When an individual or community lives through an acute tragedy there usually follows a search for understanding. Many times this search is underpinned by emotions such as empathy for others, service to one’s family or community, and exploration/healing of emotional wounds. Other times it is based on anger at the circumstances, desire to see someone punished, and fear of a recurrence of the trauma. Most times however this search is an amalgamation of all the above (and so many other) feelings.
Because of the emotions wrapped up in the aftermath of mass shootings in the USA, specifically Parents’ genuine concern at their Children’s safety, the previous twenty-five years has seen these horrific crimes become flashpoints where Gaming culture and the surrounding Community become the focus of Mainstream media outlets.
Unfortunately this attention has been limited to violent first person shooting games and because of this stance an aura of blame has been created that shrouds all Gamers and our Community. The effusive misunderstanding that violent video games have a direct correlation with engaging in actual violence has filtered to the highest levels of the USA’s Federal Government.
Speaking as a member of the Gaming Community, an American Citizen, and a proponent of peaceful society I am concerned by this obvious scapegoating of my Community. I live in a very densely populated urban area. I ride public transit all the time. One of the recent trends amongst my fellow riders is that almost everyone has a device out. Indeed, most folks with a device out are playing a game on it. To be clear, Video Games are saturating US society. It isn’t only adolescent males playing games anymore. To say that Video Games as a medium are harmful to youth is like saying leaving knives around the house will lead to stabbings.
The combination in many parents of anger, desire for punishment, and fear, coupled with a lack of knowledge regarding their children’s experiences has caused a conflation of violent video games as a root source for actual violent acts. While it is true that violent video games do provoke a rise in levels of aggression in players, the actual causes of anti-social and violent behavior are exposure to domestic violence, depression levels, and peer influences.
Some parents might find it interesting that many companies that create first person shooting games license the use of representations of actual rifles, handguns, and military grade equipment. Yes, you read that correctly; many Video Game companies pay gun manufacturer’s money to use representations of their weapons. So, if you are purchasing these games, you’re financially supporting the companies that actually produce weapons that kill people. Check out this great piece from the Idea Channel for more info.
So, what is the pro-active and educated stance on this issue, you might ask? As with most social engagement, one must interact, learn, and arrive at understanding. Parents should sit down and play video games with their kids, get educated about who is profiting from the game’s sale as well as the appropriate audience the game is produced for, and lastly seek out some advice on how to connect in a healthy way with one’s child about concerns surrounding these issues.
I truly believe that the vast majority of gamers are non-violent members of society and our Community is being wrongfully framed as a breeding ground for violent deeply emotional disturbed individuals. That is categorically false.
6/5/13 Author Note: This is a great video about ‘next steps’ to turn the tide of mainstream views of video games
6/24/13 Author’s Note: A great video on how to engage with one’s child around video games