Video Games and Violence: Are we asking the right questions?
The second amendment to the US Constitution is in the limelight again. Some strongly embrace the rights it grants, while others deeply scrutinize them. A report compiled by Mother Jones, indexing mass shootings in the United States, includes the following sobering statistics:
- Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass shootings across the country (in 30 states from MA to HI)
- 25 mass shootings have occurred since 2006
- Seven of the mass shootings took place in 2012
The atrocities that befell Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, are still fresh in the minds of Americans. Sadly, there have been three more shootings on school campuses since the events of December 14, 2012, and understandably, American citizens and government officials are seeking solutions to this problem. Whenever tragedies like this occur, the video game industry is also called into question. In a recent article for Psychology Today, Dr. Romeo Vitelli, suggests that the lack of sufficient evidence to make a correlation between video games and violence may be the result of not asking the right questions to begin with.
Blame the Game (?)
This month will mark the 15-year anniversary of the Columbine High School Massacre. The shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 13 people and injured 21 others. The game blamed for this tragedy was Doom. During the planning phase of the assault, Harris is quoted as saying, “It’ll be like the LA riots, the Oklahoma bombing, WWII, Vietnam, Duke Nukem, and Doom all mixed together.” Family members of the victims sued 25 video game companies that they believed were responsible for the deaths.
Before that, games like Mortal Kombat were blamed for schoolyard fights, because of the realism granted by the game’s 16-bit graphics and gratuitous gore (i.e., splats of red if you played the Sega Genesis version or knew the blood code for the SNES version). This frenzied the student body of my Alma Mater, Northside Elementary, as uppercuts and bicycle kicks became the new high-five.
As far as I’m aware, most of my former classmates have not engaged in any school shooting rampages unless it involved a Nerf gun. Sadly, one friend from elementary school did commit a heinous murder. He was obsessed with gore and enjoyed reminiscing scenes from the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th series. Like many of us, he enjoyed video games, ranging from 16-bit fighters to masterpieces launched during the 64-bit era, namely The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. In retrospect, perhaps he should never have been permitted to play such games.
In 1994, four years prior to the release of Zelda OoC and two years after the launch of the first Mortal Kombat, consumers were provided with the ESRB (Educational Software Rating Board) rating system for gauging the content in a game just like the MPAA rating for films. The ESRB system prevents underage children from purchasing games deemed inappropriate based on the child’s age. Some parents adamantly abide by the system when purchasing games for a child, while some do not. The reality is, not every child who plays Grand Theft Auto will commit the felony.