I hate it. I hate seeing the media taking murder and turning it into money. I hate the media using the horrors inflicted by a sick man to tug at out hearts. And I hate those using the emotions of a bereaved nation to pimp their pet causes, no matter what they are. Whenever a mass shooting happens, opportunists of every stripe come out of the woodwork to blame someone or demand something. Jack Thompson is already trying to use the media machine to try to blame games. The gun control lobby is trying to blame guns. And it goes on and on and on, with everyone ignoring the real issues- mental health care in America and media sensationalism. Disturbed persons contemplating mass murder will obtain the tools regardless, and no amount of video games will have any affect on their decision to butcher the innocent. We as gamers need to remember not to react in a knee-jerk way to baseless accusations like those old Jack is levelling at us once more. People are hurt, lashing out, reaching out. There are some trying to exploit it for their own agendas. Just…turn off the TV. Listening to Jack Thompson or others only helps them. Be informed, but don’t be used.
Now, my personal politics are simple: inanimate stuff and access to it are not the causes of the ills of society. Access to liquor or vehicles doesn’t cause drunk driving. Access to firearms or knives doesn’t cause crime. Access to games doesn’t make people psychopathic killers. Personal choice and personal responsibility are, in the end, the deciding factors. Any person lobbying the idea that access to something, or that ‘why does a person need that’ clearly has their own emotions behind it, and making big decisions based on feelings is a Bad Idea.
That said, Jack Thompson has been crusading for decades to apply his own personal morality to everyone. First, he crusaded against rap music. Then, video games. Every time there has been a major spree shooting, Jack has come out of the woodwork to scream and stomp his feet and blame video games, trying to shout over the anti-gun lobby. His basic view-point is that ‘every spree shooter has been a video gamer’ and they are ‘murder simulators’. He claims that gamers are violence addicts, and otherwise they wouldn’t need violent video games. Now, while these claims are outright ridiculous to almost anyone, there are those that actively believe this tripe, and are willing to leverage a tragedy in order to force their opinions on others. I wish it weren’t so, but it will likely come up, and while I believe that discourse based on any horror like this should be calm, rational, and respectful…well, I expect that it’ll be more Piers Morgan than sombre, quiet discussion. It’s also my opinion that we, as gamers, should be able to respond politely when people challenge us.
The first and easiest idea to refute is that ‘games don’t need to be violent!’. They don’t in fact need to be violent. Neither do books, movies or paintings. Why not ban or control those mediums too? Need is a funny word- why do you need a car? You could take public transit to work, or a bike, or anything else. Why do you need a suit or a nice dress? You could get by in a burlap sack. What gamers need is irrelevant to the conversation. As to the idea that every spree shooter has been a video gamer…well, how common are video game consoles? 70 million Xbox 360’s have been sold so far, according to Wikipedia. Another 70 million PS3’s have been sold. How many computers are there running games on top of that? What about iPad and other mobile platforms running games? Handhelds? Saying that a shooter was a video gamer is like saying he was wearing pants. Gaming is so omnipresent it’s hard to claim anything but a tangential relationship to psychopaths shooting places up. Another way to think about it: How many hundreds of millions of people play video games every day, and what number of them fly off the handle and start murdering people?
I personally think it’s damn sad that the mainstream media feels the need to pillory people and engage in this rabid chest beating and witch-hunting in the wake of the loss of so many children. Don’t let it get under your skin. Don’t rage or get into arguments online about it. We know as gamers that a hobby doesn’t make anyone murder children.