Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few days. you already know I’m talking about the tragedy in Newtown. In all the hand-wringing about ‘how could this have been prevented’, I want to add one likely cause for your consideration:
Violent video games.
These games trivialize violence, and make it part of the game-playing experience. People discount the amount of time that kids spend playing games, and I don’t really think folks are looking hard enough at the extreme levels of violence contained therein. Especially if you’re a loner, video games are one of the few ways that you can find to interact in a non-threatening way with your surroundings. It’s one thing to prowl a maze, killing robots and blasting objects, but when it comes to flesh-and-blood look-alikes, we have to draw the line. With our capabilities of creating ever-more-realistic human opponents in games, we need to step back for a moment and realize what we are creating:
We are making violence against other people into cartoon-violence. And although most of us have a pretty good disgust-factor built in, there are those of us who cannot distinguish real violence from cartoon-violence.
Let’s take one pretty good example: The Three Stooges. Those of us who grew up watching the Stooges know that this is not real stuff they’re doing. But look at what had to be done at the end of the movie for the sake of modern audiences – they had to put in a disclaimer that this wasn’t real stuff, and that it was all props, demonstrating the points.
Shouldn’t that be telling you something?
And because I’m pretty good at burying the lead, here’s something that has been bothering me for years. We at one time were members of this big church where getting kids to participate and keeping them engaged was a high priority. One weeknight (not a special day for anything), there were a number of multi-player gaming stations set up in the foyer. Almost all of them were running first-person violent shooter games like Doom, and the overwhelming feeling out there just outside God’s sanctuary that night was the glorification of violence. There was one unit way off to the side running Guitar Hero; and it was standing idle.
Yes, it offended me then, and I said something about it at the time. But the brush-off was, “It’s just so the kids can be kids.” But it was difficult to be heard over the kids who were running screaming up and down the hallways and over the sound of explosions on-screen.
So to put a very fine point on it, any more it seems to be far too easy to justify gaming violence as a necessary part of the experience and for us to look the other way; when we need to step up and be more responsible as adults about such things.