McMullen: Are video games really the culprit?

January 1, 2013

Nostalgia is cyclical.

And currently, the 90ís are coming back. Nirvana and Alice in Chains invade more ďclassic rockĒ stations with each passing day, the boy band phenomenon is back in full force ó there was another Men in Black movie, and East Coast states are threatening traditional opinions with daring marijuana initiatives.

And youíll realize that those ex-extreme times really are back when you hear that old chestnut about video games causing violent real-life tendencies. Weíve been looking for places to direct the blame in a year full of tragedies and a recent letter to the editor polished off that distinctly 90s thought.

Yes, the demon video game, the only medium that has presented violence in recent memory, is blurring the line between fantasy and reality and producing disillusioned youths of poor moral fiber.

I heard about one role-playing game that put you in the role of a glass of orange juice that caused one poor child to go into a hostile and distant state, fearful that anyone who interacted with them intended to drink them.

Yes, titles like Motor Vehicle Theft, Bonestorm, Frankenstein 3D and Copter-Strike all encourage players to break the digital law with reckless abandon.

Iím going to level with you here: Iíve killed a whole lot of people. (That will always stay in this exact context, Iím sure.) Ö in video games.

Iíve wiped out entire fantasy species, blown up countless robots of various levels of sentience and killed a whole lot of e-people. Iíve stolen vehicles, under-compensated purveyors of the worldís oldest service and forced imaginary creatures to injure one another for the sport of it.

The only reason I ever owned a PlayStation 2 was so that I could play Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and subsequently Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. I had a lot of fun with the games that drew outrage like few others could and I occasionally fire one of them up every now and again.

And I think I managed to turn out all right, I think.

Yeah, thatís just one anecdote. You might find a criminal who happened to have a video game or two under the like section of his Facebook page and then weíll be back at zero because that must be the pop culture that had more of an effect than any other.

Tennis didnít suddenly rise in popularity when Pong came out. We didnít throw flaming barrels at our plumbers when Donkey Kong rose to prominence. Nobody ate dots in the dark because their hero Pac-Man did it.

Children have always acted out mock violence for the sake of entertainment, be it twirling a toy pistol to the radio adventures of The Lone Ranger, kicking around imaginary bad guys like Bruce Lee did in the movies, pretending to be Robocop and other 1980s action heroes and playing out various violent scenes with the kid from the house down the street, who was famously good at hamming it up and never minded being the bad guy.

But now they do it in a slightly different way, and itís corrupting them, right? Our nostalgia is innocent and pure; yours is inherently corrupting. What caused the violent acts that took place before movies, television and video games came around?

They while away the hours using new tools, but their motivation is the same as it ever was, and the response is the same as it ever was.

The first and foremost cause of flash violence in this country is the poor state of the mental health infrastructure in this country.

It can be very hard to get the help that one needs, and thatís assuming that they are able to realize that they need help or have good people supporting them that will help them realize those problems. Sometimes it can be nearly impossible to tell when something isnít right with someone.

Being bounced around bureaucracy never helped anyone. Weíre too concerned with making someone else solve the problem or pay for solving the problem that we never get around to solving the problem.

So we get a two-deep problem specialist to make suggestions so that we can solve the problems we caused by failing to solve the problem.