I thought I’d write my two-cents (or pence, being from the UK) on the whole 'Video Games are to blame for violence in society' thing. Over the past few months I’ve seen and read a lot of articles, blogs, video blogs etc. on the subject, and although I’m sure it will have no impact whatsoever, I thought it would be a good outlet for a rant.
I'd like to quickly pay homage to Marcus Beer (Annoyed Gamer) - who so very eloquently presented one of his Annoyed Gamer videos just before Christmas time on the same subject, and to be completely honest, was the first time I’d seen anyone give the same point of view as I intend to put here, on a public forum. If you have 7 minutes, take a look at the video here - http://www.gametrailers.com/videos/x6duee/annoyed-gamer-not-suitable-for-children-
Let's consider video games as mere 'entertainment' (just for a few minutes). We buy them for entertainment. For the most part, when not used in schools for educational purposes, they are there to help us have fun, socialise and wind down at the end of a long day at work.
Now then... movies... I believe they are a form of entertainment too. At least they entertain me, and a good few of my friends and family as well. I like a large variety of movies, old and new, kids movies, action movies, comedies etc.
Then there are obviously books... stories... scripture... the oldest form of visual entertainment. I'm quite partial to the odd bit of heroic fantasy. Lots of sword fights, some of which I have to admit gets quite blood thirsty at times re. the late, great David Gemmell.
So why do I go on about entertainment so much. Well, it's simple... it's because they're all one and the same. Entertainment Media. Never mind being wrong, it is just plain stupid to single out video games as being a source for encouraging violence.
I was brought up on Martial Arts movies. At the time they had an 18 certificate (R rated). I was a young kid. My dad made a judgment call and opted that it was ok for me to watch such movies. He DIDN'T deem it plausible to allow me to watch horror movies or gory movies. So, did me watching 18 cert movies encourage me to be violent... on the contrary, I believe that it actually encouraged me to practice martial arts myself which in itself is an extremely positive thing for oneself and other around you.
Of course being in my mid-thirties I have grown up with video games... from my original Atari 65XE, through to the anticipation of the next gen. consoles. I love a wide variety of games... yes, including fighting games and first person shooters.
It's funny though, after all this reminiscing and thinking back to my half-lifetime of playing video games, I don't remember once picking up a gun and killing anyone. Maybe I blocked it out, but I'm pretty sure my conscience is clear ;o)
So, let's turn our attention to some finger-pointing. Let's get real.
I remember being in a meeting with the head of a private school some years ago, pitching in the ideas of using virtual worlds to help kids in the class room. This was in 2007. The conversation was very positive but one of the main aspects for the teacher was child safety... and rightly so. She was concerned about public chat rooms, cyber-bullying and all that stuff that comes with kids being online. We went through a bunch of things and at the end she was feeling very confident. As the conversation went more social, she told me about her 11 year old son who loved playing video games, and that she forgot the name of it, but he was playing this one game at the moment where you had to run round a city and drive cars and you had a gun etc. etc. At the time I kept my mouth shut, but this head of an educational institute, this pinnacle of society, was allowing her 11 year old boy to play Grand Theft Auto - the game where you can shoot someone in the face, screw hookers (and rob and kill them afterwards if you so desire) and god knows what else.
Don't get me wrong, I love the GTA franchise, but as a parent I don't think it is acceptable for an 11 year old to be playing it.
I move on to Retail... specifically Toys R Us... Being a father to a near-two-year old and having got friends with kids, I occasionally find myself in the wondrous aisles of Toys R Us. I love toy stores. We're all just big kids anyway. However, I also value myself as a parent. So imagine my shock when a few years ago I wonder around to the video game aisle to see a huge (i mean huge) point of sale standee for Call of Duty. Call of Duty for pity's sake! The game that includes pulling off head shots through a frikkin' sniper rifle!
Now i know there's an argument that maybe it's for the 'dads' or maybe its more blatant than that and Toys R Us are like any other retail outlet and they need to hit their sales targets, and they KNOW that CoD is going to sell well regardless of who it's being purchased for... it has a certificate on the cover, so hey, the kids must be safe right?
With all due respect, that's bullshit. I completely agree that it is the parent's responsibility to enforce what their children play as video games, but please, Toys R Us, don't encourage these dim-witted pathetic parents.
Which ultimately leads me to my actual point. I'm assuming it's the same in the US, if not more so, but here in the UK the British media will point their fingers at anyone but the parent; kids are getting obese! Blame the dinner ladies at schools or school meals. Kids are not passing their exams, blame the teachers and educational institutions! Kids are getting more violent and growing up to shoot people, hell, let's blame video games!
Politicians... wake up! Please stop wasting our hard-earned pounds and dollars on ridiculous accusations and trying to enforce unfounded policies.
Kids are fat because their parents don't take care of them. Kids are dumb because their parents do not take care of them... and hey... parents, if you love and take care of your child like you're supposed to, maybe they'll grow up to be a good human being as appose to walking into the local gun store, buying a semi-automatic, walking into a public place a killing a bunch of innocents.
So, do I think this rant will help the cause, probably not. As Marcus Beer said, it's pointless stopping here. Things need to be escalated to The White House... petitions need to be signed... politicians need to be slapped. However, I hope this resonates with thousands of other people out there... and maybe, just maybe, this article and many others will help catalyst such activity.
Thanks for reading and I'd like to sign off with a small message to all those gunslingers in the US who are campaigning to keep the sale and ownership of guns legal... if you want a hobby, buy a sodding train set!