Politics and Video Games - Article

By Joe Hill, January 29, 2013
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No neo!

Politicians scapegoating an entity they perceive to be at fault for a national tragedy is hardly a new phenomenon. After all it has been a tool utilized by those in power since the concept of a government was introduced. From accusations of heresy in the Middle Age to racial and social discrimination in much of the 20th century, politicians know how to pin the blame on something.

So the latest attempt to smear the video game industry from Senator Christopher Murphy who said the massacre at the Sandy Hook school conducted by Adam Lanza was done so because violent games like Call of Duty gave him a "false sense of courage" had a familiar ring to it.

News stories do not usually irritate me, but when I find myself and the rest of gamers being lumped together with a child killing sociopath, that does tend to provoke a reaction from my usual apathetic self.

This condemnation by the Senator not long follows after another mass shooting by gunman James Holmes, who killed 12 people in a screening of the latest Batman film in July. Governor John Hickenlooper managed to find the hidden connection between that and the video game industry, when he said: "There might well be some direct connection between people who have some mental instability and when they go over the edge – they transport themselves, they become part of one of those video games."

For the record, James Holmes was found to be obsessed with World of Warcraft and Guitar Hero. Hardly games that encourage the player to gun down innocent people.

But hold on, Hickenlooper wasn't the only one to speak out, as White House adviser David Axelrod tweeted: 'Shouldn't we also quit marketing murder as a game?', while political heavy weight (literally) Donald Trump weighed in with: 'Video game violence & glorification must be stopped – it is creating monsters!'

Let's ignore the psychoanalytical studies that support findings that the connection between young people and their exposure to violent video games does not prove that it causes minors to act aggressively. The fact that some young children can get their hands on 15 or 18+ games probably means their parents bought them the games in the first place. But that's a whole different point altogether.

 

The White House under seige


I do think, however, that sometimes developers, producers, and PR teams don't help themselves. Some trailers are designed to shock with shows of excessive violence and the apparent need to be the edgiest of the new releases. When watching an advert of a game alongside a non-gamer that does involve violence I do find myself becoming uncomfortable; such adverts continue to spread the perception that every game involves killing people and eating their babies.

But what can be done to change some of these negative perceptions? The answer is nothing. To quote Carth Onasi from Knights of the Old Republic: "Ignorance and stupidity will never go out of style." Perhaps the answer is to tone down the trailers, but even then it should be obvious that sources of entertainment will never stop being targeted. There's always a reason, always an excuse to blame something or someone for every little thing that goes wrong in society. The fact of the matter is that people like the Lanzas and Anders Breiviks of this world have always existed.

Blaming a casual source of entertainment is not just wrong, but extremely unhelpful to the wider picture; a need to find a scapegoat by those too narrow minded to proffer real answers and those who are worried about their seats in the next election.

This article might seem petty - a childish lash out against a few well known people who do not share my enthusiasm for this hobby of ours. But the bottom line is that this is not about the demonization of video games and all those that play them, but rather the skilful re-directing of American politics away from the real reasons why these incidents happen in the first place.

These men and women in power should focus on something meaningful and not ignore the issues that need to be addressed. Video gamers and their hobbies have been criticized for long enough.

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