18 September 2013

Late to the Party #2 - Don't Hate the Game, Hate the Human

Rostopher is usually...

#2 - Don't Hate the Game, Hate the Human

So once again, Grand Theft Auto has drudged up the age-old 'video games are corrupting our souls!' argument. It's sad that the BBC, the Daily bleedin' Mirror (who I will not even dignify with a backlink. Google it), and even The Escapist felt the need to stoke that particular fire, lending credence to the fact that the attack in London was motivated by a need to acquire specifically GTA V; instead of, y'know, being a crime of happenstance where the individuals were after anything of value that the victim happened to be carrying. Like his phone. And his wallet. Both of which were also taken in the attack. But no, GTA V is crowbarred into the headline, because 'vidya garms cores violins!!!1111'.

However, in a surprise twist, I'm going to open(-ish) by saying something that may initially seem like I'm contradicting myself: violent video games do affect us.

Stay with me. I would follow up by saying: 'in the same way that literally anything else violent affects us'. It's true - our advanced thinkerboxes are but one facet of our dominance of planet Earth; we're also fully capable of some really rather imaginative methods of offing other creatures, including each other. If one of us does snap and decide to go postal, are we going to use the violence that we've personally witnessed as reference? You bet we are. There are, after all, no true originals left! But it's in the same way that we might reference, say, a funny line from a movie when we're trying to impress someone (or is that just me?).

The actual question that we should be asking ourselves is whether or not video games are a factor in the snap itself. The answer is a resounding no. (Imagine it echoing in a cathedral; that's the sort of resounding I'm going for.)

Take Sandy Hook, when the media attempted to shoe-horn Call of Duty in as the scapegoat. But Adam Lanza was a deeply troubled person - the autistic son of a woman who was a gun enthusiast and 'apocalypse preperationist', if tales told are true. The already anti-social shut-in was probably not imbued with any sense of love for his fellow man, and he learned to shoot from his mother, in a rifle range in their basement; not from a video game - the notion of which is fundamentally ridiculous:

Essentially the same device! Right?
When you look at each and every other case of this happening, the perpetrators are motivated by their own personal psychosis. The denouement of each inevitably has shades of whatever violent media they took in, but to blame video games - or films, or books, or rap music, or whatever else - is to ignore the actual problem.

Now, maybe those arsehole kids were specifically targeting that poor guy in London for his copy of GTA - there're several plausible narratives that see this being the case. 

But video games are a macguffin in every single one. Replace videogames with 'a kitten'. (I know it's silly, but I'm making a point, dammit!) Do you blame the kitten for the attack? Or do you blame an irrational and violent response to a need to have something that's otherwise unavailable? 

The problem is that we as human beings seek a conclusive answer to fucking everything. We need one big answer enshrined in stone, held aloft by some dude with a beard on a mountain as thunder cracks behind him. But the problem with the random attacks issue is that there is no single explanation for all of them. Each case is disquietingly unique, but we pounce on the easiest common thread to blame - the one that's seen as most inconsequential - whilst failing to recognise the single thing that they all do have in common: humans. We just won't accept that sometimes, people do really awful shit to other people, for their own reasons. 

Dowwwwwner! Here's the kitten:

How could you blame this?! YOU HAVE NO SOUL!!!
Honestly, though? I would agree that there is perhaps an over-abundance of violence in video-games these days. It's an art-form in the final throes of a rebellious adolescence, over-saturated with boobs (hehehehe! Boobs! (I slapped myself, don't worry)) and aesthetisised violence. Of late, however, both the industry and gamers themselves have shown signs that they're growing up in their approach to both. But this is a separate issue - they still don't force people to vent their frustration with the world by shooting at it. 

I've been playing video games for a long damn while. Some of my earliest memories are of playing Snapper (a.k.a Pacman But Not Pacman) in gaudy 8-bit-o-vision on the BBC Micro with one of these fucking things:

The joysticks don't even auto-centre. That's how old-school we're talking.
But as the popular greetings card - and one of my t-shirts! - points out, none of us are flitting about dark rooms as we chase ghosts, pop pills and listen to repetitive electronic music! Okay...maybe not none of us...

And heck, I'm an avid shooter fan - but I've only operated a firearm for a grand total of about 36 minutes (three separate occasions; none of which I actually had a choice in, I would add). It is an experience that I never, ever wish to repeat - the prospect of wielding an actual physical object designed to end another human's life repels me completely. 

But the rush of pulling off a perfect strafing run on the enemy team in an attack helicopter in Battlefield? Of silently taking out a platoon of oblivious security guards in Splinter Cell? Sign me up! Why? Because it's all the associated adrenaline that stems from the aggressive nature of our species, but none of the risk of - or indeed actual - death.

If anything, anything at all, violent video games - and other violent media where we can get our fix of this sort of rush - are healthy and cathartic to indulge in. A way of reconciling the scholar with the savage, without a single drop of blood spilled. And who knows? Maybe James Wan and Eli Roth would be out there right now, enacting the awful things they thought up for the Saw and Hostel movies if the movie industry didn't exist. Instead, they made a film that let the rest of us closet psychopaths - that's all of us, by the by, and I'm using the term in the colloquial sense, before any psychologists pounce on me! - get our fix. Thanks guys!

But the out-and-proud psychopaths (again, colloquial) who perform these senseless acts of violence ultimately just hate other humans - however they arrive there, that's their conclusion. We should send that hate right back at them, not at an innocent kitten. I mean goat. I mean...ah fuck it, you know what I mean. To demonise something that brings enjoyment, comfort, and health benefits to millions of people the world over because of one arsehole who played one video game one time is just...just...

...really fucking DUMB.

Peace, y'all!

1 comment:

Lynne w said...

Having now read this through 3 times and also fourth estate point of view, couldn't agree with you more. Them out there need to be more 'global' before throwing mud around.