On Jan. 10, Don Lloyd wrote to the Daily Camera, blaming the recent trend of mass shootings on video games. Lloyd feels video games, particularly shooting-based games, wear down a person’s sensitivity to violence until they become mindless killers.
I share Lloyd’s disgust regarding these mass shootings, and the culture of fear they give birth to, but very often disgust and outrage end with good people chasing shadows. Regarding video games, Lloyd is, quite simply, wrong.
If Lloyd is correct in saying that playing video games gives children violent tendencies, we should see a direct correlation between the number of video games sold and national crime statistics. Instead, rates of murder, robbery, and rape in the United States are the lowest they have been in 20 years (tinyurl.com/2d7coq8). Meanwhile, those same 20 years have seen the rise of the home video game system: not only millions of Playstations and Game Boys, but the rise of multiplayer, first-person “deathmatch” games, where players can kill each other’s avatars in a virtual arena. (By coincidence, we can credit Colorado native John Romero, co-creator of the game Doom, with popularizing this genre.) I do not credit video games for the decline in violence, but they are certainly not responsible for the violence we see today.
These games, some of them indeed quite violent, are played by tens of millions of people, translating into billions upon billions of deaths in the digital ether each year. In defending the Second Amendment, Lloyd points out that the handful of mass-shooters committing gun violence should not affect the rights of the 99.9 percent of responsible, healthy-minded gun owners. And yet he points to the millions of video game players, and holds them just as morally corrupt as the handful of mass shooters who, at some point in their lives, played video games. In Japan, where many of the games Lloyd criticizes are created, the rate of gun-related homicide is two hundred times lower than in the US (tinyurl.com/7jqzscw).
There was a time when books were vilified as the devil’s handiwork. The first radio and motion pictures were a “corrupting influence”. Television was deemed to be the death of society. Throughout mankind’s history, each new means of expression has been castigated as the cause of evil in the world.
The late Roger Ebert felt that art acts as a mirror to society, rather than as an agent of change. I agree. If we do not like what we see in our movies, our literature, or now our video games, it might be because the mirror is too clear, bringing all our hopes and fears, our high achievements and low prejudices, into sharp focus.
However, if art can affect our lives, that means it can affect us for the better, too. At Serenity Forge, the game company I work with, we try to reflect the very best in human ambition. We make games that tackle subjects such as exploring this wonderful universe that surrounds us, understanding the darkness that we sometimes find in ourselves, and rediscovering the joy and passion that music brings us.
I don’t have an answer for what happened in Aurora, or Newtown, or at Arapahoe High School. All I can tell you is that it wasn’t video games that caused it. To quote Professor James Twitchell from the University of Florida, regarding television,
“It seems doubtful, from the point of view of the species history, that the human brain, which came of age in the Olduvai Gorge, can be turned to the jungle at such speed simply by watching flickering pixels on a nineteen-inch screen. In the scale of time, television has existed for less than a wink, and if it is indeed undoing what oral and print cultures have so laboriously built, then those traditions may be far more ephemeral than advertised.”
Nicholas Bernhard is Chief Sales Officer of Serenity Forge in Boulder.