Just when you think the debate on the effect of video games on young people has died down, here it comes again. Respawning if you like. It has been a discussion that has run for as long as there has been first person shooter (FPS) games, and with that genre of games doing so well, it isn’t going away anytime soon.
So what exactly is being claimed about violent video games? Colorado 1999. Two students brought weapons to Columbine High School and proceeded to fire indiscriminately at their fellow students. Not only was rock music originally blamed as a big influence but one of the most famous first person shooters ever, Doom, was accused of contributing to the shooting.
Experts, people who have degrees in psychology and other medical disciplines, claim that there is no evidence of influence while other experts, often the same group, will then claim that there is evidence. In most studies and cases, the experts are not gamers, people who sit on the couch and get sore thumbs as they fire BFG’s at monsters, shotguns at zombies or MP5s at terrorists.
The reason why the debate has been awakened again is that the Norwegian man who killed 77 people last year says that he played Modern Warfare 2 as well as World of Warcraft. Modern Warfare 2 is a violent video game that actually has a mission in which the player has to join in a mass shooting of innocents at an airport. While it is part of the plot running through the series of games, the player does get an option to not play that part of the mission. There are also warnings that appear at least twice as the player proceeds through the game.
I am not an expert of anything. I don’t have a degree or have even placed one foot inside a university. I have played video games for more than half my life, including Doom, Doom 2, Duke Nukem 3D and Modern Warfare 2. I have also been to a couple of gun ranges and shot real guns several times. Should I mention that I am a devotee to late 80s/early 90s rock? Does this mean I am more likely to go on a mass shooting spree? Will Satan whisper in my ear what I must do?
In short, NO. Why would I choose to kill anyone in real life simply because I enjoy shooting guns and playing video games? Maybe if someone invents a machine gun that plays rock music as it shoots zombies? Even then the chances are slim to none. To claim that simply because you play a certain genre of video game makes you dangerous is the un-informed pushing their views upon others. Those that like to demand tighter restrictions on video games often avoid the obvious that most gamers see straight away.
Playing Farmville does not make you want to become a farmer. Playing NFL 2012 will not make you into a quarterback. Playing Burnout Paradise does not give you the talent to take corners sideways. I am yet to read anyone accused of animal cruelty by using birds as missiles so I guess Angry Birds is off the hook.
While the focus is on the first person shooter games, why has no one asked, “If the mass killer also played World of Warcraft, why didn’t he use spells instead of bullets?”.