In the News of the World newspaper yesterday they ran a story about a teenager who committed murder, and the tabloid newspaper chose to point the finger squarely at the PS2 and Manhunt.
As a parent and a gamer I thought I'd take a moment to give my opinion on this and other similar stories from the US.
Although the emphasis in the story is obviously to blame the game and the console, I can't agree with their prognosis. As a parent I truly sympathise with all the people affected by this tragedy but you cannot blame the game. Why?
In the story itself it is made clear where the problem lies:
Every night [he] would retreat into his darkened bedroom at home in Rainham, Essex, and enter a grisly virtual world that revelled in sadism, ritual blood-letting and death. Just like millions of other youngsters.
One of baby-face Harling’s favourite games was the notorious Manhunt, where players SLASH and SLICE their victims with meat CLEAVERS, cheese WIRE and chainsaws.
Harling’s mother Lorraine is quoted as saying:
I knew he was playing the video games but we didn’t really know what went on in them; how brutal and graphic they were. For a long time I didn’t even realise games had age limits on them.
In the UK we not only have clear indications on games that they are rated 18 (just like movies which everyone knows are rated) but retailers like Game are great at saying 'no' to youngsters who try to buy a title beyond their age.
If you are a parent and you are buying an 18-rated title for someone who is too young you are not doing your job as a parent. Do not bow to 'peer pressure'. If all parents did the right thing, your child wouldn't be able to play that game or see that movie at a friend's house either.
If you are a parent and you let your children sit in front of their console, PC or TV for hours and you don't know what they are doing or what they are watching or who they are chatting with, you are not doing your job as a parent.
It transpires that no matter how 'baby-faced' this boy was, it was revealed in the murder trial that "Harling was ‘obsessed’ with pornography and serial killers".
A game, or a book/TV show/film/painting or any other media cannot, in my opinion, create a killer. It can help someone who doesn't know right from wrong or that has a deeper problem have an outlet but it can't turn a rational person into a killer.
Otherwise I would be a killer. And so would millions of other gamers. We'd all be running around killing and maiming each other. For that fact, millions of movie-goers and book-readers would be killers too.
But I was brought up better than that by my parents. I'd suggest that is where the problem lies and we all need to be more vigilant and knowledgeable about what are kids are doing when they are holed up in their rooms.
What is needed is not a finger-pointing exercise but an educational programme for parents so that they know how to deal with these issues and teach their kids the basics of what is good and what is bad in this world.
Labels: Manhunt, news, opinion, Playstation 3, PS2, PS3