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Video Games: The Hot Scapegoat

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Last week a  tragic act of violence occurred in Slaughter, LA, where an 8-year-old boy shot and killed his grandmother, 87-year-old Marie Smothers, whom was his caretaker at the time.  Police report that Smothers was watching TV when the 8-year-old picked up a .38-caliber handgun and shot her.

games_2635226bDistrict Attorney Samuel D’Aquilla says it was an accident, that the boy thought “it was a toy gun, a play gun.” Reports have also shown that the 8-year-old and his grandmother had a “loving relationship,” so there must have been a reason he was so violent, right? I googled this story for more information and these were just a few of the common article titles to pop up:

“8-Year old shoots, Kills Elderly Caregiver After Video Game”

“8-Year old Shoots Grandmother in Head After Playing Violent Video Game”

“8-Year-Old Boy Allegedly Shoots And Kills His Grandmother After Playing Grand Theft Auto IV”

Yep, Grand Theft Auto IV.  Let me remind everyone that GTA IV is a rated “M” game, meant for those 17 years or older.  So if the media serves us right, let us never mind the fact that this child had access to an M-rated game and more importantly, access to a loaded gun.  Let us blame the video game instead.

This debate about video games causing violence has been going on for a long time now.  Yet, we witness violence in movies and TV shows all the time.  What is it about video games that has people in such an uproar?  What has people, including U.S. Senators, thinking video games are a “bigger problem than guns?”

GTA_IVMA common answer to these questions is: Simple! The government and media need a scapegoat. They need something to point the finger at. Instead of putting the blame on the parents or the person who committed the crimes themselves, they rather point the finger at video games.  Often times in this blame game, there are little facts and such a complete ignorance when it comes to the video games themselves. These reporters have little to no experience with video games, let alone Grand Theft Auto.

Watch here when an HLN reporter watches Grand Theft Auto IV, and is horrified when he thinks you can “run over children.”

The struggle for objectivity is real with HLN. If you clicked that link and watched, I am sure you noticed the dramatic music and statements he makes on how violent the game is. Don’t get me wrong, Grand Theft Auto IS violent but I somehow doubt he would make those remarks during the new Riddick movie or next Game of Thrones episode.  Riddick has an “R” rating and Game of Thrones will have a “TV-MA” rating.  Hey you, news guy, notice anything similar here?

How about next time there is an act of violence, especially by a child, we look at the whole picture? Instead of blaming the video game, how about we examine everything that went wrong? That would be refreshing.  At the very least, can we start with a more accurate title to these articles? Although, “8-Year-Old Has Unsupervised Access to rated-M Game and a Loaded Gun” isn’t as eye-catching is it?

Erica has been fond of gaming since she was 5 years old. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, she was privileged to have experienced the NES, SNES, TurboGrafx 16, Sega Saturn, Dreamcast, N64, amongst many other consoles. Do not mistake her classic upbringing for unawareness of today’s generation of gaming. She is up to date with gaming news, the gaming community, as well as the social aspects of gaming. She is fascinated with men and women and how they each view and treat gaming, and above all she keeps gaming in check for what it is meant to be: for fun. So if you want some down to earth commentary and opinions, look no further than Ericutz4thewin.
  • I played Vice City when I was 5, and I don’t go on killing sprees as much as you’d think…. <.< Seriously though, they pulled the same stuff when comic books got big. Only difference is, they'll never get anything like the Comics Code Authority implemented in this day and age.

  • Beautifully written, couldn’t have said it better myself. You also brought up a overlooked point in my opinion, and one that I’ve always found strange. How come no other forms of media/entertainment even come close to getting the scrutiny that video games receive? I’ve never seen the mainstream media go after movies, tv, music, or even books, as much as I’ve seen them go after video games. I’ve always wondered why that is. What did video games do to these people? Lots of factors in these stories, and the media doesn’t want to talk about any of them. An absolute disgrace that they should be called Journalists,’ because they don’t know the first thing about journalism.

  • Very well written article, Erica! It’s funny how, like you said, there are many violent movies and TV shows that are readily accessible on cable television, yet violent games that you have to go ELSE WHERE to purchase get blamed for things like this. It’s tragic regardless of how it happened, but it’s funny how games are always the go-to.

    • Players should be screened for mental stability before purchasing a console 😛 lol

  • David

    Good article, but I think the focus here is not the mere fact that the “government and the media” need a “scapegoat”.. I will defend video games until I die… HOWEVER… the difference (if you’re looking for one) is that video games are SIMULATING violence, as movies/TV shows are DISPLAYING violence.. Big difference. In video games THE PLAYER is carrying out violent acts. Interactive violence v.s. the Observation of violence… I dunno… Think about it. Not once in this article was this point of view mentioned, and it needs to be if this type of thing is going to be talked about in an open forum. To be honest this is quite biased and written from a perspective that cannot be taken from either party from a FAIR AND BALANCED point of view.

    I WORK on video games and with that being said, I will always side with the video game defensive. But you need to look at the pros and CONS of both movies and video games.

    VIDEO GAMES: Simulate violence, and let the player (regardless of age) murder, steal, prostitute, etc. and often bare little to no consequence for such acts.

    MOVIES/TV: Although violent, it is not the view who is carrying out the violent crimes, and there is always a consequence whether it be at the end of the movie or in the sequel. Also, studies have shown that when viewing VIOLENCE from a third person perspective, the brain does not directly correlate to the ACTS being committed as it does when CARRYING OUT the violence in a video game, FIRST PERSON.

    Both can be harmful in the grand scheme of things, but video games take the heat because of ONE SIMPLE REASON…

    Video games are literally ->INTERACTIVE<- RECREATIONAL VIOLENCE. Movies are not.

    Good topic nonetheless.

    😉

    • “I will defend video games until I die… HOWEVER… the difference (if you’re looking for one) is that video games are SIMULATING violence, as movies/TV shows are DISPLAYING violence.. Big difference. In video games THE PLAYER is carrying out violent acts. Interactive violence v.s. the Observation of violence…”

      You make a really good point. There is definitely a difference between observation and interaction.

      • It’s just how I see this type of thing… This debate has been going on for YEARS… And most often one of the sides, (if not both) forget to hit this key point..

        Why doesn’t my pic show up on the comment I left?

  • I agree, why was there a loaded weapon within his reach? Why if this was the case, was he never shown how to safely handle it and what the real world consequences of using it were? Why was he using a graphic, M-rated game as a babysitter? Those are my first questions, however:

    There is a reason why games have a rating system, and the violence simulations are one of them. Video Games provide at their core an experience you can’t get anywhere else in the real world. I believe that if an adult wants to experience graphic, realistically simulated violence in a video game setting they should be able to. There is no shame or wrongdoing in wanting to experience something you never could normally. Therein lies the point – you know it’s not normal. Even as a kid of 8 years old I knew that video games were not reality. My parents made sure to always hammer home the separation between fact and fiction, and when things got too “real” while I was playing (emotional outbursts) I was removed from the screen. This is not the case with everyone, and ESRB knows this. These tragedies happen because of psychological reasons; that the child had an underlying mental condition, could not separate games from reality, or simply could not foresee the consequences of his actions with the experiences he had. Some kids just don’t develop these abilities until later in life, which is why you should not get M-rated games for your children until they are ready and able to do this. Or at the very least supervise them whilst they play.