Thinking About Game Violence and Our Reaction To It

Below is an opinion piece, not indicative of how any other member of the GA staff feels. I’m lucky to write at such a place.

So, maybe you all live under a rock. Maybe, somehow, you’ve managed to not hear about the recent tragedy-cum-clusterwhat that’s taken every media outlet’s front page. Terribly, another tragedy draped in the self-aggrandizing of passing the blame has fallen in our reluctant laps. Can we have a reasonable discussion for once? Let’s try.

Obviously, the shooting at Newtown is a horrific, terrible and halting scene. There is no real way I can rightfully talk about the subject at hand — the one which relates to our site and the only facet of the killings I feel remotely comfortable talking about — without offering a pittance of consolation. It’s a poor remedy for a caustic problem, but it’s all I can offer. In that light, we must remember how trivial the interrelation of media and blame and gun culture is in the larger family-shattering scope of the shootings. Gaming is absolutely and wholly meaningless aside such irreparable loss.


Here we are, a few days later, and the blame has been shifted numerous times already. Surely most people are disgusted by it, realizing that it’s not one organization’s or mentality’s fault. It is a confluence of issues that won’t be solved by me, by any amount of legislation or by anything short of a seachange. However, what I can dutifully talk about is the way the gaming community played its hand in this and other catastrophes.

While I don’t want to belittle the issue by fluffing my rhetoric, it really was only a matter of time before violent video games took a share of the blame. And, you know what? That’s good. We have to truly be detached from reality to think that the ever-escalating one-upmanship of violence and brutal callousness depicted in all forms of media has zero effect on supple, malleable minds.

This next bit is important, so pay attention.


I’m not saying that violent video games make violent people or that watching horror flicks skews our perception of reality. Hearing people blame video games sickens me equally and, if you’re incapable of seeing the obvious middle area, please stop reading. Obviously, upbringing and internal chemical composition have a vastly more important role. But, this knee-jerk reaction of “It’s just a game” has to stop.

Because, let’s not dance around the sentiment. We defend the idea that games are this enlightening, bold, culturally-enriching art and they are not. Certainly, this is not an absolute. Games can be all of those things; I’ve said so myself. But more times than not, games can also be nothing but a dehumanizing wedge draped in the somehow-socially-accepted garb of chauvinistic gender roles and the violence immersion therapy. These games — the ones you know I’m talking about, not the Journeys or the Little Infernos out there — perhaps should be examined under harsher scrutiny.

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Written by: Nick Cane

Game writer, fervent lover of mac and cheese. Favorite games are ES4: Oblivion, Kirby's Adventure, Link's Awakening, Final Fantasy 8 and Mario Galaxy.