Why News Media Should Stop Obsessing Over Violent Games
With the Navy Yard shooting that happened recently, it was only a matter of time until a slew of articles came out discussing the criminal’s personal life. So of course, when they found out he was “obsessed” with violent video games the media jumped on the chance to blame them for the shooting. This train of thought isn’t new. Marilyn Manson was famously blamed for inspiring the Columbine shootings with his music. Of course, later analysis would argue that they did it for infamy and were driven to it for different reasons as seen in this Slate article. However, no matter how many times people blame violent games, the argument will still be flawed.
Violent Games? More like Violent People
The main issue is that often times the people who commit these crimes were troubled to begin with. Call of Duty is a massively popular video game with over a million players. Most people who play it don’t automatically go to a school or navy base and shoot as many people as possible. Analysis of the Columbine shooters suggests one was massively depressed and the other was a psychiatrically certified psychopath. Aaron Alexis, the man behind the Navy Yard shooting, had a history of gun related crimes (which I’ll get back to later) and he complained of hearing “voices in his head.” Clearly the guy is not the picture of a perfect mental health. Articles like to talk about how violent video games “brought out the shooter’s dark side”, but it stands within reason that the person had to have a dark side in the first place for it to be brought out.
Simply put, I don’t think it’s that people become violent killers because they play violent video games. I think that if these killers like violent video games it’s because they like killing people, even if they are fictional.
The New Genre of Games: "Scapegoat"
Another problem with the argument is that often it seems these claims are just a way to avoid responsibility. It’s almost a cliché by this point, but how many times have you seen parents buy a Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty for a very young kid? You can usually tell, considering the kid always picks it out and often is the one carrying it. And the person at the register almost never says anything about it. I can think of maybe one time I was in a store and the parent actually said “No, this game is rated Mature. Pick another game.” And likewise I’ve probably only once seen the cashier point out the game’s ESRB rating. Parents should be involved in what kind of media their children are getting into, and the stores should do the best they can to encourage parents to buy age appropriate games for their kids. My parents made sure that I didn’t play violent games until I was ready for them. Sure I was miffed as a kid but nowadays I am proud of my parents for being smart about it. Plus now I can enjoy games like Saint’s Row and not feel like I’m some impressionable young kid who’s going to try to make a dubstep gun and shoot people with it.
Now, you may be wondering what responsibility has to do with Aaron Alexis. After all, he was a grown adult. His parents didn’t have any obligation to make sure he wasn’t playing violent games. However, the issue with Aaron Alexis goes back to the previous history with gun crimes. He had two criminal offenses that involved guns. Yet somehow, the defense contractor that he worked for and the gun store he bought his weapon from only found a minor traffic violation on his record. So a guy with a history of gun violence got a rifle without any difficulty. Why didn’t these background checks find out what a simple Google search could? Why wasn’t his gun license revoked? There are a lot of things wrong with this situation and none of them have to do with how “lifelike” Call of Duty is.
Good-ish Intentions, Bad Results
There’s a reason news media attack video games as a possible cause of violence. They want an easy solution. I doubt I need to say this, but it’s horrible that so many violent shootings have taken place. People want an easy solution to stop this violence. That’s why video games are the scapegoat. The media tried to put the blame on music and film years ago, but it couldn’t get it to stick. So now they’re targeting video games no matter how illogical some of the claims can be. Case in point: Someone tried to blame the Sandy Hook killings on Dynasty Warriors. That’s right, an extremely camp game with NO GUNS somehow inspired a school SHOOTING.
By making these ridiculous claims, we ignore the issue at hand. They can try to make banning violent video games an easy solution but there is no easy solution. The Oklahoma City Bombing had nothing to do with video games. The many wars in the history of the world had nothing to do with video games. Getting rid of Call of Duty isn’t going to suddenly cure people’s mental health issues. Even increased gun control by itself isn’t going to stop people from getting guns (whether it would help or not is not the point of this article nor do I feel like arguing either way). The problem is that there is no easy one step we can take to curtail gun violence for good. However, the best way to tackle this giant problem would be to ignore distractions like blaming video games and focus on finding a real solution