Violence Against Violent Games: Why Gamers Need to Speak Out
Jeanine Celestin-Greer argues that gamers should speak out in defense of videogames. We are not killers, she argues.
by Ajané Celestin-Greer on 10th Jan, 2013
Anyone who follows the news in the least bit in America knows of the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings. It’s difficult to even try to grasp what happened, much less imagine the pain and grief that the families affected are going through right now. People all over the nation and even all over the world are grieving right along with them. For some, it hurts to even know it happened, and it’s even worse knowing there’s nothing we can do help.
But, while trying to understand why and even more, how can we prevent this from ever happening again, people often find themselves wanting to blame someone, anyone, and anything. It’s easier to accept what happened and move on if we know why it happened, and that we rectified the situation in some way. Unfortunately, this kind of misguided grieving has led to even more tragedies being created in humanity’s history.
Think back to stories when something tragic and unexplainable happened in a village. It was easy to accuse something or someone they didn’t understand and blame them for what had happened. Many of us know what happens when blind fear and mass hysteria takes over. This kind of thinking led to the Salem Witch Trials, a time where fear and ignorance ruled over people’s morals. This kind of thinking is still prevalent in other nations in the world, and behind closed doors in the ones that think themselves more civilized. And if we ever forget that we are always one step away from falling into that kind of “barbaric” thinking again, a tragedy like the one in Connecticut happens, showing the evil of mankind, who in turn, only creates more evil.
Every time an act of violence occurs, especially mass violence, people try to understand why the world is “suddenly” so evil and depraved. In recent years, video games have become the scapegoat mobs of people think to burn, in some cases literally. In hearing about the Violent Video Games Return drive happening in Connecticut, near the town affected, I can only say I personally felt a great disappointment. I had already been a bit upset when my brother-in-law turned to me at Christmas and mentioned that people were saying that the Mass Effect series was the reason the shooting happened. I had already heard of it, a ridiculous notion obtained by nosy people looking through the brother of the murderer's “Likes” on Facebook, who then determined everything the killer had “Liked” was bad or the cause of his senseless crime.
My only response to my family member was to point out that people had also said that because the killer had Liked Mountain Dew, drinking Mountain Dew created murderers. That in itself says much about the kind of people blaming video games. But to hear that a town had organized an official video game burning drive…it is an instant reminder that even the most “civilized” people in the world are only a moment away from regressing into what they consider barbaric.
When confronted by gaming journalists, the committee who had organized the drive spoke only of how they wanted to provoke conversation between parents and children over what the children are playing, and how parents could then return the game if they wished for a gift certificate for an activity that was less violent. All of that sounds well and good—but should it really take a tragedy like this for parents to know what their children are playing, watching, or listening to? The parent should know already, and there’s no excuse for not knowing.
And why then, does the committee plan to snap the material in half, and then incinerate it? Is that really necessary or is that not an act of violence, of hatred to show what they really think of these games. Creating more trash and releasing more toxic fumes into the atmosphere certainly isn’t going to help the environment these parents are leaving for their children either. And one must wonder if the committee really believes they are ridding the world of these games. Are they not aware of the vast amount available digitally? No, there is no excuse for this, other than to send a message, one of hate and violence, toward violent video games and other creative content.
This may seem harmless, but can one believe people are really going to stop there? What will constitute violent content? Maybe they will decide it’s best just to get rid of everything, except what’s approved by them. At that point, we are heading into the territory of all those dystopian novels and movies, like Fahrenheit 451 (where books were not allowed and are burned). And that’s a dark place that no one really wants to go.
We have to step back and ask ourselves, “is violent content really what causes these kinds of tragedies?” and is violence itself really all that bad? The committee cited studies that claim violent games promote aggression in children. Well, is aggression all that bad? I believe that yes, there’s a good chance that video games stimulate our ‘fight’ part of the fight-or-flight response we were all born with. In a game, when a giant monster comes out on screen, you can either feel fear and lose, or get angry and fight for your life. I know that games taught me, for one, not to be afraid, but rather to fight. But that doesn’t mean I go around picking fights or killing anyone. It just means I’ve improved a vital survival instinct, which isn’t much present in first world countries.
I believe that there is nothing wrong with aggression itself—or even violence if you must—but it needs to be directed at the right targets and only used when absolutely needed. Look at football players. Many of them have domestic violence records, but I don’t see anyone trying boycott violent or aggressive sports. Or burning their TVs or books (yet) for that matter. I believe parents should be teaching their children how and when to use aggression or violence as a positive tool, not trying to erase it. It’s part of us, and we need it to survive.
Games can and have taught all gamers something. They have even helped some of us to survive. The committee believes that this tragedy is a good time to take action. Well, I believe that their reaction is a good time for us as responsible gamers to take action. Why should we stand by while they demonstrate ignorance and hate of something they don’t understand, which can have so many negative consequences down the road? In response to their primitive and violent reaction, gamers and members of the gaming industry should use this opportunity to show the world we’re more than the stereotypes, and educate the masses. Let’s tell them what games have done for us and what they can do, if used responsibly. And let’s promote parental responsibility, not blame creative media.
There are many things that can be done to try and prevent tragedies like this from happening—and who knows, maybe games have already prevented others from happening by giving people an outlet and even some guidance. Instead of wasting resources burning games, why not promote gun control so we know where guns are going? And how about preventing semi-automatic weapons to civilians? Why not promote parents getting involved in their children’s lives, and while we’re at it, what about screening for mental health problems at young ages? How about removing the stigma on mental problems in the first place, and making sure help for them is accessible to as many as possible?
There are many, many things that can be done to help prevent more senseless violence, but we as gamers need to take charge and point them in the right direction first. Every time games are targeted, we need to always be there calmly proving them wrong. If we don’t and games become heavily regulated or even illegal, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.