Video Games, Gun Control & Drunk Driving: My Analogical Attempt to Make Sense of it All

Ever since the Sandy Hook shooting renewed the current controversy surrounding gun control and video game violence, I’ve opted to stay silent on the issue. People much smarter than me have already mimicked my opinions in more than one well-trafficked place and I’m frankly not influential enough to make these sentiments and statistics worth repeating. However, no doubt inspired by proposed mass book burnings violent video game destructions and other ridiculous reactionary ideas, a curious analogy crept into my head. It’s in no part perfect — perhaps not even that applicable, actually — but I find it intriguing nonetheless. Understand that the following what-if scenario is a sort-of response to calls for outright bans on violent entertainment. Although portions of the analogy could hold in other circumstances, it believe it works best from a holistic frame of mind and may not survive scrutiny for specifics. Again, not all aspects translate equally, so strive to define your focus on what’s important.

Ready? Let’s explore.

Crime Scene

A man has murdered a family, and now we need to investigate. He is unquestionably the killer, yet we must identify the cause. With little effort, we determine this murder was committed via a motor vehicle, a result of reckless driving. In this situation, one might even conceive this car as a weapon. With that much established, we must move to the motivation — the car did not make a sentient decision to kill all by itself, after all. In reality, our murderer was under the influence of alcohol when he turned into oncoming traffic. Mystery over. Book ‘im, Johnson.

(Editor’s note: DUI killings can be charged as manslaughter or murder depending on several conditions and state laws.  Too much to list, please Google it if concerned.)

Our bad guy is behind bars, but we’re far from finished. As a society, it makes sense to take preventative measures to minimize the likelihood of this instance occurring again. We know, with 100% certainty, that Excessive Alcoholic Drinking + Driving a Motor Vehicle = Greater Chance of Colliding With & Killing Others. To fix our issue, we must tweak the formula. Do we attack the alcohol, then, completely eradicating its existence? No, and Prohibition is enough of an explanation of the problems behind that approach. In fact, alcohol can be (and often is) consumed responsibly, enhancing personal enjoyment and, in turn, increasing the overall quality of life. Only when the substance is abused does it become undesirable. At any rate, we regulate it with an age requirement and turn to the car.

Operating this multi-ton potential killing machine is already heavily regulated. Legally doing so requires paperwork, tests, and background checks, and even then the individual is initially restricted for a specified period of time (i.e. a learner’s permit). Further, mixing drinking with driving is never allowed, with promise of severe punishment for infringements. Problem not exactly solved, but drastically reduced.

End analogy.

Driver's Test

A success story for driving restrictions

For those following along at home wondering what the hell I’m getting at, replace references of alcohol with video games and the car with guns. (It sounds wild on the surface, but stay with me.) As in the analogy, these objects can all serve useful purposes and purifying the country of their presence is absurd. However, as seen here, the car (or weapon) is recognized as a potential danger. Understandably, its use is fittingly regulated with enforceable restrictions.

In contrast, my dad recently acquired his late father-in-law’s handgun and its associated cache of ammunition. He purchased it without paperwork or permit before transferring it across state lines to be tucked away somewhere in his bedroom. And all of his actions were within the rules of the law.

On the other end, video games — like alcohol — are usually enjoyed harmlessly. To avoid harm, easily understandable age restrictions are set up to keep these items out of impressionable hands. I realize those underage often come across both, but supposedly (and hopefully) with more difficulty than if these age gates didn’t exist. What’s important, though, is that alcohol isn’t banned because of its dangerous possibilities, yet many cry in a quest for answers to end the development of video games with violent content. I need only to cite Prohibition again to explain why that desire isn’t the correct way to tackle these issues.

Onto another imperative detail. Recall our analogy, consider the comparative treatment of alcohol and motor vehicles with video games and guns, and think of this:

There is no — and may never be any — explicit evidence that violent video games cause violent behavior.

Playing Video Games

Innocent friends or trained killers? Ask The Media, I’m sure it knows best.

For fear of losing you all (and me as well) on the loose ends of this imperfect and probably ill-defined analogy, I’ll close the indirect argument with a quick recap of realities.

  • Alcohol: Proven to cause harm in certain circumstances. As such, it is limited by age restrictions, yet society agrees a complete ban is a bad idea.
  • Violent Video Games: Not proven to cause harm in any circumstance (less so than alcohol, you could say). However, they are still limited by age restrictions and society does not agree that a complete ban is a bad idea.
  • Motor Vehicles: Can kill people when used improperly. Acquisition and use is highly regulated as a result.
  • Guns: Can kill people when used improperly. Acquisition and use is weakly regulated regardless.

Everything I’ve said has become so convoluted and unclear…ironically, an accurate representation of this unhappy topic. If there’s anything of worth to siphon from these words, it likely lies most simply within that bulleted summary. Note the objects of interests, their potential impacts, and our subsequent regulations as a result. However, if you believe I’m looking for a law to make gun ownership illegal to all video game players, you’ve ultimately missed the point. Instead, try to determine our strongest and weakest links, and let me know of all of my logical holes by commenting below.

Written by: Luke Frazier

Gaming industry addict. Twitter fiend. Unabashed lover of Kingdom Hearts. Other favorites include The Legend of Zelda, Portal, Bioshock, Journey, and peanut butter & banana sandwiches. Also, oatmeal. Let's be friends. @LukeAFrazier – Steam/PSN: GodAlliz

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  • Hmmm. I am with this on the whole (which is all you can really ask). Granted, I 100%, wholly believe VGs influence minds in the same way all media does. And – to that end – should be at least considered a part of the lengthy equation that is What Makes Us Think Things.

    Now, the real problem comes with the whole internet thing, where people cannot see shades of grey (lol, shades of grey). Media can influence minds AND STILL not create them. Video games are not wholly innocent, but they certainly aren’t wholly to blame. And from there should be analyzed honestly and fairly as part of our steeping bath of outside influences.

    • Agreed, mi amigo. Just offering my confusing perspective on where I believe we should focus our efforts.