While everyone in the industry has been re-examining their feelings in regards to the dubious effects of violence in video games I have been willfully ignoring the whole thing, not because I don’t think it’s an important issue—I do. It’s just that I firmly believe that violence in games is a direct reflection of society and not the other way around and that games are not a trigger to someone already predisposed to extreme violence.
A violent game or movie is not going to make an otherwise well adjusted person go on a murder spree. Genetics, childhood abuse, and other deep-seated psychological issues are what makes a Ted Bundy situation—punching and kicking Arkham City thugs is not.
However, the day of the Sandy Hook tragedy I was taken to task by an old man on twitter for talking about Hitman: Absolution—as if the very mention of a fictional gun for hire was insensitive and callous. Maybe it was? I’m not sure. I know I automatically censored any mention of guns or murder or killing before tweeting but I guess that wasn’t enough for this man.
Setting aside the patriarchal, condescending tone of this guy’s tweets to me—was I being a jerk? When a shooting like this happens should we all hide our heads in the sand and pretend we don’t know what Call of Duty is? If a family is killed by a drunk driver should I not tweet about alcohol that day? What is my moral responsibility here? What this man was saying to me—that games are forever linked to violent mass killings and possibly even the cause of them so please don’t talk about them because they are the basically the reason all those children are gone now—seems ridiculous, assumptive and censorious to me. Should I not talk about The Sopranos either? Or The Expendables? Or would that have been fine because you don’t make Tony Soprano murder people with your XBox controller? You only watch him do it. For entertainment.
And now we’re getting another congressional study on the link between violence in games and Sandy Hook. Which is... whatever. I’m not writing this post to debate whether or not another study is necessary. Better journalists than I have covered that subject extensively and thoughtfully. I’m just trying to figure out whether I’m allowed to tweet about the game I’m playing when a violent tragedy occurs or if I should just talk about cats and Downton Abbey.