Today, Kotaku reported on yet another case of a horrible tragedy being blamed on video game violence. A 12-year-old boy shot and killed his friend while they were playing “Call of Duty: Black Ops”. The article wants you to focus on this: “A game that is rated M for Mature, probably doesn’t belong in the hands of a 12-year-old.” And while I agree with the ESRB rating system, and that these kids should have absolutely not been playing this game, there is another part of this story that I would like you to focus on: “…when the eldest of them picked up a semi-automatic that belonged to his parents.” I’m sorry. He “picked it up”? Was it just lying around on the coffee table? Unfortunately, neither Kotaku nor the local news story were too clear on that matter.
My father had guns in the house. I was even younger than these kids when my dad showed me where the gun safe in his closet was. He also impressed upon me that you NEVER point a gun at anything you don’t want to destroy. By the time I was 10 years old I knew that pointing a gun at someone could kill them, and I respected that fact. Where was the gun safe with these kids? Where were the trigger locks? Where was the gravely informative talk by the parents? Hell, where were the parents at all? I am not saying that the game didn’t inspire the children to act out scenes from it, however if the loaded weapon was not so easily accessed then they would have just played with toy guns and water pistols like generations of kids before them.
So many lives were ruined that day. The parents of the child that was killed will live out their days without seeing their son grow into a man. They will never see him graduate, and they will never watch him kiss his bride. However, that boy was not the only one who died that day. The young man who killed his friend will never be the child he was before. He will forever be a shade of his former potential.
Blaming video games for violence is not a new trend. In 2003, attorney Jack Thompson filed a lawsuit against Take Two Interactive when two brothers (14 and 16) pled guilty to reckless homicide, endangerment, and assault for shooting cars on the highway near their home. They told prosecutors that they were inspired by playing “Grand Theft Auto III”. Again the game is being played by children whose age fell below the game’s ESRB rating, and again the gun that was used in this heinous crime was taken from the boy’s home.
The pattern of blaming entertainment mediums did not start with video games. In 1999, the popular media claimed that the Columbine high school shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were influenced by the music of Marilyn Manson. In the 80’s, there were political and religious groups who stated that “Dungeons and Dragons” are corrupting children by exposing them to demonic imagery and simulated violence. In the 70’s Ozzy Osbourne was accused by several groups of promoting Satanism to children. The list could go on and on, but you get the idea.
It is easier to blame others when something goes wrong instead of finding blame in ourselves. That’s actually a part of human nature. It’s a defense mechanism. When a horrible tragedy (such as kids shooting each other) happens, it is the popular practice to find someone to blame. However, when that tragedy could have been avoided with a few safety precautions, or even a more watchful eye by the parents themselves, then the blame falls squarely on their shoulders.
If you can’t handle that responsibility, then don’t have children.