Video games have once again been in the firing line of headlines recently, something that we’re all used to, especially in times of violence. But as well as a recurring debate, there is an unprecedented decision in the headlines this year.
In the wake of the horrific and most recent US school shooting in Florida, which left 17 dead, 16 wounded and many more traumatised, politicians and pundits have wheeled out the old cliché that violent games are the chief culprit. Alongside this, it has been announced that the World Health Organisations’ (WHO) 11th International Classification of Diseases has decided to include a condition called ‘gaming disorder’ as a major public health issue.
One of these pieces of news should be treated cautiously, whilst the other has become a farcical age old argument, yet is still given traction in media and political circles, when it should be outright dismissed by now.
Video Game Violence
Societal issues, especially horrific events such as the most recent school shooting, are the cause of moral panic, more often than not, a moral panic that seeks to scapegoat rather than solve the issue at hand. Whether it’s comic books in the 50’s;
Or whatever new music is prevalent, it seems politicians look to blame popular culture rather than deal with actual causes, because realistically speaking – that would be difficult and requires real action. It’s easier to point the finger and blast hot air when you lack the political will to enact real change.
Donald Trump has suggested in a timely fashion that perhaps we should provide parents buying games a handy rating system to know what kind of game they might be buying their child. No further comment on that one, it speaks volumes on how much he really knows and cares about the matter. A Rhode Island politician has even gone so far as to seek a tax on violent M-Rated video games, which states lack the power to legislate against the sale of. He states that this extra money should be funnelled into mental health care. Should this not be something that is provided for without punishing consumers of video games? Especially considering that less than 20% of school shooters partake in violent games. Perhaps politicians could foot some of that bill with the money they receive from pro-gun lobbying groups, like the National Rifle Association. I think most rational people would agree that video games have more place in the home than weapons.
Choosing to look the other way or bury our heads in the sand when it comes to facing down the myriad of actual reasons that leads to violence, is traditional of our society. If we are to actually face up to the real reasons, we might just shine a light inwardly and see that beneath the glossy veneer we present, our societies are often broken in so many ways it becomes overwhelming when trying to hone in on the factors that cause young men to commit such violent acts (I say men as statistically speaking this is the case.) This circular argument which takes us nowhere seems to have no end, as if the 90’s never happened and the diversionary tactics will work this time. We must outright accept that violence is not caused by games. It is embedded there to begin with, even if at the very least, these people play violent games to act out their fantasies. If we as societies sought to actually be communities and look out for our fellow humans, these kind of events could be more easily avoided but there is so much inequality and alienation that people with these tendencies often fly under the radar until it’s too late. Or in the case of the Florida shooter, the signs are completely ignored by those around them. Politicians lack the backbone and will to do the right thing because it goes against the very ethos of our individualistic and capitalist societies, as well as the gun loving culture of the United States. Until we force them to face up to the many factors, they will keep trying to feed us a pill we just aren’t swallowing anymore.
It is time to end the debate and focus on the real meat of the matter.
Video Game Addiction
Most anyone who loves gaming will be able to recount times when pursuing it has somewhat negatively impacted on their life. Whether it’s the thirst for achievement and enjoyment that drives us to not put the controller down or walk away from the keyboard, making us get less sleep. Or the desire to own the best skins and other such loot hurting our wallet, it’s a simple fact we cannot ignore. Games have a certain addictive quality that needs addressing one way or another on an individual basis at the very least. After all games do have the potential power to affect lives and to change the world. But to what extent is the desire to pursue this hobby habitually a mental disorder? According to the WHOs’ recent classification, it is now considered to be the rule and not the exception.
Whilst I’ll be the first to admit my gaming endeavours have sometimes been slightly detrimental to my life. However the WHO needs to be careful not to view gaming as an inherent evil, as like anything people love and enjoy it can become a hobby people are passionate about or can even be a coping mechanism for other underlying mental disorders. Many psychologists are calling the decision to classify ‘games addiction’ as a mental disorder premature. Even if the WHOs’ heart is in the right place, they risk ‘pathologising behaviours that are normal’ for millions upon millions of young people, something that could do more damage than good. If games are treated as the issue and the true underlying problems are ignored, they have once again become simply a scapegoat.
Whilst the discussion and research of this topic are welcomed by me as a conscientious gamer who would gladly level justified critique at my hobby that would help people. This classification would put gaming on a similar footing as gambling, which wreaks havoc on peoples lives and destroys families. Putting gaming on par with such an addiction is simply absurd, unless of course we are talking about micro-transactions and how it’s introducing children to gambling, which is much more of an issue than heavy gaming. What is clear, is that we need more solid scientific research and not to succumb to moral panic in lieu of facts, as the WHO potentially jumping the gun risks missing the real issues.
All this begs the question, if even scientific bodies are joining our politicians in succumbing to moral panic regarding games, what does that say about our society? And what hope do we have about getting to the truth of the matter? This is something that must stop, as in the long run it will only do more harm than good.