Video Games are not to Blame

In a world where everything is someone else's fault, we've got to start taking responsibility.

We’ll say, hypothetically, that Johnny likes video games. We’ll also say that Johnny also happens to be crazy violent.

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Is that cause alone to blame games for Johnny being a loose cannon?

I’m thinking not.

Personal responsibility has gone the way of the dinosaur as we’ve degraded culturally. Instead of taking ownership for our actions, we’re ready to blame the next convenient scapegoat. I totally expect this from my two year old (who blames his Elmo for everything). I expect more from a bunch of grown folks, however. Music, cinema, and video games are the usual targets, with critics citing overly violent or sexual content.

This ain’t my first rodeo: I know that media can desensitize us. I also know that media alone cannot mutate our core humanity. Media alone cannot drive our dear Johnny to think that murder is, you know, cool and stuff. I refuse to give it that much credit.

My interest in this ongoing debate was piqued by the brutality of Dmitri Vinogradov. Last Wednesday, the Russian lawyer entered his workplace and shot five people dead. Two additional victims later died. Motivated by a break up ten months prior, he targeted those who he believed had influenced his then-girlfriend to end it with him.

Yeah, he knew how to hold a grudge. Cripes.

He then planned to kill himself, but authorities put the kibosh on that.

A little background: Vinogradov had been drinking for five days prior (five days!) to the attacks. I don’t mean a little sippy-sippy – like, a full-blown stupor. That bit of childishness arose because he liked yet another woman with whom he worked, but her? Eh, not so much.

Office romances, FTW!

Despite this pertinent tidbit, Russian authorities are scrambling to create a video game link to the violence. Vinogradov was an avid World of Warcraft and Call of Duty Player. He was also known to dabble in the infamous Manhunt. I thought that the controversy surrounding Rockstar’s seemingly ancient 2003 game was a done deal, but how wrong I was. Manhunt was much maligned in its time, and is still singled out as a model of envelope-pushing, over-the-top violence in video games. New Zealand, Australia, and Germany banned the game, while Ontario, Canada restricted the game to adults only. Russian may soon be added to the list of countries with a Manhunt ban.

But why?

Why can’t Vinogradov be an unstable man, liable to be pushed over the edge by anything?

Why can’t he just suck?

The culture of hand-holding and “its not your fault” crap is more detrimental than anything. The idea that not everyone is good is so cumbersome to so many people. From there, scapegoat culture is born.

Women lie, men lie, but the numbers don’t, so let’s get down to it: A report compiled by the Secret Service found that only 12% of perpetrators of school violence had any interest in video games. According to FBI data, youth violence has decreased from the approximate time that gaming rose to prominence. Certainly, no one is proposing that gaming decreases violence, but it stands to reason that if gaming increased aggression, youth crime rates would be on the rise.

The systematic demonization of the video game industry is tired and played out. I can’t help but sigh and roll my eyes when it is blamed for crime after heinous crime. How misguided is it to blame such a common activity for such uncommon actions? Using video games as a scapegoat implies that we are mere spectators to our lives when, in fact, we are conscious, active participants in every decision we make. Take ownership of your actions and make others do the same.

What say you?

Are games to blame for violent crime or is the responsibility misplaced?

Does the gaming industry make itself an easy target?


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Author
Imayen Etim
Imayen Etim is a freelance writer and GameSkinny contributor based in Gainesville, Florida. She can be contacted at imayen.e [at] gmail.com