Obviously, playing violent video games does not, by itself, cause people to kill other people, because millions of us do play violent video games and have never even been in a fistfight. But saying so should not allow us to elide the deeper question. Frankly, I am not convinced that playing violent games can be ruled out as one of many contributing factors to violent behavior, especially since so many of these spree killers do seem to have spent a lot of time on the Xbox. What we need to know is what all of the risks are, and to what extent each one contributes to the making of a murderer.
I first became aware of Mitch Krpata after reading his Taxonomy of Gamers a couple of years ago. For a while now, the blog has been quiet, until today.
Over the last few weeks, a number of articles have come to my attention addressing the topic of violent videogames and their effect on those who play them. At first, the usual suspects came with knee-jerk responses claiming just what Krpata does in the quoted section above. I ignored these because, honestly, I’ve read them all before. It seemed like the same old argument that I remember from my early teens and my late teens and my early twenties, and here it was again.
Then—amongst the several critics who I’ve discovered thanks to sites like Critical Distance—I began to see a different opinion. “Maybe violent games do affect those who play them,”
they said. But I had an almost palpable reaction to seeing the stories pop up in my RSS feed. How could I possibly agree with something I’d argued against for much of my life?
That’s when Krpata’s article appeared in the feed. It’s clear now to me that the proper response for all parties with a stake in the discussion (about the causes for violent tragedies) is to reflect and reconsider the parts of our culture which emphasize and glorify violence.
Personally, games have not made me any more or less violent, and that covers many (I’d rather avoid counting) hours of play; however, I am only one person. And the rest of my life is non-violent, low stress, and devoid of the many other outside factors that seem to motivate gunman as seen in the Sandy Hook tragedy. Could violent games be a contributor in such cases? Perhaps.
I’d side with Krpata in calling for longterm study of gaming’s effect on players. If we look, we may find information that can help avoid such horrible outcomes. The same discoveries might show us something we’d rather not see. But as I was reminded of arguing this topic as a teenager, I realized that not only have I grown up since then, gaming has supposedly done some growing of its own. If the videogame industry hopes to be taken seriously, to be considered mature, then self-reflection and study would be an excellent first step to take.