Murder, Death, Kill; video games to blame?
Regular news followers will have read the recent story in which two national newspapers – The Times and METRO – went to press with the headline “Video gaming leads to surge in rickets”.
What followed were vast amounts of column inches of what I consider to be absolute spin as once again the video games industry was demonised, whilst the actual message that should have pervaded was ignored. I’m going to be upfront; I have a very low tolerance for this type of journalism and judging by the reaction on Twitter a lot of people were just as incredulous as I was.
Very shortly after this ‘news’ went live the Twitterverse exploded with disbelief, and a new tweet-based competition was created in which an existing video game title had to be turned into an illness. My contribution was “Dysentery Warriors” which I think was narrowly beaten by DolphGB’s “Tekken: Dark Renal-section” and “inFLAMOUS”.
A couple of days later The Sun went to press blaming video games for a surge in youngsters injuring their thumbs (sigh). The crux of their story essentially seemed to be that instead of gaming, we should be all out breaking bones climbing trees, and that video games are ruining childhood. On the completely pointless-o-meter that gets a full 5 stars.
I’ll admit, I had a good laugh at the time, but to just giggle at these mainstream media maniacs is tantamount to glossing over a worrying trend which has been getting worse over the past few years. The tabloids create spin, which gets passed on to the public who get whipped up into a game hating frenzy.
It isn’t just titles like Carmeggeddon or every Grand Theft Auto game that come under fire. Even Tetris has become a victim to the hatemongering, as apparently it has been found that there is a trend with graffiti artists who replicate the blocks in their illegal tags.
In July 2004 it was reported that the original Manhunt game was to blame for a murder conducted by a 17 year old. The boy he murdered was only 14 years old. The parents commented on the fact that they both played Manhunt together, and that the murder happened because of the game.
While the murder was tragic I’m confused as to why no one has asked the obvious question – why were they playing this game in the first place? The parents commented that games of that nature should be banned and not made available to kids. I agree guys, so why did you let it happen? Why weren’t you, as parents, abiding by the rating that game was given and monitoring what your children were playing?
Step forward serial menace Mr. J.T. (we made a pact years ago to never mention his full name at PS3 Attitude, so as to not pander to his personal publicity machine). This former lawyer made a name for himself by taking on cases that involved children shooting people, and then trying to get them freed by saying computer games made them do it.
One of his more worrying quotes is “In every school shooting, we find that kids who pull the trigger are video gamers”. Of course, the press absolutely love this guy. Finally someone ‘credible’ that they can quote. In a few years gamers have gone from ‘geeks’ to cold blooded, socially detached killers.
The worst thing is that people like Mr. J.T. have created ready-made excuses. Parents now have a scapegoat that can be blamed for all number of things; poor grades, fights at school, assault – even murder. The perpetrators of such crimes have even started to state that ‘video games made them do it’ as an attempt to pass the blame for their murderous actions, and Mr. J.T. has helped make this possible. Ironic.
In 2008 the original Bioshock was released to massive critical acclaim, and hence it appeared on all media radars.
The TV show ‘GMTV’ ran with the main story that this popular game has caused controversy and forces you to “kill innocent children”.
As gamers, we all know that up to that point Bioshock had caused no controversy what so ever. However, now it had pricked up the ears of parents across the nation. I’ll admit this got me pretty riled up – to the point where I actually created a GMTV online account just to send them a complaint.
Out of interest I then checked out the GMTV forums – I really shouldn’t have bothered. A number of adults, mainly parents who have not grown up with this technology, had gone to the forum to complain that this ‘vicious’ game that had been made available to kids. Someone even commented about violence in video games, whilst in the next breath admitting to buying Bioshock for her young grandson.
I intervened – how could I not? Not many of the parents were aware of the ratings system, and none were aware of the parental locks that come with all consoles. Needless to say after a brief chat a lot of them felt better and more confident as they were armed with knowledge rather than hysteria-inducing misinformation.
There are a few lessons to come out of all of this. We as gamers need to find a way to get our opinions across succinctly without being reduced to online shouting matches. Hopefully this has already started, with MP Tom Watson setting up a pro-gaming group on social networking site – Facebook.
More importantly, parents really need to belt up and get with the job of parenting. Games are here to stay – in a recent survey of 6 to 8 year olds 100% of them were found to play games. Ignorance can no longer be used as an excuse. If you can spend half an hour complaining about your child and games on a forum, then you can certainly spend five minutes doing a bit of research.
Just by using Google and typing in some key words I found a brilliant booklet by the ESRB, which talks parents through setting up consoles and all the various parental features that come pre-loaded.
Stop finding excuses and actually exercise your authority as a parent – who knows, you might even find it brings you and your child closer together. After all, the rating system is there for a reason and it works exactly the same as the movie rating scheme. If you are one of those parents that allow your 13-year old son or daughter to watch an 18-rated movie, there is not a lot anyone can do to help you when your boy/girl says and does things that you don’t like, or that might land them in trouble with the police. Do the right thing and adhere to the rating system now, and make sure parents of the children he or she plays with get with the program too, or they’ll just go and watch or play stuff they shouldn’t at other people’s houses.
This may have come across as a bit preachy, but it’s not just Internet bluster from someone who’s bored and fancies having a rant. I am a parent myself, and fairly soon I will be putting my money where my mouth is and having to prevent my child from accessing things that are age restricted.
And in speaking to the team, I know that other parents within Attitude Towers have always done the right thing too. It isn’t rocket science – it is just common sense and good parenting. The more we club together to get this right, the less the mainstream media can twist the root cause of the problem to meet their nefarious circulation needs.
I would love feedback from any parents on here. Similarly I would love to hear from younger readers. Do you agree with age restrictions? What can we do to get the point across that games aren’t the devil?