I am a little late to the table, but the holidays will do that to you. Honestly though, it is a tough topic to really discuss. The recent tragedies themselves are depressing enough, but the greater issues and the perils our society will continue to face look worse and worse every day. I grew up around guns and video games from a very early age. I fired my first shotgun around the same time I fired my light gun while playing Duck Hunt. When I wasn’t playing DOOM or Wolfenstein 3D, I was outside shooting at cans and other assorted targets with a BB gun. I wasn’t a teenager when I had these things: I was a child.
Yet I rarely link gaming and gunning together. News media and high powered interests groups are quick to point out their use as murder simulators and training tools, but to me a game is just a type of artistic and cultural expression like movies and books and music. It may have some minor effect of those who choose to play them, but I haven’t seen any research that really says that games are teaching and training and any way responsible for heinous acts of utmost evil. So when someone tells me they want to eliminate violent games from their life, at my most reasonable I ask ‘why?’ otherwise I might just laugh.
Given the popularity of games. Given the accessibility of guns in the United States. Given the amount of impressionable minds out there who spend every night of the week ignoring homework to teabag fallen enemies and yell ‘faggot’ or ‘nigger’ or ‘cunt’ at internet strangers without hesitation. Given all of these things, you would think that the amount of violence would be far, far greater. You would think that every individual mass murderer would be easily indictable as themselves being a victim of violence instilled by gaming, rather than being just like any other kid who probably once played games like Call of Duty or DOOM. I think it is obvious that there is more going on than just ‘having played games’, and any time the news or organizations like the NRA try to assign sole blame on gaming, they are doing a great intellectual, cultural, and honestly treasonous disservice to their fellow man.
However, I do think games as a whole can be indicted on one specific issue. While I did say I grew up around guns, that doesn’t mean I think everyone should. A tradition of hunting and gun sportsmanship is fine when done correctly. But capitalism mixed with our political system mixed with the well-established potency of things like the NRA or even our military-industrial complex make for a deadly cocktail that perverts and, honestly, destroys a long tradition of American gun ownership.
I believe it is necessary that we perform background checks on individuals buying guns and ammunition, no matter where they buy the weapon. I believe it is necessary that we don’t have a market so free that high powered assault rifles, extended clips, and large quantities of ammunition can be freely purchased. I think it is reprehensible to think that more people with guns will stop these massacres and tragedies given how history has shown this to be a complete misrepresentation of reality. I also believe that we as Americans need to look at our culture itself, from books to movies to, yes, gaming and question not how they effect our youth in the sense of being a causation of violence, but instead in how they make guns sexy.
Like the cigarette in early Hollywood, guns are sexy in gaming. Look at most games that feature guns, for instance. Unlike racing games which often have to fight for licensing rights to show off famous cars and car brands, any shooter can have 100% accurate weapons. Games like Call of Duty especially make guns sexy. I honestly think it is silly that we are fighting over whether violent games make kids more violent and lead to shootings. Yet no one else seems to be at least a little bit worried that 10 year olds are debating the merits of uzis, AK-47’s, and desert eagles or that instead of memorizing the (stupid) names of Mario and Zelda minions, kids today rattle off facts and figures for every type and make of guns used to actually kill people.
I am not saying that knowing what an AK-47 is a bad thing that leads to massacres – that would be silly. What I am saying though is how can we expect to make any positive changes to better protect our citizens if our children are raised so early on to think that high powered, military grade assault weapons are bad ass and cool. This does extend to movies as well, but only in games do you really take a deeper, more serious look at the damage per second of a weapon or situations to maximize the particular strengths of an <insert name brand gun here>.
As long as guns are seen as being cool, we are going to have real trouble making serious and necessary changes to our laws. Gaming, as a central part of our culture and one so firmly rooted in our younger generations, needs to find a way to not promote guns at every corner. I don’t think video games lead to more violence, but I do think they have an effect on the perception of guns in our culture. And until we change how we see guns, we won’t change how people use them.