Video Game Violence: Take the Blames off Video Games!
"Blast your way out of 3D hell!" I can still remember reading the enticing slogan on the box of Wolfenstein 3D for the computer. I couldn't have been more than 8 years old when I first loaded it up. I was totally immersed in a world where I used a knife to chop down my adversaries or a semi-automatic machine gun to lay waste to anything else that moved. Now, eight years later, have I gone on a kill crazy rampage? No. I am as peaceful as they come. I have never been in a fight outside of skirmishes with my brothers. I have never been in trouble besides talking in class. If you want to blame video games for sibling rivalry or chatty students then I would be vital to your case. However, as we all know, today games are being blamed from tragedies like the Columbine massacre. Games like Wolfenstein inspired the notorious Doom and the infamous Mortal Kombat, both of which hold "liability" for those events. America is looking for a scapegoat to satisfy the masses, but they are pointing the finger in the wrong direction, faulting the video game industry is not the answer.
I could go on forever describing the history of video games. They evolved from Pong to Mario and further into today's icons. For instance Duke Nukem, a clich? macho womanizer who stars in assortment of mature games, and Lara Croft of Tomb Raider, a voluptuous action heroine whose series isn't selling because the game play. I'm not proud of what games have become but they don't cause the problems they are accused of. Nobody knows for sure of the exact time and place when it was decided that politicians and the media would attack the video game industry. One thing that I'm confident of, is when news of the catastrophe at Columbine spread, people were shocked. "How could this happen in America?" they asked. Quickly the government saw a way to soften the blow. They believed that video games were warping the minds of youth to believe that violence is fun and the only way to solve problems. The problem festered into a huge, one-sided debate. Parents praised big shot senators like Joseph Lieberman who used his accusations of video games to improve his status. Video game developers were overshadowed by these politicians and never had the chance to defend themselves. The responsible video gaming community would suffer because the actions of a few. It seemed like we would never see a drop of blood again because we just might start to enjoy death.
Video games aren't as bad as the media makes them out to be. You have to play them to know, and trust me, I know. Not every game is called "Kill Innocent People for Points!" There is a plethora of peaceful, loving games. Try training your own cute pets in the world famous Pok?mon games. Go to a store and you're sure to find games like Mario Kart where you race your friends for coins or the ever-popular, puzzling challenge; Tetris. Not every game is about cold-blooded murder. The games that do include violence do so for a purpose. Most of violent games you play the role of a hero trying to stop the villain from blowing up the world or protecting earth from ravenous alien invaders. There are no games that feature teenagers slaughtering teachers and classmates. John Sherry, who is the assistant professor of communication, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind, brought up one interesting point. He believes that, "Video games teach logic, hypothesis testing, and problem-solving." From firsthand experience I know that things can be learned from video games. Many titles require the player to solve mind-boggling puzzles to unlock a door or conjure up crafty solutions, like freezing a river to cross to the other side. There is much more to playing video games than mindless killing.
A positive product of the endless battle over violence in video games has been the birth of Entertainment Software Rating Board, better known as ESRB. They are an independent, non-profit rating body, developed with the support of the computer and video game industry. After three different kinds of people, extensively trained by ESRB, evaluate the game the results are tabulated by computer and reviewed by an ESRB staff member to find the final rating. The ratings are reminiscent of the movie ratings. Each game falls into one of four categories: EC for early childhood or up to 6, E for everyone that is the most general audience, T for teenagers at least 13 and finally M for mature over 17. After M there is the extremely rare AO, adults only, games that are only available to those over 18, in almost 10,000 titles at the ESRB web site there are only 12 games with the AO rating.
Even a leading Member of Congress called ESRB ratings, "the most comprehensive system of any entertainment medium in this country." The sources are available for parents to determine what they will allow their children to own. With such an effective system adults know what their children are going to be experiencing. For that reason the responsibility falls on the adults for what their kids get to play, they have the choice of purchase. If their child is not responsible enough to make their own selections then do not give them money. Parents should be smart shoppers during the holiday season, you cannot pick up something on their list that states on the box: "Contains Graphic Violence." There is no excuse for adults who provide the violence but then turn around and blame the developers for marketing the games.
Accusing video games is not logical. Think of a famous historical example of an evil, violent person Adolf Hitler. His tyrannical, power hungry personality led to a massive world war and the death of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. Hitler is quite possibly the most destructive man in the history of this planet. But, what's this? You mean to tell me Hitler never had a Sega! What about other famous historical figures like Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin or Maximilian Robespierre? All ruthless dictators and murderers of millions of innocents, believe it or not, never owned Playstation! Some people are born with violent or aggressive personalities and video games never made them do anything they wouldn't do otherwise. Back in the Roman Empire people cheered gladiators hacking each other to pieces. During the Middle Ages knights atop horses mindlessly rammed each other with long, sharp lances and the crowd roared. Violence is human nature; people have always been around it so there is no reason for violence to suddenly become an unacceptable form of entertainment. Violence was a very real thing before people even heard of a computer.
There are so many people that want to stop the video game industry from making such games. They want games to be censored or simply to stop the production of violent titles. Developers should be able to make whatever sells. If there becomes laws against video game violence then who knows where to draw the line of what to censor? Before you know it the government could begin to block out all kinds of products, which contradicts the American ideals of liberty and opportunity.
There is a great deal of people, such as Dave Grossman (a former military psychologist), who believe that video games are "Teaching Our Children to Kill", which happens to be the title of his book. He says that games are "murder simulators" that teach killing enemies yields no consequence. He is neglecting other causes of violent behavior such as child abuse, bullying, drugs and the availability of weapons. There are many reasons why today's youth turn to violence, it's just easier to single out video games.
Finding a scapegoat will not solve the problem. A better solution might be for parents to actually watch what their kids are getting into. Through the ESRB and selective purchasing we can ensure mature games fall in the hands of mature gamers. An alternative prevention method could be for schools to use education to teach kids about violence. Health classes and guidance counselors help adolescents talk about issues and get thoughts out in the open. The government needs to increase gun security. Keeping the availability of lethal weapons to a minimum will one day eliminate tragedies. All of these suggestions could lead to a safer America. Pointing the finger at video games and censoring their material will not prevent violence among youth.
Technology has come a long way. Entertainment is at a new level. Our economy is peaking and the market for electronics is perfect. It's a case of supply and demand; gamers demand more mature games and the developers supply it. There is a comprehensive rating system and plenty different choices of games. Let the responsible players get what they enjoy. Think about the introduction of rock music. The younger generations flocked to crowded theaters to hear the new sound. Adults were offended and outraged. They said it corrupted their children. What if everything a little radical was censored? Could we ever go forward without taking a step even further back? Stop looking to blame some one else for your shortcomings, the government and media need to think about supporting today's youth and stop faulting the video game industry.