I’m sick of people blaming video games for the world’s problems. Specifically blaming video games for gun violence. Blaming video games for all the evils of modern youth.
It’s like blaming rape on short skirts.
It’s like blaming teen pregnancy on rock and roll.
It’s like blaming promiscuity on condoms.
It assumes that the responsibility for our behaviors as humans is always reliant on outside stimuli, that when exposed to certain stimuli we are instantly rendered incapable of retaining our understanding of right and wrong. This allows people to not take responsibility for their actions – there is always some factor out of their control.
Is that what you’re teaching your kids? Because that is NOT what I’m teaching mine.
My kid is passionate about playing video games. It’s his thing. Though I was angry early on that Philip exposed him to them – close proximity to them has taught me to appreciate that video games are a legitimate form of entertainment and the result of a lot of talented artists and animators and programmers making amazing things happen.
I would rather have my kid be a passionate “gamer” (as he calls himself) than ever have him join the armed forces. I asked him the other day if he thinks he might want to join the army some day because he loves weapons and war games.
“No. Why would I join the military and kill real people when I can play video games and shoot at AI people and not hurt anyone?” He’s a warrior kid, he had weapons in his hands before I ever let toy weapons into his life. I’ve mentioned this here many times before – that I could see who he was before he could talk. For an anti-military, anti-violence, and anti-weapons person it’s uncomfortable to have a son who is the quintessential warrior. To squash that personality, to try to mold him into someone he’s not would be to disrespect him and teach him that his nature is bad and when you do that to a person you force their natures into dark passages.
My greatest fear is that Max will one day join the military. I am anti-military to the core. When you join the military you are relentlessly trained to kill human beings. Our country likes to glorify soldiers, make them out to be heroes, people with extraordinary bravery and weirdly people often assume that all soldiers are imbued with a strong moral fiber and honor. The truth is – the military takes people and turns them into killing machines. They are trained to intimidate, to be tough, and are trained to see the enemy not for what they are, human beings, but targets. The history of armed forces is not actually an honorable one at all. The rape of enemy women is common to all the world’s armed forces. It’s what happens when you dehumanize the enemy. Your own gently reared soldier will never tell you this. They will not come home and tell you the things they’ve done, the blood on their hands, the suicides they’ve witnessed, the bullying of the enemy, the torture they’ve been party to. If every soldier who went to war came home and told you everything they’d done and seen – we would not be able to keep seeing them as heroes.
If my son ever joins the military I will do my best to support his choice, just as any loving mother would, but I will not see him as a hero. I will know that he will either come home a broken person or he will come home a desensitized echo of the person he used to be who’s done things I can never be at peace with.
That’s the reality of military training. And yet – how much fanfare do we give returning soldiers knowing they’ve done horrible things to other human beings?
Video games are not reality. Anyone who confuses video games with reality has issues that go beyond their choice in entertainment. My kid has a very strong grip on the difference between reality and video games. We talk about it all the time. We discuss how conflict resolution in real life is much different than in games. He has shown no more tendency towards violent behavior in his real life than any other growing boy.*
What he likes about video games is that he can explode things and shoot weapons and be a hooligan without hurting people. How is that problematic? Video games are an outlet for his interest in war that allow him to explore that side of his personality without doing harm to others. The military can’t offer that. Video games can’t break someone who isn’t already broken. His air-soft guns give him the same thing – an outlet for his love of weapons that can’t hurt animals or people. This is an acceptable and healthy way for my son to explore a natural aspect of his personality without having to feel shame or pay unbearable consequences.
If my son ever commits a violent crime it will not be because he played video games or collected air-soft guns, it will be because he has chosen to abandon his good judgment. It will be because he chose a bad course for himself. It will be on him, not on his choice of entertainment.
*He has had a couple of incidences of hitting other boys but since most men I know have a couple of these incidents in their youth as well (his father included) who didn’t play video games and who weren’t warrior types – I consider his behavior as pretty natural.