Video Games and Gun Violence

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By: Steven Collins

Twitter: @Shadylikeatree

The other day I was reading the national headlines, and looking through my twitter feed (follow me @Shadylikeatree) when I came across something both completely hilarious and utterly stupid at the same time.

United States Vice President Joe Biden wanted to meet with video game makers on how video game makers can reduce violence. Now, President Barack Obama wants the Center for Disease Control to look into the correlation between violent video games and actual real life violence. In total he wants to spend $10 million.

This whole ordeal has just blown my mind. I’m not really sure how to react to the whole situation. I find it both hilarious and appalling. I’m shocked, but not really. All this legislation and executive orders come from non-gamers and we will get our day in court. (Or on the Internet, most likely.)

This isn’t really the first time that video games had been blamed or questioned in the wake of a national tragedy that involved gun violence between citizens. It happened after Columbine, after Virginia Tech, after Aurora and it wasn’t surprising to me to be brought up after Newtown.

To me there are two kinds of people in the world. There are people who know about video games, and those that don’t. There are people who know the culture and there are people who think we’re all pimple-faced glasses wearing weirdos. I fall in the first of the two categories.

I’ve grown up around video games, some not violent, and many violent to varying degrees. I first played Sonic at age 2, my first shooter was a chex-mix game at age 7 and I didn’t play Call of Duty until I was a sophomore in College at about age 21.

I should also mention that I am in fact, a gun owner. I own several different guns, some of which don’t even fire but have some sort of family attachment, like my grandfather’s .45. I do own, one “assault style weapon” which is actually a semi-automatic AR-15.

I should also mention that I have never fired or aimed any of my weapons at a real person. Minus a mock British revolutionary soldier when I was 12-year-old and in the Boy Scouts, I haven’t even ever aimed at a human shaped target. I’ve never been the subject of an investigation and I will on the record say that I’ve never killed anyone, with a gun or any other way possible.

I’ve never really understood this correlation between violence in video games and physical violence. I’ve always thought that people who committed these atrocious acts, like what happened in Newtown, were emotionally or mentally damaged in a way that can be only caused by personable hurt, not the pain that can come from being annihilated 200-10 in a game of Domination or having some kid trash talk you in a pre-game lobby. Sure the internet can be a bad place with all the anonymity that comes with it, but all in all I’ve never had an experience that I would even consider killing or hurting someone over.

I’ve never once played any shooter or violent game and thought “Oh! I wanna do that and kill (insert bad guy or target here).” The most I’ve ever reacted was after seeing Die Hard 2 for the first time and thinking that one particular move was really incredible. Outside of that I’ve had no direct or in-direct urge to harm others, or myself because of what I’ve witnessed or participated in during a video game.

A few months ago I was extremely depressed. I had just graduated from college in May, I wasn’t making enough money, my job was sucky at best and I was through and through unhappy with the majority of the things in my life. But the only times, the positive times was the escape that gaming brought me. Yes I played violent games like CoD, Halo and what not, but I also played some of the more childish games from my past. (Elmo in Grouchland anyone?) But eventually I got out of that phase.

I guess I know the difference between playing a video game for enjoyment and ending someone’s life in the real world. After some hard work, and some time my situation got better and I must say that I’m currently the happiest I have ever been in my life.

I can remember my father having this sort of come to Jesus meeting with me about how these games were the reason for my unhappiness and how no matter what, my actions in these games were either a) killing my soul because of what they meant or b) were too negative to bear.

For me gaming has always been a release, a way to clear my mind for a few hours and let things get sorted out when I’m more focused, or calmer.

I don’t really blame my father or Vice President Biden or any of those moms who feel the way they do. They are ignorant to the medium and can only make assumptions based on what they deem logical. But I will say that I appreciate them for caring about our youth, our future and making this country a better place.

So when we look at gun control, or any issue for that matter. I think it’s best to look at everyone who participates in that issue. Whether it’s violent video games or people who chew gum. Taking an extreme small portion, or chunk of a demographic and analyzing that is wrong.

But at the end of the day there isn’t really anything the Federal Government can do. Video games are an art form.

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