The dark side of blaming video games

Rashawn Raysor/Contributing Writer

On Sunday, August 26,  another mass shooting made headlines.

During a Madden tournament at a mall in Jacksonville, one of the players, David Katz, shot and killed two of his competitors and injured at least 11 more people. Katz also shot and killed himself during the chaotic incident.

In the wake of the violence, many gamers online and outlets such as Imagine Game Network, a video game news and entertainment website, have put out statements about video games not being the cause of the violence.

Yet, according to my research, no major news publication has accused violent video games of being a factor in the violence. Not even Fox News, which has a history of making such accusations, has explicitly expressed this sentiment.

On the contrary, many publications like USA Today, Time and CNN have commented on how the gaming community collectively mourned the loss of life. So why are these statements being made when no one seems to be pointing the finger at video games?

Video games have a long history of being named a corrupting influence on the youth. From causing violent behavior to rotting brains, there’s no shortage of accusations lodged at video games.

They have been defined as the cause of violent behavior since an incident in 1997 where a young boy, Noah Wilson, stabbed his friend. Wilson’s mother blamed her son’s fascination with “Mortal Kombat 3,” claiming that he imitated the finishing move of the character Cyrax. However, the finishing move she described was found to not exist for the character at all.

Video games were also implicated as a factor in the Columbine shooting. The two shooters were known to enjoy playing games like Quake and Doom—which were popular shooter games at the time. Video games have also been named a factor in other school shootings, such as the Sandy Hook and Heath High incidents. Video games have not had the greatest public image in the U.S., to say the least.     

Video games have also been going through recent controversy lately dealing with loot boxes being implemented in several multiplayer games. Loot boxes are a form of in-app purchase where players pay real or in-game currency for a virtual item that can be redeemed for a randomized selection of other consumable items. Video game companies, such as Twitch, have recently been implementing these systems in a manner many have found to be intrusive and manipulative.

The State of Hawaii even moved to pass a series of bills against these practices, finding them to be predatory and akin to gambling. These bills would not only prohibit the sale of games with such mechanics to those under 21, but would also require video game companies to label games containing such mechanics, according to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

These recent controversies and the history of video games being linked to violence primed gamers to be on the defensive. And so, gamers on social media and gaming news outlets were quick to defend video games from an expected attack by the media.

The fact that no mainstream news outlet has attempted to place blame on video games is astonishing all things considered.

It gives one hope that rather than seeking out the simplest answer, public figures may be willing to have more nuanced conversations about the mass shootings plaguing our nation. It gives one hope that perhaps more meaningful conversations about mental health and video games can occur.

Perhaps we have finally moved past the fear of a new form of media, or this could merely be an exception to the norm.

Photo by Fabian Albert on Unsplash.

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