Experience Points: Games Don’t Lead To School Shootings
You know the one thing that always goads and irritates me is that when some type of extreme violent event shakes the world’s sense of morality games are blamed for the violence. When an extreme act of violence committed by a mentally unstable person receives press coverage, games are treated as an object of societal dysfunction and moral degradation. What it comes down to is the fact that people are emotional beings, and by extension blaming a highly popular entertainment medium which is made up of largely violent content is a given. Therefore videogames have become this generation’s scapegoat for the ills of society.
Most recently games have been represented in social and online media by confused attention seeking “journalists” (most notably CNN). CNN and other major news sources mistakenly cast one Ryan Lanza as the school shooter of the recent massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. This happened through a process of misinformation and general incoherent press coverage that put the blame for one of the most violent massacres in recent history squarely on the shoulders of Mass Effect 3. All because Ryan Lanza liked the game on Facebook.
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In this column, I would like to deal with the issue of the violence debate in regards to this most recent school shooting. I have discussed my thoughts on the violence debate in one of my earlier columns, but I felt it necessary to focus once more on this debate and with logical argument show how ludicrous it is. I by no means can assess the mental state of the shooter, or understand his motivations for what he did in this recent massacre. But I can point out some issues with blaming games for what happened. Most journalists argue that school massacres occur because of the effects of violent entertainment and media, pinpointing studies which focus on the effects of violent video games on people, young and old.
Well if I was to play the same game and source published studies, I can easily find a study purporting said studies in support of the violent effects of games to be highly sensationalised and uninformative. One such study published in 2007 by Christopher Ferguson shows evidence that major publications that publish these studies demonstrate an outstanding bias in their published material that was “less standardised” by moderators. With these published studies claiming that larger samples of people were being affected adversely by games. The study also showed that research into the pro-social benefits of violent video games proved to be increasingly standardised and less susceptible to publication bias.
In more simple terms, the ‘truth’ in the supposed studies in support of the negative and aggressive effects of violent games are in many cases built on bias and misinformation, which is perfect for major news journalists to use for their own ends. Mass Effect 3 was blamed as a motivating factor for the killer’s mental degradation and subsequent killing because of the dissemination of misinformation by supposed premier journalists on their Twitter feeds. If anything Mass Effect 3 as a game supports a message of peace among all different groups of people, albeit ‘alien’ in origin, but nonetheless the game is not necessarily pro-violence as suggested by this latest media scandal.
The problem is that is soon as this story of the ‘killer’ liking Mass Effect 3 on Facebook surfaced on the internet people went crazy and started defacing Bioware’s Facebook wall with negative remarks. In many instances, these people claimed the developer to be the devil incarnate and a degenerate plague upon the very fabric of society. The simple fact is people are immensely dense, gullible in the hands of the media and ultimately stupid. There’s no real argument against the stupidity of people in their acute persuasion by media in following such nonsense without reason. Reason doesn’t exist because games are simple and an effective scapegoat. We cannot renounce that violent content does not exist in games. This is an undeniable truth. But nearly all media, and forms of entertainment, are blamed for societal dysfunction. It is just the current trend to blame videogames.
However, people don’t realise that school shooters are more impressed upon by the very media who blame violent games for such massacres. What I mean is that popular news channels tend to hype up school killers, focus on them with an intensity that borders on an almost cult-like fascination. This can be noted with the Virginia Tech massacre and Columbine. Media were covering these killers in an immaculate fashion, and when mentally unstable people see the attention the media gives these killers they have a far greater effect than any violent game would. In this video with journalist Charlie Brooker and a forensic psychiatrist speaking about school shootings; it is made clear that plastering images of a school shooter and giving constant coverage of a massacre perpetuates further school killings. The killer is effectively becoming, and as the video states, an anti-hero and becomes an inspiration for other mentally unstable people to seek similar infamy. Violent games have far less to do with it.
Like I said before, it’s simple to use games as a scapegoat for why school shootings, massacres and outbreaks of violence happen. It is the lazy man’s answer to a more complicated question of why these types of massacres happen. But the media has to simplify the ‘why’ of these killings for the sake of simplicity on the TV screen, and when violent games are mentioned people are ready to blame games for societal dysfunction. This is not a simple matter and never will be. So why be simple and blame games? Because the media and the masses want a simple answer, and not one that is complicated and in tune with reality. The reality is that games don’t lead to violence, mentally unstable people with free access to guns do.