A while back, I wrote an article about video games, essentially saying that, yes, they're morally neutral, they are what you make of them, and the violent, profanity-ridden video games are clearly labeled for your protection.
Almost immediately, there were two objections from the knee-jerk cliché department. “Well, I played video games and there are no positives. It makes you anti-social. And you can't evangelize at all.” We also had the “video games are a prevalent factor in mass shootings” argument.
Both arguments are so full of inaccuracies, it is obvious that neurons have died just reading those words – some of those are mine, by the way.
Objection 1: VIDEO GAMES MAKE YOU VIOLENT.
I love this argument. I truly do. In my first article on gaming, I wrote that I've been killing turtles with fireballs since I was eight and the game was Super Mario Brothers, and I have yet to find time to plot out my murder spree between going to Catholic school from K-PhD, and going to church every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation.
I was told, “Well, that's just your personal experience.” Because it's “just me.”
But is it?
First, a constant issue in discussing video games is that people seem to think that video games are still for children. I was the first generation to place the first Nintendo Entertainment System. In fact, I still have it. Somewhere. Guess what – my generation grew up, and we're still playing. As of 2011, the average games is between 32 and 37 years old. Now, 82% of gamers are adults, and 72% of American households now play video games. 42% of gamers are women – in fact, 30% of all gamers are women over 18 years old. [facts footnoted here]
Hmm, 72% American households. So that's 72% of 300,000,000 people means that …. over two hundred million people in America play video games (I rounded down).
“Yes,” says the critic who may have a clue, “but how many of those are family games, like Wii games?” Well, the top ten best-selling video games for 2012 were violent, rate M(ature) games for gamers 17+ only. [link]
So, to say that “video games are a prevalent factor in mass shootings” is roughly the equivalent of saying that “having the ability to speak English is a prevalent factor in American mass shootings.” When nearly three quarters of the country plays video games, it is almost certain that you're going to get a crazy or two in there – not to mention some shoe fetishists, some altar boys, some democrats, republicans, and possibly a nun or a priest as well.
If video games make you into a psychotic mass murderer, we should be hip deep in blood and the planet should have looked like the book of Revelations sometime after the first Mortal Kombat games were released.
The usual counter is to say that it will bring out the inner crazy in people … so might a commercial for Mountain Dew, does that mean we unplug all the signs in Times Square? Or shut down Las Vegas? Either of those might be a good idea, but I can make better arguments than inspiring one or two people with sociopathic tendencies.
Guess what, the ECA – the Entertainment Consumer Association -- released an open letter to the Vice President entitled “Policy Considerations post-Newtown, CT School Shooting”. (You can see the full letter here.)
Studies show that media does not cause violence. Christopher J. Ferguson, Chair of Texas A&M International University’s Department of Psychology & Communication, has shown through his work that there’s no link between violent video games and real world violence like mass shooting, bullying or youth aggression ….
Media consumption has risen as the number of violent crimes has dropped. While video game sales have increased, violent crime has been steadily decreasing according to FBI statistics. In 2011, video game sales increased to over $27 billion dollars and violent crimes nationwide have decreased 3.8% from 2010. Since 2002, violent crime has decreased 15.5%. This is all during the time when games like Call of Duty and Halo have dominated sales.
Oops. Someone should check their numbers. I already did.
Objection 2: VIDEO GAMES ARE ANTI-SOCIAL.
Oh, for the love of …
I'm not sure which was more fun, being told that I was using only my personal experience, and my argument was therefore garbage, or if someone told me my argument was garbage because of their personal experience.
I'm going to limit this to a format that everyone can understand – an infographic.
When eHarmony, the #1 dating site in the world, isn't as successful at bringing people together as World of Warcraft (WoW), telling me that video games make you anti-social and isolationist is the punchline to a bad joke.
The argument that “well, I played video games and it was a waste of time and kept me from talking to people” only tells me either 1) the person saying this is a liar who just wants to score points on the internet or 2) a statistical abnormality.
Another point made was that video games can't be used for evangelization. Really? Playing WoW can people one player in touch with over twelve million fellow players. If someone really wants to spread the Word, I'm sure they can figure something out. If you don't believe me, then I recommend you read Infinite Space, Infinite God II for some ideas – particularly “Otherworld,” by Karina Fabian. [interview with author here and review of book here]
This of course, assumes that everything one does must be to spread the Word.
Objection 3: VIDEO GAMES ARE THE WORST TYRANNY.
At the end of the day, this entire argument comes down to your standard, boiler-plate thought control. Even the “discussion” on guns -- which consists of a gun owner being yelled at for a period of time before having his property taken away – is a joke in itself. I mean, heck, the guns least likely to kill anyone happen to be the ones everyone talks about banning.
Banning video games – that have nothing to do with violence – or banning rifles that have even less to do with mass murder, is just playing to the ignorance of people in general. It's one part Orwellian thought control, and one part finding a scapegoat – it's been video games, media violence, rock music, bullying, etc. The shooter in Connecticut was also Catholic, so I guess we all dodged a bullet on that one.
As C.S. Lewis once noted, "Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”
After all, the government is only here to help you, isn't it?
Copyright 2013 John Konecsni
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