Video games don’t kill people. People do…

Posted 7/25/12 by Paul

As soon as a tragedy strikes, it is inevitable that debates will rage about gun control and the influence on society of violent video games and movies. It becomes a tired topic, steeped in political ideology and pop psychology. Experts get trotted out on talk shows, all wanting their fifteen minutes of fame, all attempting to explain what drives seemingly normal people to break from reality and commit heinous acts.

No one knows, for sure, why James Holmes strode into a Aurora cinema and opened fire on innocent moviegoers. He killed 12 people, injured many more and showed a callous disregard for his actions. He was intent on destroying lives or, detached from reality, playing the role of a superhero villain. He was a PhD student, who recently had a breakup. He was a fan of the new “Batman” series, bizarrely positioning himself as The Joker. He had obtained firearms – lots of them. These are the superficial little details that surround the horrible event.

People who are so inclined will blame the pressures of the breakup. They might blame his upbringing. They might blame society. Others might use this to score political points. How can a mad man get access to firearms? Lots of people who aren’t mad can get access to them, too. And that also goes for violent movies and games. You can’t ban things just because crazy people migh be influenced by them. Crazy people are so-called because they tend to see things from a slightly skewered perspective, and why a novel such as “The Catcher In The Rye” was supposedly motivation for assassination.

It is not quite as simple as that, though. I don’t subscribe to a black and white view. Previously I would have written off the “violent movies/games create monsters” argument. In truth, they don’t, otherwise tragedies like Aurora and Columbine would be far more common. I could comfortably say that access to this level of violence has led to a coarsening of society. We just don’t seem to FEEL things like we used to. We seem to have become desensitized to the suffering of others.

Maybe this a result of September 11th or having access to uncensored war footage on YouTube, or maybe it is the way they news is conveyed (like a sideshow), but it seems to me that what happened in Aurora does not quite produce the level of horror it really ought to. Sure, the talking heads talk and pop psychologists blabber, but you don’t get the impression that the human loss has been properly grasped. There is a sense of detachment, that this is just another story or “movie of the week.”

It is little wonder that we are like this. We have seen the “going postal” narrative play out in movies and on TV. So, when it happens for real, it somehow doesn’t even feel real. And, lest I get into a “’twas better in my days” nostalgia trip, but video games really have become a lot more violent. Mario and Sonic were tame by today’s standards. How many times will kids see characters killed or mauled in a video game these days? Surely that has a cumulative affect on a psyche. It might not cause psychotic or imitative behavior, but it might make it more palatable.

These days kids see a lot more casual violence than they would have in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. That is not to say those generations were perfect and didn’t produce a fair sampling of psychos. They certainly did. There is no quick-fix to society’s ills or depths of human depravity. At the very least, though, they didn’t have Facebook pages opened in their honor.

The Aurora Killer

This is not about judging. This is the society in which we live and the media we have. I am not here to propose solutions, to tell people to turn off their violent movies and heal the world. It is never as simple as that anyway. Good people will do good things and bad people will do the reverse, or good people will snap and do atrocious things. It is the bad that will get reported, of course. It sells.

But what I would propose is to really think about these tragedies and the humanity involved. That is the story – the kids that will grow up without their father, mother, brother or sister; the daughters who have been taken from their parents because some guy forgot what it was to be human. And I will think of the poor 6 year old girl who will never get to live a life she deserved.

This world might show so many signs of cruelty. There is so much injustice if you look for it. There is also a lot of good, if you look for it. Those who want to cause harm will not be stopped by gun laws or censorship. Maybe, though, a few imitators might be stopped if the media focused more on the tragedy and less on the Tarantino-esque aspects to these sort of shootings. These are not movies and killers should not be clumsily presented as mavericks. Away from all the fog and the fear, most of us still have a heart and compassion. It allows us to empathize with others. It might not stop a tragedy, but it shows we have humanity. At least we have that and, in this day and age, that might be enough.

Comments are closed.