One of the reasons I adore longtime Buddha pal Andy Cochrane & Sam Haber’s posts & comments over on the AV Club blog is that while we often disagree in principle when it comes to matters tech/ethics related, they’re very very good at getting a conversation going.
Recently they’ve done a few posts about the various media portrayals of the
apocalypse Grand Theft Auto franchise, and quite a discussion resulted.
Because I’m shameless (and not finding much that interests me on the tubes today), I’m going to collect my scattered thoughts on the subject here.
True fact: My wife will not let me drive after Iâ€™ve played Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 or Gran Turismo. Itâ€™s just a given that Iâ€™m gonna drive a little harder after playing those games.
True Story: I also remember leaving the theater after seeing a sneak-peek screening of The Matrix and wanting for the life of me to throw down right then and there.
Also true: Watching Wes Anderson movies makes me very, very sad. Often that feeling lasts for a couple days.
Why do video games continue to get singled out as how they influence players when ALL media elicits emotional (and often a corresponding physical) response? Isnâ€™t that in fact the very point of media, regardless of the medium?
Whereâ€™s the study to measure the aggression effects of listening to the Jason Nevinâ€™s dub remix of N.E.R.D.â€™s â€˜Rockstarâ€™? (Does wonders for my blood pressure, let me tell you) or AC/DC?
Hell, whereâ€™s the study to measure how much of an asshole you become after reading Ayn Rand books? Or Hemingway? What about the pretentious bastard effect of Bukowski? Think of the children, indeed.
But it ALWAYS comes back to video games. Why? What is it about the medium that enforces some notion that it’s more effective at influencing behavior? I’ll tell you why: Because we still can’t wrap our skulls around the notion that video games aren’t inherently a medium for kids. For all the advances the medium has made over the years, there’s this ridiculous notion that the only adults that play games are somehow arrested adolescents that comprise a hidden nation of basement dwelling man-childs.
I find it fascinating that there is no peanut butter/chocolate combination quite as powerful as media/parenting wherein all common sense must be cockpunched into oblivion.
The notion that playing a video game (either singularly or as a cumulative hobby) would prompt a child not already prone to anti-social or violent behavior into running wild in the streets like some flesh pixel God of War is so far beyond the notion of plausibility as to be almost laughable (that is, if the notion wasnâ€™t given so much credence by otherwise intelligent people).
Weâ€™re a culture that desperately needs someone/something/anything to blame (provided itâ€™s not, you know, us), which wouldnâ€™t be so bad if we could manage to look at things on a macro level. Blaming video games for violence and bad behavior in kids is like blaming the Gutenberg press for cancer.
Hereâ€™s the scary truth: Ours is a culture that is wildly in flux. Our notions of how the world works are vastly behind what our science shows to be so. Personal responsibility has been supplanted and overtaken by the glorification of victimhood. Weâ€™ve traded reason and analysis for gut-reaction and commentary, and we traded the reward and responsibility of raising our kids for an increasing unattainable middle class entitlement and three car garage.
Everyone of those factors contributes to an anti-socialization of children on a level that Rockstarâ€™s programmers couldnâ€™t hope to achieve in their wildest fantasies, no matter how many hookers you can kill in game.