The Demonisation of Videogames

Last weekend in America 34 people lost their lives in three seperate mass shootings. The powers that be in America were, once again, very quick to distance gun laws from what happened, instead the rhetoric is now that videogames and mental health issues are to blame. Shortly after I watched this video from IGN

My reponse immediately after watching said video:

We’ve also since seen ESPN delay an Apex Legends competition they were planning to broadcast citing that their decision was made in “respect to the victims” .

Not since Jack Thompson was active in 2004-2008 have videogames come under such strong spotlight, but the biggest difference here is that Thompson was lobbying based upon him not really understanding the medium he was demonising.

Trump, his advisors, supporters and the media establishments that back him are doing so in order to project the spotlight on anything that will detract from the financial sources that back them and, seemingly, decide US laws. I’m not massively savvy on US politics, but I struggle to recall a President that was so blatantly looking after his own bank balance rather than address his countries problems. My own country, and indeed the town I reside in, have huge problems of their own (Bedfordshire has the third highest rate of knife crime in East Anglia, and it could be higher as their are suspicions of under-reporting).

Unfortunately, it seems that media are more powerful than ever, and Trump is incredibly savvy at using the media that are friendly to him and shutting out the media that aren’t, providing perfect little sound bites from his public appearances and from his Twitter account that are spread by more neutral media in an attempt to appear unbiased.

But its not like the video games industry hasn’t been here before, from Columbine to the murder of Stefan Pakeerah, Doom to Manhunt, its a storm that developers, publishers and players have weathered time and time again from people who are unwilling, not unable, to understand the hobby, oftentimes these people have a seperate agenda and see videogames as something easy to attack, even more so in these more politically heightened times where, as I’ve discussed before, gaming as a community is more fragmented than its ever been before.

There was an interesting anecdote on Manhunt on a podcast I was listening to a few months ago, though I forget who made it, but the guest on this podcast happened to have been sat in on the trial between the BBFC and Rockstar in regards to the banning of Manhunt 2. The BBFC came forward with a list of 10 reasons they felt it undeserving of receiving certification and their list read something like:

  1. It has violence in it
  2.  The player uses weapons
  3. It’s bleak
  4. It has no sense of humour
  5. There is no reward system

There were 5 more points but the podcast went to lengths to say the reasons were remarkably similar throughout, and the point is, that Manhunt 2 eventually got a release in 2007 and quite frankly we’ve not really made any further steps forwards since then. Politicians and non-specialist media are still at pains to dismiss videogames, it doesn’t matter how big the industry is or how much money it makes, until we see our own generation, and indeed the generations below ours, able to make a proper political impact videogames will still be used as a scapegoat for societies ills.

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9 thoughts to “The Demonisation of Videogames”

  1. A point could probably be made as with a great many aspects in society at present, there is a movement of polarisation and tribalism. As with politics, gamers are banding around their tribe and defending the practise to the hilt. Objectively, are there aspects of games and gaming that could be studied for their impact? Probably. Only have to look at the effect of loot boxes and associated gambling addiction issues to see repeated exposure in the pretext of ‘a game’ can have a psychological impact. But as long as everyone is so polarised one way or another discussions won’t be had. A mess

    1. Totally. Everyone now hunkers down, only surrounds themselves with people who believe the same thing and doesn’t want to listen to any valid criticism. However, I don’t think the rhetoric currently being aimed at videogames, that being violent videogames plus mental health issues causes shootings of the like that the US suffers from on a regular basis, holds water

        1. No I dont think that should be dismissed, but there’s a difference between being impressionable (which alot of the people commuting these crimes would like to hide behind rather than them being disgusting human beings) and having the tools to act out on their so called “manifestos”

          1. Now that’s a 2nd amendment issue. I’ll readily admit not living in the states to not having a huge understanding but from what I’ve picked up that was largely a checks and balances issue to ensure a parity level of arms and power between the civilian population and the governing parties. Which of course went out the window when the military developed tanks and planes and nukes etc.

          2. I think not living in the US I’ll never understand all of that. It’s getting away from the point I was probably failing to make, that gaming is once again being treated as a scapegoat, we’ve been doing this for over 20 years now, it’s nothing new but it’s ignoring the actual issues during a time when it feels like the environment for this kind of incident is growing more tense all the time

          3. Agreed. In part I would say fuelled somewhat by hardening polarised divisions in the states to appeal to electoral bases, ban all guns now vs 2nd amendment issues.

            Games as with a lot of media continues to be used as a scapegoat but so has a lot of other media in the past. Rock and Roll, Rap, the end of civilisation. Probably you could argue it’s an issue with the industry which continues to target a predominantly teen market, fortnite/streaming etc to a greater degree than its older demographic. If you are going to target the young for their disposable income, can’t complain when it’s viewed as a young, immature market.

            Every other industry or genre that has been scapegoated tends to fade as that audience grows and matured and looks for another target to blame the ills of society on. Given the nature of gaming and how it continually shifts to target a new young audience just see it as an industry issue

  2. This argument bothers me to no end. Trump is funded by the NRA so of course they are going to think of another thing that causes violence besides guns. There’s been research that goes against violent video games and mass shootings. In fact most of the mass shootings have been white supremacists who cite Trump as their inspiration. Trump causes more of this than violent video games.

    1. Indeed and like Around the Bonfire and I discussed, whilst the focus has been on videogames for the past 20 years, societies ills have been blamed on anything but the wide availability of weapons and the lack of social funding, our leaders are far too money hungry to do anything of actual importance and would rather detract from the central issue.

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