“We have a nation of Manchurian Candidate video gamers out there who are ready, willing, and able to massacre, and some of them will.” claimed Jack Thompson, an anti video game activist, in regards to Northern Illinois University shooting that took place on February 14th, 2008. Jack Thompson also insisted that “When a kid who has never killed anyone in his life goes on a rampage and looks like the Terminator, he’s a video gamer.” after the Virginia Tech massacre which took place on 16th April, 2007. Not only Jack Thompson but there are innumerable people out there, politicians, parents, social activists, who blame video games for inducing violence in kids. How correct are they?
Video games have been facing the blame for making kids violent since decades. It’s a popular belief that playing violent games will obviously make kids behave in a violent way as they try to imitate the actions done in the games. And the increase in the number of video games depicting violence in the market has made matters worse; some senators in the US have gone as far as to say that video games should be banned as they propagate the concept that killing a human is fun.
Agreed that there are some games which have too much gore in them and censoring them for the sake of kids is sensible. But blaming almost every game that has red in it? That is nowhere near sensible.
Are you serial?
Anti video game activists argue that video games act as murder simulators where gamers practice killing people; and then apply it in real life, without any sense of guilt or remorse. First thing these so-called activists need to know is that gamers aren’t stupid. We, gamers, are comfortable with killing NPCs (non playable characters) in video games because we know that it is a game; we aren’t killing a person, we are just killing a collage of moving pixels. We know how different killing a person in a game is to killing a person in real life. We know the difference between reality and fiction and it’s about time these activists understood that. Of course, I agree that there are a few gamers out there for whom the line between reality and fiction is blurred; but that is not due to video games, its rather due to the mental condition and surroundings of that particular person. Video games act as an escape for them, not as a cause for their behaviour. If that particular person hadn’t found video games, he or she would have found another escape in the form of say a movie or a book.
It’s really sad there have been many serial shootings in the past years. And most of these shootings were blamed on video games on the assumed basis that the shooter played video games. So, if the shooter had been watching a marathon of Harry Potter movies before the shootings, I guess we could blame Harry Potter for the incident, right? As much sorry as we are for the victims and families of these shootings, we can’t just let people blame video games for these unfortunate incidents. No one knows why these shooters did what they did; their mental state was deplorable and maybe some, I repeat some, of them found an escape in video games. As I said earlier, video games are never the cause.
Our prayers are with those affected by the shootings.
Now, for the sake of neutrality, video games are not totally innocent. In many cases, the perp was found to be applying video game strategies in real life (GTA, Call of Duty). These video games allow gamers to kill at will and offer various options to do that. But one has to keep in mind that this doesn’t this in no way means that video games were the root of the heinous crimes; maybe the thought was always there and these video games gave him or her a way. If it wasn’t a video game, he or she would have found a way out through a Chuck Norris movie or a Jason Bourne book. Yes, I agree that video games have their faults and can be dangerous to a vulnerable mind but they cannot be held responsible for the inception of violent thoughts in anyone’s mind.
Designed to kill?
Another argument put forth by the anti-video game activists is that video games are designed to get gamers addicted, that the companies developing the games try to milk as much money as possible by selling their product to vulnerable kids or in some cases, adults. For argument’s sake, let us say that it is true; are they to blame? Do you think that the pharmaceutical companies produce medicines because they care for you? No. They do it because they make a ton load of money out of it. And the video game industry is just like any other industry; at the end of the day, it is about the money and getting the product sold. At least the gaming industry doesn’t brainwash its customers with misleading ads to get its product sold. And furthermore, these games are designed to be fun. In this stressful world of ours, it is not surprising to find that more and more people find fun addicting. Games are designed to be fun. It is not a game’s fault that people find fun so addicting.
The truth has been spoken
Furthermore, various scientific studies have already proved that playing video games have no relation whatsoever to violent behaviour in kids or adults. According to Wikipedia, an fMRI study by Regenbogen and colleagues suggested that violent video games do not diminish the ability to differentiate between real and virtual violence (you can find further details about that study here). One study from Morgan Tear and Mark Nielsen in 2013 concluded that violent video games did not reduce or increase prosocial behavior (behaviour helping the greater good or society), failing to replicate previous studies in this area, which stated that video games reduced the moral thinking of a man (find out more here). In 2014, Ferguson and Olson found no correlation between video game violence and bullying or criminal behaviour in children with pre existing attention deficit disorder or depressive symptoms, proving that video games could not affect or deteriorate the mental condition of subjects already suffering from mental diseases (read more here). Need we say more?
It’s very clear that video games are not the cause of violence. Of course, video games do introduce mature content to kids but hey we are in the 21st century now. If a kid is playing GTA, I think he is old enough to know what guns and drugs are. But you might be wondering, why are we discussing this now? Because, this is not an issue that we need to react to only when something happens; this is an issue for which we, as gamers, need to stand up for everyday. We have the responsibility of telling the people of the world that we are not crazy dudes and gals who would go shooting people just because we enjoy playing video games.
The sole purpose of this article was to answer a simple question; are video games turning gamers into serial killers? This article was not meant to hurt anyone’s feelings. As a passionate gamer, I want people to know that I am not a violent person, that I don’t go around shooting people. Video games have given me an escape from reality, a playground to endlessly toy with my imagination and a world to go to when the real one is falling apart. I am really sorry if anyone was offended by this article and I assure you that that was not the intention.
Please do take time to check out the videos tagged above. The first one is a video by TotalBiscuit, a famous youtuber who states his rather knowledgeable opinion on how the media has been exploiting situations to blame video games and the second one is a video by Francis, another famous youtuber who reacts to the blaming of the recent shootings on video games.
Let us know what you think about video games inducing violence in kids in the comments below. Also let us know what you would like me to write about next on our Facebook page or in the comments below.
Oh and before I sign off, screw you Jack Thompson.