I was born in 1984 and spent my teenage years growing up in the 1990s. This was before video games were the insanely profitable multi-billion industry that it is today. We didn't have the super violent video games like Grand Theft Auto 5 – just the racist rape-y ones. But what we did have was rap music and Marilyn Manson.
The belief among most suburban families back then was that rap music and goth lifestyle were the cause of most problems, especially among teenage/young adult violence, much like video games are blamed today for those same things. I remember my mom made me return a Wu-Tang Clan CD (yes, CDs were a thing) to a Blockbuster Music store (yes, Blockbuster had stores specifically devoted to music) after she thought it would be a negative influence on my seventh grade brain. Somehow, Ol' Dirty Bastard aka Dirt McGirt would cause me to become a monster. How could this be the case? Would my malleable mind hear the lyrics “flippin your daughter thirty ways” and make me want to initiate coitus 30 ways with someone's daughter? Of course not. That notion is ridiculous to anyone with common sense that understands trends and changes in culture.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, I'm tired of writing about how mainstream media and politicians are wrong for focusing in on video games in the wake of shootings. I figure I'd appeal to their common sense. That could happen, right? If I point out other instances of media and government trying to find rationale for violence in music, for instance, they'd surely realize that all they're doing is trying to fear-monger people into ratings and create an unnecessary witch hunt, right?
The influence for this call to action for common sense is an article I saw on Kotaku, which asked people to stop comparing real-life events to video games. Instead, they should be comparing them to other real-life events that set a real precedent for the events they're talking about. But even that article had inspiration, and that inspiration came in the form of a quote from a judge.
The article starts:
“It's a bizarre, surreal case of a young man almost acting like a real-life action video game,” said a judge in England earlier this week, regarding a 15-year-old boy involved in a bank robbery.
Intelligently, Kotaku points out that the kid was acting like a bank robber, for as long as banks have been around, there have been bank robbers. And banks predate video games by almost 600 years. True story. Well, the Dailymail took the quote, twisted it, attached video games that just came out that had nothing to do with robbery, and turned the entire story into one about violent video games. F*ck you very much, Dailymail. Hell, the URL for the story even attaches Call of Duty and Resident Evil to the robbery: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2430643/Liverpool-pupil-15-robbed-bank-gun-real-life-Call-Of-Duty-Resident-Evil-video-game.html.
Video games are today's Marilyn Manson. When two students went on a shooting rampage on April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School, killing 12 students and a teacher while injuring 24 others, the majority of the blame for the shooting was directed at Marilyn Manson and his band. Media outlets would post headlines like “Killers Worshipped Rock Freak Manson.”
Sound like anything else happening in the news lately?
In the aftermath of Columbine, Manson said that music, movies, books and video games were not to blame.
“The [news] media has unfairly scapegoated the music industry and so-called Goth kids and has speculated, with no basis in truth, that artists like myself are in some way to blame. This tragedy was a product of ignorance, hatred and an access to guns. I hope the [news] media's irresponsible finger-pointing doesn't create more discrimination against kids who look different.”
Video games also received some attention at Columbine, as the killers made mods for Doom and played Wolfenstein 3D, but not more than Manson. Manson said in an interview that the Columbine Massacre, and the target on his back that followed it, cost him everything. But he believed that if the same thing were to happen today, that things would be completely different.
It's no different. We have experienced some horrific shootings since Columbine. The only thing that's different now is that video games are being blamed and not music. Of course, Metal and violent music is still around, but it's no longer the cause of anything because the new kid on the block – video games – is the new problem.
There's always going to be a new problem. The problem with that is that you can't put a blame on violence. Humans are violent by nature.
What's happening now with video games is essentially the plot of the Kevin Bacon movie Footloose. Some teenagers died while driving back from a dance and listening to music. The grieving community looked for a scapegoat and found music and dancing. The easiest solution was to ban music, so they did. No one will die at a young age if music isn't around, after all. Like Ren McCormack, we have to stand up to reverend with misplaced hatred until they realize that they're wrong. We just have to dance…
Eventually, common sense will take over, and people will realize that video games aren't the problem. Just like rap music and Marilyn Manson wasn't the problem in the 90s.