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A few days ahead of the launch of one of the biggest and most controversial games in the history of video games, Grand Theft Auto V, Fox News has decided to do a full report and a rundown of how video game simulations influence and tie-in with real life mass killings.
The Fox News report basks in the glory of quotes used as a form of confessions from the killers that video games played some part in the actions they took that resulted in multiple real life murders of actual human beings.
They start with Evan Ramsey, quoting the murderer who wielded a 12-gauge shotgun to gun down classmates at an Alaskan high school, saying...
“I did not understand that if I…pull out a gun and shoot you, there’s a good chance you’re not getting back up,”
Obviously, shooting badly rendered 2D sprites in the 1992 Doom is the same as killing someone in real-life. Having to take time to load up a real gun, practice aiming, adjusting for recoil and kick, and purposefully aiming down the sites to shoot someone who is begging for the life is the same as killing an undead space zombie.
The line that blurs surreality and absurd was pushed further, as the article points to the Virginia Tech killer, Seung-Hui Cho, and the loose ties he had with Counterstrike, a modern-based counter-terrorism competitive multiplayer game that could essentially be (crudely) described as a virtual version of “cops & robbers”. In fact, I'm confident enough that the game isn't a psycho-killer manufacturer and will embed a quick clip below so you can get a taste of the game... try not to flip out and go crazy, though.
Associate professor of psychology at the University of Missouri, Bruce Bartholow, chimed in on the discussion to let Fox know that...
“More than any other media, these video games encourage active participation in violence,”...“From a psychological perspective, video games are excellent teaching tools because they reward players for engaging in certain types of behavior. Unfortunately, in many popular video games, the behavior is violence.”
A simple retort is: Video games let you do what you can't do in real life unless you want to end up in jail like the people in Fox News' article. It's selling a power fantasy, no different than books or movies, save for the active-role of participation required by the player.
But don't let logic and escapism enter into the debate, lest we derail the discussion from the obvious right wing media agenda at play.
Furthering that agenda is Dr. Paul Weigle, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Joshua Center in Enfield, Connecticut, who unabashedly told Fox that...
“Anders Breivik said he actually used his video game ‘Call of Duty’ to train for mass murder,”...“He called it training simulation. And certainly there were some reports Adam Lanza saw Breivik as a rival, and he was also engaged in shooting games and even the same one.”
The report also cites the case where a teen shot and killed police officers while claiming he was imitating Grand Theft Auto and the case where parents tried suing the game publishers for games like Doom and Mortal Kombat causing a teen to shoot up a school. I didn't know they frequently used guns in Mortal Kombat? What game series have I been playing for the past 20 years?
The article isn't all one-sided circle-jerking, though. There is a measure of balance tossed in at the very end from a certain research psychologist and associate professor at Iowa State University, Dr. Doug Gentile, who disagrees with the broad sweeping assessment that violent games equal violent influence, saying...
“I think it’s the wrong question -- whether there is a link between mass shootings and violent video game play,” … “I understand people want to look for a culprit, but the truth of the matter is that there is never one cause. There is a cocktail of multiple causes coming together. And so no matter what single thing we focus on, whether it be violent video games, abuse as a child, doing drugs, being in a gang -- not one of them is sufficient to cause aggression. But when you start putting them together, aggression becomes pretty predictable.”
Well, thank you for that droplet of common sense. Previous research that we've reported on all seem to point to many different things, with some saying that games increase aggressive tendencies, while others have noted that games help people to better tap into survival instinct, making them more adept to unknown situations and circumstances. One study noted that racing games increased tension and aggression more than violent games.
Regardless of the actual research reports, there will always be the Jack Thompsons of the world ready and willing to fight the slanted fight.
(Killer collage courtesy of Foxnews)
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