Violent video games: The favoured scapegoat

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Video games are the cultural product of our modern computer-driven society. Unfortunately, like comic books of the past, it has vestiges of nerdom, virginity, and awkward teenage adolescence the medium can’t seem to shake.

It doesn’t matter that the industry is a billion dollar entertainment powerhouse; many people assume that video games are evil at worst and counter-productive at best. From parents who assume video games will rot their child’s brain to the mainstream media that throws snarky potshots at the medium whenever a school shooting occurs, video games can’t catch a break.

Of course, I’m preaching to the choir here. Chances are if you’re reading this article you already play video games. Whether it’s on your iPhone, in a web browser, on an Xbox, or a Nintendo DS – you consume interactive video entertainment in some form or another.

Late last year, tragedy struck in Newtown, Connecticut. A young adult went on a shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary school. His motives may never be known.

Following this terrible incident, “experts” began coming out of the woodwork from every direction. Everyone had an opinion and everyone wanted to point their finger at something. Society, rock music, movies, and the Second Amendment were all topics people muttered about, and invariably someone would bring up video games.

It came at a national, attention-grabbing level from the U.S. gun advocacy group, the NRA. Executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, discussed  modern forms of entertainment, and paid special attention to video games. Using biblical terms and analogies, LaPierre argued for armed guards in schools and accused the entertainment industry of corrupting society.

“There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people,” said LaPierre.

This “shadow industry” he refers to is more commonly known as the video game industry. LaPierre made special notice in his address of a ten-year-old flash game originally posted on Newgrounds.com called Kindergarten Killers. While it was stirring in junior high (in a doing-something-you’re-not-supposed-to way), the game isn’t anything more than lurid amusement. A child could see the game isn’t serious; a bizarre creative outlet for… something. Once again video games had been made to look like a weird pastime.

The gun control media frenzy came to the point where President Obama called for research on the link between video games and gun violence. “Media images” were also mentioned, but that is an incredibly vague term. Video games, however, are specifically singled out.

In a few months, everyone will likely have forgotten about the role video games have had in the continental conversation on guns and everyone will have moved on with their lives.

While probably true, it still bothers me. It’s not fair that a medium is unfairly judged while others aren’t. Even comic books are left alone now. Only video games get the lashings. If we as a society created a few targeted Facebook groups, an email or Twitter campaign, we could have our voices heard by the media at large. We all play games and we all should be peeved when one of our favourite pastimes is condemned so unfairly.