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Video Games: The Modern Witch Hunt

Ever since the fateful release of Mortal Kombat in 1992, the video game industry has
incessantly been under siege from the mainstream media and parent-teacher organizations
everywhere. Boasting claims that violent video games were the true culprit behind
disobedience, sloth, obesity, violence, and just about any grab bag of the remaining Deadly
Sins, they were out for blood. Video games became the reason children did anything
wrong. If you came home with a C on your report card, parents would blame that god
forsaken Sega Genesis and lament the loss of all your intelligence and ambitions. Fueled
by statistics and psychological studies from every news outlet on the planet, the general
population has heard anti-gaming arguments for the past fifteen years. What they don't
hear, however, are rebuttals and counter-arguments from the majority of the gaming
community. The "ignore-the-problem-until-it-goes-away" mentality has backfired, and now
it's as if the gaming world is backed into a corner, spending every waking moment dodging
another bullet of bad publicity. We should instead take a more offensive approach. We
should tear apart these weak claims that label games as gateways into social degeneration.

A common tactic used to link violent games to violent behavior involves measuring the total
"aggression" the user feels after a gaming session. Now, while I don't necessarily
understand how these studies measure aggression systematically (I don't recall ever using
any S.I. units of aggression in any class I've ever taken), these studies more or less
conclude that one is more likely to exhibit violent behavior after a particularly intense
gaming session. And I completely agree with that. After I get killed for the tenth
consecutive time in Halo 3, or by one of the infinitely dropped Martyrdom grenades in Call
Of Duty 4, there's definitely a feeling of aggression that wasn't there beforehand. What
these studies DON'T mention, however, is the fact that this is just a result of adrenaline.
Which your brain releases automatically whenever ANYTHING intense happens around you.
If they used the same procedure to measure this post-gaming aggression to measure post-
watch-your-favorite-team-lose-the-championship-game aggression, I'm sure the results
would be very similar. Of course, it isn't practical to ban football games, thus we arrive at
a real, definitive reason why video games so often find themselves a scapegoat for
whatever problem: convenience. This convenience is two-faceted. First, it is a convenient
means by which culprits can shift blame for their actions onto something else. Second, it is
a convenient scapegoat to take the blame for the myriad of social problems we have today.

More and more, the role of personal responsibility diminishes. We have always had the
innate impulse to shift blame away from ourselves in an attempt to avoid negative
consequences. In recent years, however, this impulse has become an outright epidemic.
The plethora of lawsuits that have surfaced are all evidence of this. Now, when one gets
obese, one simply blames the blatantly unhealthy fast food restaurant that they've been
eating at for the past five years. Due to the vast amounts of press claiming that games
may lead to violent behavior, we have, in effect, given criminals a new medium to use for
excuses. When someone gets arrested for beating to death their 7 year old sister, their
first response is now, "Oh, we were just playing Mortal Kombat in real life." The
perpetrator is now a victim, just like the little girl she murdered. When someone gets
arrested for lighting someone ablaze with gasoline, their first response is, "Oh, I was just
being a Fire Mage like in World Of Warcraft." And the media eats it all up, due to the heavy
confirmation bias (you see what you're already looking for). It's a cycle. First, the media
claims games cause violent behavior. Second, the criminal claims they committed the
crime because of a video game. Last, the media "puts two and two together" and
determines that video games do indeed cause violent behavior. So we have a claim. Then
we have a criminal's excuse. That must lead to evidence, right? Wrong.

Society always looks for some easy moniker to shelter the responsibility for all the
negatives. It's happened countless times throughout human history, and video games are
next in the scapegoat line. Despite the fact that crime rates don't ever rise or fall
significantly from year to year, the media and politicians change their stances on what
causes all this crime every few years. First, it was the "Witch Hunts" in medieval Europe,
and, to a lesser extent, early American communities. Then there was alcohol and the
temperance movement. Then drugs and other substances took the blame in the 1970s and
1980s. Then rap music. Now video games are the new favorites for politicians to point
fingers at. Rather than ever truly addressing the crux of crime problems, most are content
to simply isolate some convenient medium that can actually be "fixed." Politicians can't
get rid of crime. But they can get rid of video games. If they tell us that video games
cause crime...you see where this is going.

Just like any statistical study, the bias becomes most prevalent when you look the wording.
Using carefully orchestrated phrases, a survey can appear to be completely conclusive and
factual. When looked at logically, however, you can easily decipher its flaws. To see what
I mean, look at how the media covers a story where someone shoots up a college campus.
Rather than say, "The suspect played Counterstrike frequently," they'll often use, "There
are reports that the suspect trained and planned his attack using the video game
Counterstrike." Using slightly different words with a little bit of an anti-gaming agenda, they
can elicit totally different responses from the listener. Another statistical anomaly these
studies are guilty of involves selective sampling. For example, Halo 3 has sold over 5
million copies worldwide so far. Now, if violent games TRULY caused violent behavior,
there would have to be a significant amount of these 5 million people that actually
committed and were convicted of violent behavior. Even at a measly 1% causation rate,
that would mean 50,000 people would have to exhibit these behaviors. 50,000. So, in my
opinion, to even begin to develop a real case against video games, they would need to
PROVE that 50,000 people whom, under any other circumstances would not have engaged
in violent criminal activity, did indeed commit a violent crime as the sole result of playing
Halo 3. Of course, they can't even BEGIN to find evidence using a statistically sound model
for the entire gaming population. So they flip it around. Instead of looking for gamers that
commit violent crimes, they look for criminals who play video games. All of a sudden, they
have tons of "evidence." "Look at all these criminals! You know what they all have in
common? They all play video games. M-Rated video games. I think we're on to
something here... " It all comes down to the timeless proof that correlation does not imply
causation. Just because video games are played by criminals does not mean that the
criminals were created by video games.

Of course, the deeper the investigation into these "gaming-related" crimes goes, the more
these fallacies become evident. Unfortunately, by that time, the news is no longer
reporting on that story, they're on something new. The general public never hears the
video game industry being cleared of the blame. The people that do these horrible things
do so because they have serious psychological problems, not because they're playing video
games. I've played violent video games all my life. I have yet to kill a single human
being. And I'm not alone. There are millions upon millions of us. It's just time we let OUR
voices be heard. The vocal minority be damned.
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About brobotsone of us since 7:45 PM on 12.21.2007

we are brobots
we are masters of the universe
we take no prisoners
we feel no remorse
we feel no pain
we are machines
we will have our vengeance
we will quench our thirst

you will feel our wrath

we are brobots


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