise, not to mention that the industry has grown in magnitude from where it was the first time it was placed under the hot lamp for questioning without those violent incidences growing at the same rate.
Gamers who are responsible should not be punished for the actions of extremist individuals who happen to share their hobby. Though video games could be a trigger for an individual who is mentally unstable, anything could be a similar trigger, and games are certainly not the weapon.
If law makers try to go after game developers, they undoubtedly would be in violation of the following: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The course gamers need to take is that of the high road. Instead of making derogatory remarks about legislators, we need to get the word out about what we get out of games. We know there is more to our hobby than a desire for digital violence and those reasons need to be heard.
My story for instance. I have multiple reasons for playing games. Are there days I want to come home and vent in an FPS? Absolutely. But I fully understand this is a virtual outlet for pent up frustrations that build up as a result of having to deal with ignorant people out in the world. But is that the only reason I play games? Heck no. I like to play games to push my boundaries. Playing against people and even AIs, at a level that is the same as you pushes you to be a better player, and the only way to do that is to improve your hand-eye coordination.
I also play games for the connections I can make through them. This past holiday season, my girlfriend started to get into Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty. Because of her interest in the game, and because I play it on a regular basis, it was a no brainer what to gift to her. Now that she has it, she can join in the multiplayer games a lot of us will play. That’s right, instead of a violent blood bath, as a couple we are using it as a tool to spend time together, even if we’re not in the same room.
These stories need to be heard by non-gamers if we ever expect to be understood. There is more to video games then violence: there is bonding, improving coordination, and educational possibilities. Don’t let politicians try and censor video games. There’s a lot this industry does for their customers, and inducing psychopathic rampages aren’t among their offers.
Well, at least the Supreme Court already seems to know this, even if Leland Yee doesn’t.