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If Video Games Cause Mass Shootings...

In the last few days there's been more and more talk about the violence in movies and video games as a source of evil in our society. There has even been talk about this being the cause of our supposed rash of mass shootings. Ignoring for the fact that mass shootings aren't happening at an increasing rate and that crime as a whole is at it's lowest rate in over 50 years, let's talk specifically about video games.

Understand that I completely support the campaign to call Hollywood out on the hypocrisy of major action movie stars, directors, and producers coming out in favor of gun control. If you make your money by glorifying violence and guns, don't support the other side. I stand for what I believe in, why can't movie stars?

On to this myth of video games. I've been a gamer since my parents bought me a Tandy 1000 and I played Lode Runner and a cheap knockoff of Space Invaders. I still remember the sad day when I bought Sentinel Worlds and we needed to update the computer... it's 256KB of memory wasn't enough. we needed to go to 384KB. Since then I've had everything from Atari to Genesis to Dreamcast to my XBox 360.

I've played everything from Frogger to Viva Pinata to Madden to the ubiquitous Call of Duty franchise. I even remember the first Medal of Honor game on the Original XBox and how if you shot the Nazi's in the head, their helmet would pop off with a pleasing DINK sound.

All this background goes to say that if video games cause violence and mass shootings, well people better stay back. The problem is... it's bullshit. I'm in my 30's and have no criminal record, no history of random violence, and no desire to change that now. Before anyone says I'm an anomaly, I'll point out that Mike has a similar gaming history and lack of any criminal record or random violence. From my experience interacting with thousands of gamers in my lifetime, the lack of criminal record and lack of any overt violence tendencies is the norm.

When Tommy says it's time "shoot people in their faceholes", he has no desire to actually shoot anyone. We're talking about shooting a simulated gun at an avatar of a person, in a simulated world. No one suffers any harm except to their pride.

Time for some input from someone with more credentials than me, from an ABC news report:
Chris Ferguson, department chair of psychology and communication at Texas A&M International University, has conducted several studies on violence and its effects on youth. Ferguson, who called himself a proponent of gun control, stressed the importance of mental health treatment access and of parents monitoring what their children are exposed to. However, Ferguson said he firmly believes violent video games do not lead to violence in the real world.

If we are serious about reducing these types of violence in our society, video game violence or other media violence issues are clearly the wrong direction to focus on,” Ferguson told ABC News. “Video game use is just not a common factor among mass homicide perpetrators. Some have been players, others have not been.”

So how is it that I, and every gamer I now, could have played literally thousands of hours of games (I really don't like the clocks that show how much time I've spent in games) and not have homicidal rages against the world?

Here's the secret... It's. A. Fucking. Video. Game.

Like the image we started with says, if people act out what they do in video games, you need be prepared for mayhem on a scale you've never imagined. Call of Duty and other shooter games are what the media and politicians are focused on. When you look at sandbox style games like Grand Theft Auto, you need to wonder why people aren't driving through crowds, killing hookers with dildos (don't ask, it just happens sometimes in the game), and then just running into a special room because the police leave you alone if you go in there for few minutes even if they see you walk inside.

This all goes back to people trying to put a rational explanation to people committing irrational acts. In order to placate the media and the electorate, politicians reach for whatever they can get their hands on as a reason - "he played video games, that's what did it!".

Nope, he (insert whichever shooter you want because this is the one true connection to them all) was a mentally ill person failed by our mental health system who committed an act of insanity. You cannot explain deranged actions with rational thought - they are just not the same realms of thought.

Let's stop reaching for straws and bullshit explanations and start talking accepting that crazy is crazy. It cannot be prevented but it can be treated.

Let's leave video games alone and stop pussyfooting around the harder to discuss topic that we, as a nation, are ashamed of and scared of the mentally ill. Because of this fear, we still have not had any serious discussion about how this system can be improved.

If you take a few moments, check out a condensed version of Penn & Teller's Bullshit! episode on violent video games.