Killer Games

IMG_0118Originally written August 2002

On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went into Columbine High School armed with shotguns and dressed in trench coats.  They killed twelve students and a teacher in this high school in Littleton, Colorado.  They then killed themselves when they felt that their motives were made clear to those students who made fun of them in school everyday.
On April 15, 1995, Timothy McVeigh drove a van into the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City killing hundreds of people.  He was executed several years later for his terrorist-like acts against humanity.  It was then one of the most severe massive homicide cases in United States history.
The relation between these horrible crimes is that all these people were avid violent video game players.  It is the belief of many experts and parents that certain games can cause children and even adults to explode into these extreme horrific acts.  Are the video games to blame as the motivation for these horrific acts?  Yes and no.
Video games have no doubt revolutionized the entertainment world over the last thirty years.  The advances made in design and realism is nothing short of astounding.  Video game players, also known as ‘gamers’, have welcomed all the advances with open arms.  The games offer a wide variety of themes depending on the interest of the gamer.  They include all types of sports, from basketball to billiards, RPG’s (Role Playing Games), or adventure games like the Super Mario Brothers released by Nintendo in 1985 and still remains popular today.  Of course for the not so squeamish, there are games in which you can run around a giant building armed with a shotgun and a temper, blow up everything in sight, and see every little detail… just like what the Columbine attackers did.
There are five reasons as to why people of all ages love to play video games.  Video games serve as a great entertainment purpose. Games of all genres are fun.  Being an lifelong gamer myself, I can say truthfully, when I shoot down the bad guy or finally solve a puzzle, it is a lot of fun.
One of the biggest issues with teens especially today is stress.  Most kids suffer from stress because of school related incidents, trouble at home, or just the wanting to be accepted overall.  I was one of those people who were searching for acceptance from everyone.  This is caused by either ‘evil’ teachers or dealing with bullies.  The video games provide a stress relief; especially when you shoot down the bad guy.
For similar purposes the video games serve as an escape from reality.  People of all ages must take a break from the stressful society we are consumed by.  This is an especially vital purpose for any over-worked person.  It also gives off a sense of relaxation, which is another purpose.
Furthermore, the video games are a social activity, and a great one.  Most games no matter what the genre are made for more than one player.  Grab a group of friends and a couple of games and you got a party.
Most of every type of video game is aimed at children of specific ages.  Parents have a responsibility to make sure that the game their child is playing is suited for them.  All video games today have ratings just like movies.  The ratings range from six years old to seventeen and above.  Many times uninformed parents buy games meant for older children for their younger children.  The child will most likely become desensitized and see certain acts as acceptable.
Determining what is acceptable and not acceptable first and most importantly the responsibility of the parents.  Before a parent agrees to buy any game, no matter how innocent it maybe appear to be, they should be informed as to what features the game has that can be damaging to their child.
A major example of this point is a recently released game called Grand Theft Auto Vice City.  Set in Miami during the 1980’s, Vice City consists of one person traveling all around Miami taking jobs for different mafias.  In this game you are required to steal cars, kill police officers, (or anyone you want for that matter) and get prostitutes.  The game is extremely gory.  You gun down people, decapitate them with swords, and attack them with chainsaws and baseball bats just to name a few in order to win in the game.  This game became a very large controversial issue in Miami especially.  Many parents were protesting over its release and wanted it censored and or banned.
A similar game that received a lot of controversy is BMX XXX.  This game is basically you riding a bike in the nude, when you unlock all the secrets it includes a pornographic video at the end of the game.  Obviously no parent would allow this game into the hands of their young child, but it happens because the parents are not properly informed about the game first.
Why do children like video games to begin with?  I work in a video game store.  I see kids of all ages buy all types of games.  Many of my friends and coworkers have had their own two cents to contribute in the last few weeks when I told them about my essay assignment and jumped at the opportunity to defend, and to my surprise, agree with my theory of video games causing violence in children and people in general.
An interview I conducted with three of my coworkers showed me how wide based the opinions are towards the question at hand.  Richard Buznego, an assistant manager at GameStop, and a gamer of nearly twenty years stated, “Bullshit!  It’s because of stupid overworked parents who let their kids be raised by other people or things other than themselves.”
Another coworker, Joaquin Alvarez, assistant manager said, “When little kids come in here to buy Vice City, even when their parents are present, I still don’t want to sell it to them because of the fear I have of that kid someday being on the news as the next media-shocking explosion.”
Both went on to say that whether they supported or denied the theory of connections between violent children and violent video games, they agreed that the parents play the most important role when it comes to not only which games they play but to be responsible to be aware at the ways it affects them.
Some of my friends also defended the games saying that there are more things to blame than just the games themselves: like movies, TV shows, and the Internet play a major role in the digital manipulation world.  People are raised by electronics and not by people anymore.
I even interviewed myself, so to speak.  I asked myself if I have ever become violent from playing violent games.  I bought this game called, “Dead to Rights” a basic ‘shoot em up’ game with interesting features, like bullet time, in which the game is slowed to be able to dodge bullets and so forth.  After I beat the game four days later I realized how FUN the game was.  Some portions were extremely difficult and required many tries before I got passed them.  I noticed that I was becoming frustrated and impulsive.  Therefore, if I became frustrated at times over a game, imagine what another immature child who has not been taught reality from fantasy could result into, or worse if it is a child with a violent temper.
By far the most interesting people I interviewed, is my friend, Andres Musumeci.  He believes that games are not only to blame for the sudden boom of violent kids in society but the whole media in general.  He called it a ‘digitized Pandora’s Box’.  He means to say that the whole media is sucking us into this frame of mind or mentality of what society is beginning to accept now little by little until violent acts are just seen as a way of life and not as a tragedy.
A study by Dr. Jeanne Funk for The Journal of Clinical Pediatrics tested preferences of games for seventh and eighth graders showed that 49% of gamers prefer games involving violence.  29% play sports, (some of which involve violent content).  Only 2% of them preferred educational games such as Tetris, a puzzle-solving game.
Every gamer who plays violent games will go through ‘Stimulus Addiction.’  This is what happens when a child (or adult for that matter), demands a more violent game to be able to maintain the same psychological and mental satisfaction.
I was convinced that while games did contribute, it was not the main cause of children becoming violent.  In the email response I received by Dr. Robert Butterworth, he replied, “The majority of violent kids are from defective or abusive families.  Eighty percent of children who commit violent, antisocial acts have a history of disruptive behavior known to both parents and teachers’ way before a major occurrence erupts.”  I agree with what he wrote.  Everything starts with how the child is raised by the parents.  If the parents teach their children right from wrong from an early age, a vast majority will not become violent.
Parents are the bigger issue of concern.  The parent is responsible for the child that is ONLY A GAME.  The parents of the Columbine attackers had no idea were even playing these types of games.  Ignorance these days can bring you to death.  The society we live in today has almost half of the households with single parents.  Another majority is one where both parents work.  If there are no parents around, who is going to teach the child right from wrong?  Forget the games for a second, just right and wrong.  No wonder children are forced to raise themselves in this society and generation from a video game.
Violence in games, however, is not the only thing to be concerned with anymore.  Control is a big issue as well.  ‘The Sims’ is a video game that is the ultimate form of real-life control.  You can do literally everything, from throwing dinner parties, to gardening the yard.  Why is this bad?  The biggest things gamers thrive for when playing any game is control.  Control is everything.
Video games are also attempting to make current issue realities into a fantasy reality.  With the war on terror being fought everyday in the real world, video game designers have produced Conflict Desert Storm, a game whose sole purpose is to annihilate Sadaam Hussein.
In the days of my parents, the TV was thought to be one of the biggest revolutions of the entertainment and technology world.  Today, a nine-year old child is anxiously waiting for the sequel to his favorite first-person shooter video game.  When is it safe to guarantee that the child will not let the actions he controls in a game control or be the cause of something terrible he might do in society?  There is no way.  One thing is for certain however.  In real life, there is no ‘Reset’ button.


2 thoughts on “Killer Games

  1. A very well written article Gabriel. You are absolutely right in arguing that there are more factors that contribute to violent behaviour than just video games alone. Life is an onion, with layers upon layers of different experiences and relationships that make this onion of a life. Parenting is a very good point as it is the foundation provided for any child. Without the proper care in laying that foundation, they won’t be stable. As Richard Buzego so eloquently put it: “Bullshit! It’s because of stupid overworked parents who let their kids be raised by other people or things other than themselves”.

    I liked that you observed yourself as part of this study. I completely agree with your findings because I can see how frustration and an impulsive nature can be born out of failing to complete missions. That, coupled with a violent temper is a recipe for disaster!

    Great post! I’m glad you linked it.

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