Video games not a factor in shootings

The future is here and we sometimes fail to see it.

We live in a new era. A generation of digital media overruns much of our daily lives. We’ve been raised from our earliest years with access to satellite television, cell phones, computers and the unlimited connectivity of the Internet.

I grew up with video games. The Nintendo Entertainment System and Nintendo 64 were staples of my suburban childhood.

I flew spaceships with Starfox, raced golf carts with Mario and even killed spies with James Bond.

How many people have I killed in real life? I’m glad you asked. None.

Several accusations have been made in light of recent mass shootings around the country.

These accusations focus the responsibility of inspiration on popular console video games. Franchises like Call of Duty, Battlefield and Halo are easy scapegoats for angry and mourning communities.

After the recent school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, screenshots of outraged Facebook communities were found calling the video game Mass Effect the “cause and effect” killer of the innocent children and teachers. It was only a “matter of time” before video games started teaching people how to kill.

Video games are just that: games.

They are not created for the purpose of do-it-yourself killing sprees. The most unique thing about video games is their solidified genre in metafiction, or fiction that acknowledges that it is fiction.

In other words, video games never pretend to be real. Whether it’s Grand Theft Auto, Assassin’s Creed or Modern Warfare, video games continually acknowledge the fact that they are works of creative license: 100 percent fake.

In almost all media coverage of massacres that I can remember — and there have been far too many — as reports of the killers and murders arrive, they are immediately followed by reports of the perpetrator’s speculated insanity.

Criminals charged with mass murder usually wind up being “mentally ill,” “insane” or “schizophrenic.”

Fair enough. A mentally deranged person with a fully automatic rifle just might kill someone.

Are video games to blame?

In this instance: maybe.

Would it come as a surprise that Call of Duty inspired a clinically undiagnosed insane man to shoot up a school? Probably not.

Does that mean we should ban video games?

Absolutely not. It might seem like a noble cause to search out the “root” of public violence and tragedy in this world, but to place the blame for cold-blooded murder on video games would be irresponsible.

I have no doubt that many factors inspired the lunatics of shootings to commit those crimes: religious fantasies, familial problems, music, movies, television, sexual repression, you name it.

Console gaming just happens to be the flavor of the week.

To responsibly ensure that massacres like Newtown’s never happen again, there needs to be an open public discourse about mental health screening and weapon ownership.

If the National Rifle Association is proposing to “fight guns with more guns” as a solution, I doubt letting kids catch Pokémon is going to do much more harm.

 

Reach the columnist at mschan1@asu.edu or follow him at @MorganSukotto

 

Want to join the conversation? Send an email to opiniondesk.statepress@gmail.com. Keep lettersunder 300 words and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.