It’s a tale as old as Mortal Kombat. The parents, the congressman, and the media have always blamed things they do not understand for the problems in society. Elvis and his sexy hips, The Beatles and their haircuts, flower children and their peace signs, Motown and their dance grooves, NWA and their lyrics, Marylin Manson and his image, and of course, Grand Theft Auto and its violence (and the list goes on and on). I am going to talk about a couple of recent incidents of the media blaming video games and how we as geeks can help correct the message.
Recently, an 8 Year old child in Louisiana allegedly shot and killed his grandmother after playing Grand Theft Auto 4. Allegedly. All the reporting that has come out of the Sheriff’s Office is that the child played GTA 4 and then shot his grandmother. What is fuzzy here, are the kid’s motives. Did he just finish a 6 star style rampage or did he just finish a trip to the bowling alley with Roman? What is disgusting is the fact of HOW the incident is being reported. CNN described GTA 4 as a game that gives you points for killing the most innocent civilians. This is what the Middle American Mother is going to hear. That GTA gives you ” Points” for killing people on their way to work. CNN is completely out of it to think that we are still in the arcade era, where a player would drop some quarters on Centipede and try to get his initials on the leader board. Statements like that boggle my mind so much that I think the news media (CNN, Fox News and MSNBC) are purposely saying these things to dissuade or scare people.
Recent incidents of violence have always blamed some sort of video game as the catalyst. The Sandy Hook shooting was blamed on Adam Lanza’s love for “Violent Videogames“, and that officials found a large library of games they deemed violent.
Why are these associations okay? Why is it normal for us as a society to automatically try to push the blame onto a third party? You wouldn’t blame the ATM if your kid stole your card and PIN would you? You wouldn’t blame the modem if your kid downloaded a bunch of Brazzers’ videos would you? You wouldn’t blame your refrigerator for getting you fat, would you? These associations are ridiculous and absurd, so why shouldn’t the thought that a video game caused an 8 year old boy to shoot his grandma be just as crazy?
Let’s take GTA out of the conversation for a minute. Let us just assume that the kid was taking a nap then capped his gram gram. Why the HELL did this tiny child have access to a god damned pistol?! Where the heck is Eddie Eagle when you need him? Why was the child completely ignored? The subject of scrutiny from CNN should be the parents. If their kid grabbed an Airsoft Rifle and shot out their neighbor’s truck windows, they are responsible. They are the ones who ignored all sensible gun safety rules and regulations and let an almost toddler gear up with a .38. They are also the ones who went out and bought an M rated video game and gave it to him.
I’ll play devils advocate for a moment and say that yeah, GTA was the reason the kid shot his grandmother (it wasn’t). A small, 8 year old, mentally undeveloped child was given a game that the ESRB deemed too advanced for him. Hell, would you give an 8 year old a copy of Heavy Metal? Hellraiser? Event Horizon? HELL NO! All those films would fuck up a small mind severely. So giving a child a game who’s title is a FELONY seems like a severe lack of proper parenting. Video games are more and more prevalent in our society. Video games as an industry are bigger than films, and they need to be treated as such. If you think that your (older) child is capable of handling adult themes and you are OK with them watching R-rated films, then as a parent you can have the right to let them play M rated games:
Here’s the freaking ratings chart. Read, memorize, understand, and listen to it:
So what can YOU do to help? If you are a parent with a child who is interested in video games, talk to them about what is and isn’t appropriate for kids their age. Have a discussion about what is real and isn’t real. Set the fucking parental controls on their Xbox and Playstation so if their neighbor trades them a copy of OneChanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers it won’t play on their damned console.
If you are a video game enthusiast, propagate the formula of video game education. Talk to family about the proper target market for games like Grand Theft Auto. Explain the ESRB system. Join advocacy groups like the Video Game Voters Network, be active in the process of educating the public at large. Only YOU can prevent ignorance (and forest fires).
Grand Theft Auto V releases in just a few weeks. It’s set to be an incredible, artful experience that took a huge team of talented people years to create. It’s not for kids, so don’t buy it for them.