Video Games and Real-World Violence

I have never been one to take life too seriously. That shows in a lot of what I do, from TV shows and movies to the football team I support to video games. I love all of those things but only because I have fun with them. So this is a bit difficult to write as negativity isn’t my strong suit. However, I feel this topic always seems to come up and sometimes does need addressing.

I love video games. If you’re reading this, I suppose you do too. It’s a hobby for some, it’s a way to make a living for others and in between, there’s some who just don’t, or refuse, to understand it. My wife, for example, joins the latter group. She genuinely cannot fathom how a man in his 30s, with two kids, is still playing video games. To her, she hears “playing” and “games”, which instantly makes her think of “a child’s toy.” It doesn’t matter that she has watched me play mature games like The Last of Us, Red Dead Redemption or God of War. It’s all the same to her. Years of me trying to explain that this is not just a hobby for kids and is played by all genders of all ages all over the globe doesn’t matter. She refuses to see it as anything more than child’s play.

But you know what she does do? She acknowledges the positive impact games have. She’s a teaching assistant and sees on a daily basis how video games increase motor skills and cognitive function in children and how they are being introduced in schools as a learning tool. You know what she doesn’t do? Despite her refusal to accept gaming as a widely used medium by adults? Blame real world tragic events and deaths on video games.

The world has seen some unbearably awful events unfold recently and with awful events and innocent lives lost comes the inevitable blame game and who needs to do what to fix it. Ranging from the president of a country down to a stranger on twitter, everyone has their opinions and will share the wholeheartedly no matter how insensitive or nonsensical or how grounded and sensible.

Now blaming video games for things is nothing new. People are afraid of what they don’t understand. It’s a natural thing but it’s worse when said people just refuse to understand when attempts are made. School shootings in America have now brought the topic back into mainstream media and frustratingly it is being discussed by the president of the United States.

Now despite any opinions I may have on the current US President, the nonsensical argument of Video Games being the reason behind the absolute evil and tyrannical minds of the perpetrator’s is infuriating. There are statistics and facts everywhere to show there is no correlation but the powers that be will always latch on to any excuse if it means not having to change something that brings in a lot of money such as the gun and weapons industry does for America.

I don’t want to go too much into the politics, I just want common sense to prevail. I love video games and I love that other people love video games. Video games bring people together and can build bonds and bridges across the globe. If anything, video games do the opposite of the death and destruction of lives they are being blamed for. In an ideal world, the people in power would actually spend some time and effort and research the industry and the millions of players around the globe and they would see the argument is nonsense.

In my own personal experiences over the last decade, being a Muslim brought unwanted and negative attention to myself and my family. I’ve always had a feeling I need to apologise every time Islamic extremists would commit atrocities around the globe. I felt I had to repeatedly tell society “Hey, that ain’t me and I swear I don’t support any of those actions!” It’s only now, as someone directly responsible for human lives, I look back and think why the hell did I feel I needed to justify myself when all I was doing was living my life?

Now the video game industry is once again finding itself in a similar position, to justify its existence and that is does not cause the madness we are seeing today. The difference this time is that we are in the era of governments taking action regardless of facts or effect on people so the blame on video games this time around is a lot more dangerous for the industry. So called experts have to have their say and passionate gamers are having to voice their disagreement around the world. It’s not right and it shouldn’t have to be done but here we are.

Video games are great. The majority of players around the world are great. The feeling of escapism, victory, pride and sometimes just some straight up ‘bantz’ are feelings that video games provide in a unique way.

Now I know the video games industry isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.  Has the industry been in the spotlight for unethical business practices and poor treatment of staff? Yes

Do a minority of players around the world use the medium for some form of discrimination and bullying? Yes

Does there need to be a review of how women are treated within the industry?  Yes

These are all human issues that could apply to any industry but are still fundamental issues that need to be addressed immediately for the sake of the industry’s future but to take the repeated incidents of innocent lives lost in cold blood and put that on the influence of video games? That’s a wholehearted no.

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