The Blame Game
Even if the media loves blaming video games for violent behaviour, the only violence that might emerge from gaming is that of angry gamers trying to punch journalists with their controllers.
Here’s an undeniable truth: we are playful creatures. Our DNA has been programmed with an animalistic playfulness, driven by our urge to laugh and forget our daily struggles. However, we have shed away our urge to bash our heads together or roll around in the mud like animals (most of us, that is). Instead, the human race has expanded its horizons and found new and different ways to play and have fun, one of them being through video games.
With video games comes the opportunity to dive into an action movie, mystery novel or even football game, and do as you please without any real consequences.
Instead of stealing a jet in real life for example, you can steal one in Grand Theft Auto V, and the only consequence will be that when you finally manage to outrun the police, you’ll realise that you wasted three hours in a virtual city, doing things you’d never do in real life – but you’ll certainly have fun along the way.
Even though video games have been around for decades, same with the critique of them, the media have in recent years decided to turn the spotlight even more towards the violence some games include, and with the recent release of Battlefield 4, Killzone: Shadow Fall, and Grand Theft Auto V, the discussion has yet again been ignited - do violent video games really have a link with real-life violence? Some call the debate reasonable – I call it The Blame Game.
Since the Columbine Massacre, the media have suggested that violent video games can contribute to real-life violence. With Columbine, journalists suddenly found themselves writing about a tragedy with two suspects who had no motive for doing what they did. And so it was action films, Marilyn Manson and violent video games that took the blame.
What’s surprising is that instead of applauding the hundreds of artists responsible for visually stunning games such as Journey and The Last Of Us, the media seems obsessed with condemning the path video games are taking us down – which apparently is a bad one.
And just when everyone thought this debate had calmed down, pictures of Newtown-shooter Adam Lanza’s room were published. It is known that Lanza was an active gamer, and his favourite game was (according to reports) Dance Dance Revolution. Besides a dance mat however, the only games shown in pictures from his home were shooting-games like Left 4 Dead and Metal Gear Solid - because who cares about a murderer who enjoys to dance?
Sure, some people might be get affected by games, but then it’s a psychological issue, isn't it? People don't do terrible things because of something they see, just as many don't do good things based on what they see. Just as people don't decide to be Bruce Willis for a day and take down a helicopter using a car, not every man decided to stand outside his love interest's window with a boombox. People might get triggered to do bad things, but that instinct of doing harm already lies in them, whether it be from a childhood experience or from someone planting ideas in their heads.
The media does point a finger at video games, and in many ways it's understandable – it’s an easy target, just like heavy metal music and horror films. But any right-thinking adult knows the difference between reality and fiction.
Once the Power-button is pressed, the game is over.
To many, the world of video games is an unfamiliar one. To "outsiders", a game such as Grand Theft Auto V might seem dangerous, distasteful and violent, or even (as Daily Mail’s Peter Hitchens puts it) a game made by the devil.
The truth is, however, that Grand Theft Auto V arguably works more as a lesson about what never to do than anything else. If anything, it might make you happier about your life and teach you about what’s right and wrong, what consequences your actions might have, and that stealing a jet will never end well – believe it or not.
What we should ask ourselves is not only why the media is forgetting to emphasize on the underlying issues of real-life violence, but why it is that games such at Grand Theft Auto and Call Of Duty scare them so much.
Is it the violence thrown at you in HD-resolution or community of young people learning tactics and patience in an unconventional way?
When I was a child, I used to pretend I was the devil - the Jersey Devil, to be precise. I’d run around pretending to be the mythological creature, and my friends would all try to escape me. Then the school bell would ring, and I would run back inside to learn my ABCs.
Instead of being a mythological creature at the age of 23 however, I now pretend to be drug barons, superheroes and zombie-slayers, characters I’m unlikely to be in real life – unless I get a jet pack and a mafia mentality, that is. Funny enough, nobody questioned any of my imaginary characters until they appeared on my computer screen. Have I learned anything from playing games however it’s not how to do bad things and get away with them, but to never give up, be brave, think outside the box and realise that stealing a jet is never a good idea.