I regret to inform you that these are dark times for video games. They have been, for some time, subject to constant criticism and scrutiny.
“They’re not real,” some might say. “They have no practical application,” even more might declare. That’s fine. You’re not the kind of person who should be playing video games anyway. If everything in life has to have a practical application, then why are Art History Majors an actual thing?
No, the far more troubling trend is the age old assertion that video games correspond with violence. “Grand Theft Auto taught me how to hijack a car,” says little Timmy Bupkis. “All I need is an RPG, a cheat to turn off police, and a coat hanger!” But on a serious note, many people associate video games with actual acts of violence, because as a medium, video games are so hip and young and misunderstood; like every medium before it.
We’ve all seen that Penny Arcade comic strip, in which preachers condemned reading, politicians condemned television, and the masses today condemn video games: all in an eerily similar fashion. The link between acceptance in society is often directly tied to how long said medium has existed, as though existing for an extended period of time somehow bestows legitimacy upon something like the Ten Commandments to Moses. Case in point, people freaked out in April when Anders Breivik, a 33 year old who went on a shooting rampage in Norway last summer, “trained” on Call of Duty. Why exactly people buy into this, I will never know. That’s like being told how to tie your shoes in writing, and expecting you to tie your shoes perfectly the first time. There’s a big drop off between describing the general gist of something (point gun at person, pull trigger, person dies), and coming to terms and actually being able to commit the act.
Video games don’t instill insanity - that’s a pre-existing condition. And the day my life insurance costs go up because I play video games is the day I buy a boat and colonize a small, uninhabited island to slowly waste away, managing to feed myself only on pure hatred toward what mankind has become.
But back on track, people give mediums with longer run times the benefit of the doubt, while throwing comparatively unfamiliar entertainment under the bus. Books these days seem immune to any form of scrutiny (please realize that I am generalizing, and I am aware there is some criticism of books that encourage black magic and the likes; 50 points from Gryffindor Mr. Potter, for example). When Mark Chapman shot John Lennon in 1980 and said Catcher in the Rye told him to do it, did people believe him? No! People said he was loony far before, and it couldn’t have been at the suggestion of one of America’s greatest treasures (the others being Joss Whedon and sweet potato fries). But when Anders Breivik says Call of Duty helped him kill people, the public jumps on the “video games are murder” short bus.
I hope that soon we can overcome this momentary roadblock, society. Frankly, this de facto distrust with every new artistic medium confounds and amazes me. Video gamers, just keep doing what you do. Don’t let a million angry moms who think that the best way they can compensate for not being around to watch little Billy’s tee-ball games is to protest the very things that little Billy loves. The longer video games stay, the better off we’ll be. So keep playing!