My Big Mouth: Video games are not to blame for violent youth – and USA burning them will not solve anything

Comment by Robbie Gill

As the traumatised pupils from Sandy Hook are set to return to school following the tragic shooting last month, their parents are planning a ceremonial burning of violent video games.

Video games have long been linked to acts of violence across the globe – with activists claiming that they desensitise children to acts of violence.

Residents of Connecticut have pulled together in the wake of the most recent high school tragedy to remove this curse from their children and save them from their sinister influence.

However it remains unlikely that this will prove to be successful.

The anti-video game movement is borne out of a natural human fear of the unknown and a resistance to change.

In years gone by books, television, film and even comic books have been linked to creating a violent youth. The reality is different.

With a market that is now larger than music and video – over 40% of total entertainment sales – the amount of people playing games is almost the majority.

Among young people this percentage is even higher with almost 65% playing games regularly.

Therefore, if violence in games was so insidious, two-thirds of the children in the country would be taking arms and going to war on the street.

Yet this is not the case, young people on the whole remain unaffected by these influences – nightmare portrayals of hooded gangs notwithstanding.

The real issue in this debate is that of parenting and in America the blasé attitude towards firearms stemming from the omnipotent gun lobbies.

Adam Lanza was cited as having played hours of the first-person shooter Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, with some claiming he used the game as a training tool.

Setting aside any arguments of desensitisation, the idea that a game can be used to accurately mimic using a semi-automatic weapon is ridiculous.

Holding a controller, pressing buttons in sequential order can in no way be viewed as a training tool for real firearms.

It fails to replicate the hand eye co-ordination required – which is statistically lower in regular gamers — not to mention the level of recoil.

Lanza’s real weapon training came not by killing virtual terrorists, but by spending hours at the rifle range with his own mother.

If he did not have unmonitored access to an array of weapons in the family home, this appalling tragedy could have been avoided.

This again comes back to parenting and how it is every parents’ duty to judge what is appropriate for their child.

Countless young people have played games like Grand Theft Auto, and nearly all have refrained from arming themselves with a bazooka and blowing up their neighbour’s car.

Likewise, the popularity of Assassin’s Creed has not led to swathes of cloaked youths skulking menacingly in the shadows and trading in their BMX’s for a horse.

Video games, like all other forms of entertainment, are merely a form of escapism from people’s daily routine.

For nearly all gamers they do not represent an opportunity for them to act out dark fantasies, just a break from the monotony.

Unfortunately there will always be an extreme minority that will cite this game or that film or this musician as inspiration for their barbaric acts.

Like books, film and television before them, games are now viewed as a disease which must be cured at all costs.

However, to load the blame for such diabolical actions on one small section of the entertainment industry trivialises a much larger issue.

Namely that a lackadaisical attitude towards firearms, nonexistent parental censorship and the lethargic ID checks in game stores globally is at the heart the problem.

The games themselves have no malevolent intentions and the developers are motivated only by their sales figures.

Games are clearly labeled according to their suitability for different age ranges, Mature in America and 18+ in the UK – outlining to parents what is appropriate for their child.

As a generation that grew up with gaming now enters their mid-twenties the market for adult games is increasing.

Those who enjoy escaping into a game more aimed at their age range should not be punished for slack parental censorship.

Parents increasingly are looking for ways to amuse their children to allow them to manage their busy lives and games offer this solution if correctly monitored.

It stands to reason that an 18+ game is unlikely to be suitable for an eight year old but it is ultimately that parent’s responsibility.

If you choose to blithely ignore these warnings you cannot then blame the games themselves for the consequences.

Image courtesy of Activision via YouTube, with thanks.

Please note: Opinions expressed above are those of the journalist only and do not necessarily represent the views of Mancunian Matters.

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