So there’s this concept floating around that a violent society begets violent people. The hyper-realistic action depicted in movies and video games have turned us all into murderers, apparently, and in order to stop it we must remove such influences from the public. The notion is a noble one that we must save the people from themselves, you know, because they are too stupid to do it on their own and they clearly need help tearing themselves away from their destructive habits.

                The above is a bunch of snooty, elitist crap from people who find it easy to place blame on things they clearly do not enjoy and, therefore, will not miss if it disappears. My son tried the same thing last week when he said he was literally sick from all the homework his teacher gave him. Then he sniffled for effect.

                There is a measure of truth to it all, though, let’s be honest. Back when I was pouring hours into GTA: San Andreas I would always do a sanity check before driving my real car. I couldn’t floor it, run people over or honk at hookers in real life because they wouldn’t let me play GTA in jail and dammit I liked that game. Play too much GTA, and the “Wouldn’t it be fun to do that in real life?” conversation comes up. At the very least an amusing daydream occurs the next time you are stuck in traffic or see a cop car. Is it the fault of mine or Rockstar Studios, however, if I had decided to steal an 18-wheeler and clear out morning traffic? That’s like saying Bethesda is to blame anytime someone gets gutted with a bastard sword (which, for the record, happened a lot more often BEFORE the inception of video games.) To make things clear, I have not ever committed such an act and I play more games than I probably should.

                In New York City all restaurants, fast-food joints, delis, movie theaters, sports stadiums and even food carts have been barred from selling sugar-sweetened drinks in cups larger than 16 ounces. When I first heard about this, I asked myself what would stop someone from buying four 16-ounce drinks and thus, essentially, having a 64 ounce drink. The only thing the ban on large sodas has done is ensure that when someone wants a lot of soda there is going to be more byproduct and waste involved. The ban was intended to benefit the health of the citizens of NYC, sure, but it doesn’t affect the root of the problem: fat people eat unhealthy and don’t exercise enough, and therefore stay fat. There’s nothing wrong with taking on some extra calories if you lead an active lifestyle. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with an interactive experience wherein participants gun down innocent people in an airport if the proper context is maintained that it is a game and not a suggestion. Has the concept of “For entertainment purposes only” been misconstrued by us as a people?

The horrific scenes depicted in some books far surpass what is deemed appropriate to put in movies, yet nobody points to books as a generator of psychosis because we want our children to read books. My kids read books, but not 50 Shades of Gray. I believe that book would be inappropriate for them. You know, maybe the key is to have a group of people get together and label movies and video games based on their appropriateness for people of different ages to experience them. This way, we could have a quick reference as adults and merchants to know which intellectual properties we must shelter kids from in order not to expose or over-expose them to certain concepts and imagery. What is that, you say? We have a system like this already!?!?!? You mean to tell me that there are many laws and measures in place to prevent our children from being desensitized to violence by the varying forms of entertainment media at a young age? ESRB and MPAA do ring a bell, come to think of it. I guess it is our jobs as individuals to ensure that our offspring benefit from such regulations and don’t turn out to be whackjobs.  

The amount of in-depth news coverage on the Aurora Theater and Sandy Hook Elementary shootings has been a continuous bombardment of disgusting imagery, and yet people focus their blame on the entertainment industry for exposing the public to realistic and horrifying concepts. I would not dare discourage the coverage of these events by news agencies, but there is a line in the sand that defines what ethical news coverage is. Unless you are investigating the matter from an authoritative standpoint there is no reason you should know every single detail. The reason the news media puts it out there is so that people enthralled with the coverage from the comfort of their homes will turn to the news channel that shows the most in-depth coverage and continue to be enthralled.

Read this movie review by Roger Ebert from 2003 in which he echoes this concept more succinctly than I can.

                To blame video games and movies for these atrocities is to blame fictional works altogether. Movies present characters and conflicts to us that are interesting and shown in stylized fashions that further entertain. If these characters and/or conflicts influence someone to commit themselves to any course of action then I can hardly blame the creators or distributors of the characters and conflicts. It’s been explained to me that games like Black Ops 2 or Far Cry 3 create a conditioned response by providing a life-like environment for the player to become immersed within and then rewarding that player for killing (with even better rewards for killing a lot!). Rinse and repeat for hours, and you have created a person who feels an immense and instant gratification by shooting others.

Can we all agree that there is a definitive difference between someone playing a simulation of armed combat online with other willing participants in a tournament of skill and someone who grabs a dangerous weapon and uses it on unwilling and undeserving recipients in order to settle some selfish, emotional grudge? Don't put me in the same category with those whackos, lest I use the rubber/glue argument and stick that accusation to you instead! MWAHAHAHAHAHA!!! 

                This article was written from a simple yet personal perspective: As someone who potentially owns both violent video games and firearms, anybody who decides to play Real-Life Black Ops 2 in a building full of innocent people does it because they have something detrimentally wrong with them and that has very little to do with video games. The end.