Computer Gaming Violence and Today’s Youth
In the past two years, computer gaming, particularly first-person shooters, has taken the spotlight as the one of the contributing factors in several shootings at schoolyards across America. This is indeed tragic, but is computer gaming the scapegoat for poor parenting and children in need of help?
I am an avid online game player. I play several hours per week online against human opponents, who are also mostly friends I have met online through gaming. I have even been known to pick up my computer and meet face to face with these friends at local LAN’s (Local Area Networks), where I can play head to head with other gamers in the same room. I have never seen a fight or any violence at any of these LAN’s. I play games and also sit and talk with others about the games and strategies. It’s a very non-violent atmosphere, although certain government officials would like you to believe otherwise.
David Grossman, the Pulitzer Prize nominated author of the book Stop Teaching Our Kids To Kill says, “The people who live on these computers are so isolated from reality that they’re able to convince themselves that their fantasy is reality” (Simpson, 1999). This statement pretty much sums up the vast ignorance of what the majority of people believe. That statement may be true for a small amount of individuals, but as a blanket statement it’s completely wrong. I spend an average of 40-50 hours on the computer per week; eight hours a day at work, then a few hours at night. To most individuals, it would seem that I would be considered one of ‘those’ who lived on their computer. I personally have never had the compulsion to act out violently, and am in fact a very passive person. I simply know right from wrong. “Merely because some of us can suspend our disbelief and recognize the unreal nature of computer game violence doesn’t mean that everyone is capable of making that distinction between reality and imagination” (Wilson, 1999). That statement brings up a good point. We can’t blame the whole for the infraction of one. We should seek help for those individuals who cannot distinguish between reality and imagination, not blame the manufacturers of the games they are playing.
“The survey, done by the National Institute on Media and the Family, found that 80 percent of high school kids were familiar with the first-person shooter called ‘Duke Nukem.’ Their parents? Only five percent had even heard of it” (Simpson, 1999). If parents paid more attention to their children, we wouldn’t hear of stories as tragic as the Columbine shootings. Although those tragedies might still occur, we wouldn’t hear of them nearly as often. If you as a parent buy these games for your children, then you are responsible, not the gaming industry. You as a parent should also teach your child the difference between right and wrong and fantasy and reality.
The games in question such as “Quake”, “Doom”, “Duke Nukem” and many others are in the neighborhood of $45 or more. When I was between the ages of 13-18, that was a lot of money to come up with, so my parents would have had to have helped me make that purchase. That shows yet again another opportunity for parental intervention. The above computer games are also rated “Mature” which is a movie equivalent rating of “R” and is intended for ages 17 and up. This should send a flag up to parents as this may not be something they want their children to be playing, and should be discussed openly with the children before purchasing.
Popular society would like us to believe everything is black and white and that we need to put blame on the easiest and quickest source. This is fine if the blame is put on the correct subject matter. However, I feel that the media and the majority of people are jumping on the bandwagon to use the gaming industry as a scapegoat, rather than poor parenting. People should not view a game, a movie or anything else as being the cause for the behavior of one individual and that person’s total lack of judgment and morals. Parents are the role models of these children, not society. Movie stars and entertainers should not be treated as role models. As children grow older they realize how much they are like their parents. This isn’t because of heredity, but rather from the fact that the parents acted as role models to the children as they grew. If parents take time and interest in their children’s purchases and discuss the fact and fiction relationship with video games or movies, then the children will grow up to be the shining examples of what was instilled in them.
Gaming is simply a form of entertainment. For me, it’s a relaxation technique after a stressful day. I can play online with some friends and let off some steam and forget about the troubles back at the office. As Pete Yellen says, “It’s just like playing tag when you’re a kid. You’re just trying to click on the guy faster than he can click on you. It’s not about who can kill who. You’re just substituting the word ‘kill’ for ‘tag” (Simpson, 1999). This is another brilliant example to prove the point that gamers are just playing a more advanced form of tag, where we are simply clicking a mouse and looking at a screen, and nothing more.
These games aren’t training tools of violence, but rather places where people can go to escape the outside barriers and use their imaginations, skills and strategies. As a society, we need to stop placing blame on obscure outside sources and instead look inward at family life and morals of the individuals perpetrating such tragedies like the Columbine shootings. It’s not what we play in our free time – it’s how we were raised that affects our daily decisions. In its most basic form there is still a vast difference between a mouse and an eight pound shotgun. Parents simply need to take better interest in their children’s wants and desires and leave the virtual killing field to those who it was intended for – those ages seventeen and up.
Simpson, Kevin. (1999, November 28). Is it all DOOM & GLOOM? Denver Post, p. A-01
Wilson, Johhn.y (1999, July). Violence and gaming. Computer Gamingworld