Escapist Editorials

Escapist Editorials
Hitting Is Natural Play

Greg Tito | 11 Jan 2013 21:00
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As Jim Sterling eloquently points out, actual violence isn't very entertaining. But violence has long been a tool of the dramatic arts from Greek tragedies to Shakespeare's blinding scene in King Lear to the rise of the novel in the 18th century to comic books, movies and TV today. Showing violence is not the same as endorsing violence, in fact it can be quite the opposite. I routinely slay people and monsters in my gaming life; in strategy games alone I've been the cause of countless deaths, but I would never raise a hand against an innocent in my actual life. The very thought of doing so as I type this makes me cringe.

There are people out there who think differently about violence, of course, but those people have existed throughout the history of human culture. It's why artists are inspired to create violent characters and stories in the first place. To discuss the possibility of limiting access to those stories through laws in order to prevent evil is just misguided. Evil exists. It is not created by stories.

The complaint that "kids play too much videogames these days" is ridiculous. It smacks of individuals who don't bother to understand something before they pass judgment upon it. People play videogames because it is a fun and engaging activity and that means there will sometimes be times where you play too often. As my dad says, consume everything in moderation. If your play time is impacting the other facets of your life, then perhaps it is time to cut down. If you are putting on a few pounds, you might want to stop stuffing burgers and pizza-burritos in your face. Just because you don't enjoy videogames, doesn't mean people who do are "wasting time."

Throughout all time, a contingent of the population has denounced new media as the cause of all society's woes. "The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth," wrote one Reverend in 1790. Yet I do not see anyone today calling for a cease in the publication of fiction or people picketing outside Broadway theaters - well, at least if there aren't any gay themes in the play. That's because these creative works have been around long enough for people to become comfortable with them, and only old people go to see the theater anyway.

I understand the motivation behind wanting to find a cause and end it before more violence is committed. I do. We want to be able to stop this kind of violence so the logical assumption is if we stop the thing that "inspires" such acts then we can somehow prevent it. The thing is: I don't believe there is a simple solution. There is no single cause, and therefore no quick, pat way to wrap it all up.

By no means am I suggesting we do nothing. Others have suggested investigation into stricter gun laws to prevent the manufacture and sale of weapons. Members of the psychiatric community and educators have called for a change in the way we approach mental illness, allowing us to watch for the warning signs without indicting innocent individuals. Several people have asked for the media to stop treating these attacks like entertainment and indulging in endless news cycles over one very sad event. All of these actions are probably things which should be done in any case, because they are right and good on their own, but they may also help to save lives in the future and prevent attacks in the long run.

We should not be organizing the destruction of videogames in order to prove a point. The videogame industry fought a hard battle to be declared protected under the First Amendment by the Supreme Court in 2011 and games shouldn't be thought to be less worthwhile because of the actions of one individual. I'm glad the town of Southington agreed to cancel that event and focus on fostering an honest discussion about violence in our schools. I hope Vice President Joe Biden does the same when he makes his recommendations on how to respond to the shootings to President Obama next week.

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