Video games have been implicated in a few significant events such as the Columbine school shooting, Sandy Hook and most recently, the shooting of an eighty-seven year-old caretaker by the young child who was in her care. As such, it is important to address the issue of the degree to which video games play a role in the occurrence of such events.
Video games, perhaps now more than ever, have become an increasingly potent medium for telling powerful stories and the demonstration of poignant and moving cinematics. Even I have experienced a few moments where I either had my jaw drop in shock or a tear in my eye while playing games. Overall, video games have the potential to significantly impact a person’s mood. However, it is important to note that the response to the content of a particular game will ultimately depend on the person, though it seems that this component is not addressed nearly as much as it should. What we usually see after a violent act is an onslaught of video game-bashing.
It is important to note that video games often have a bit of a glorifying effect on the subject matter they are portraying. A violent game is no different. As such, many politicians and other figures would have people believe that video games are the root cause of many of the tragedies we have seen over the years. Some have even ventured to suggest that such video games should be banned entirely.
I agree that a dialogue needs to be opened and continued in an effort to curb such violence, but we need to understand that these video games, in and of themselves, do not turn people into violent criminals. Video games and other types of media that sensationalize violence are potentially detrimental to a person who is more inclined to become violent, but a potentially effective solution is to prevent such individuals from having access to such material. Parents need to step up and determine whether their child understands that the game is simply fantasy, and more importantly, comprehends that much of the behavior exhibited in the game may be unacceptable in real life.
If a child does not achieve this comprehension, the parent should not be buying such games. As mentioned before, a young child intentionally killed his care giver after playing Grand Theft Auto IV, and I cannot help but wonder how this child had access to such a violent video game. Even as a 28 year-old, I am still asked to provide ID whenever I am buying a video game intended for people ages 17 and up. Therefore, I must ask, how are children such as these getting access to mature games? If parents don’t understand what ‘rated M for mature’ means it’s time to ask and become informed. In my opinion, there is simply no excuse. A simple cursory glance at a game’s cover will immediately let anyone with a basic fundamental understanding of English know why a game received a particular rating.
Simply put, violent video games should never have been in the hands of the people responsible for these events, and this is not the fault of the video game developers. When people make the decision to start up a family, it is their obligation to teach their children fundamental principles that will allow them to survive and flourish as young people and then later as adults. If parents are not willing to do that, then they simply should not be surprised if their children ultimately engage in questionable and even dangerous behavior. Children will learn about drugs, violence and sex whether their parents are the ones informing them or not. If parents choose to let video games be their children’s guide, then they are simply asking for tragedy.
The bottom line is that whenever a tragedy occurs, there needs to be a shift away from looking for scapegoats and a refocusing of energy on dealing with the core of this issue. Video games are meant to entertain, and parents are meant to teach.