This incident ought to drum up more rabble-rousing than the Romans cheering for a bloody crucifixion. Surely by now you’ve read the terrible news about the “Mortal Kombat” murder, in which two teens killed a 7 year old girl they were babysitting by re-enacting the fighting game and using her as a punching bag. They have since been charged with child abuse resulting in murder and are currently being held in custody.
That’s the news, plain and simple. This tragic turn of events will not only scar the lives of those involved, but will also have a major impact on the world of gaming, regardless of its fault or lack thereof in the matter. If you want to hear my rant on the topic, follow the jump, but I can’t promise I wont sound like I’m on a picket line.
[Via Rocky Mountain News]
So, if you are anything like me, the first thing you thought when you read that headline is “Who the hell still plays Mortal Kombat?” A natural reaction, even in the face of such a evocative and depressing news story. But it’s not a reaction that most adult Americans will share. Most adult Americans will think “When the hell are they going to ban those terrible things, how many more children must die?” Those terrible things, or course, are not stupid teenagers, or liquor stores that sell to minors. Those terrible things are video games.
The fact that these two minors were drunk was not mentioned in the headline. I’m not saying I think alcohol should be a scapegoat here. Not every drunken teenager commits manslaughter. But the fact that alcohol decreases inhibitions, where Mortal Kombat arguably only affects the human mind in the same ways the average Jean-Claude Van Damme movie does (not much of an effect), it leads me to point the finger at alcohol before anything else.
Even in saying that, I’m dodging the real culprit in this tragedy, and that culprit is of course the 16 year old girl. From the article it is not clear if the male in question had anything to do with the crime. He may become the scapegoat along with video games, or he may be guilty. In one report he was just a “referee” between the older sister and younger sister while they were playing Mortal Kombat. But from an eyewitness report (implying that there were more people with the babysitter and the guy during the assault), he bragged that his hands were “lethal weapons” and that he kicked the 7 year old girl. Can this eyewitness be trusted?
Regardless of if he did or didn’t hit the little girl, the 16 year old sister was still the one babysitting her. If my best friend in the whole world, my biggest idol in the entire universe, or even Ron Workman laid one finger on my 7 year old sister, I would not only kick him out of my house immediately, I’d probably call the cops. So whether the male was involved at all, the sister is still the one that I blame. Letting someone beat your little sister to death is the same as doing it yourself.
But who wants to blame a beautiful teenage girl for such a terrible crime? Our society is desperate to hold on to those intra-psychically entrenched schemas, those “black and white” absolute perceptions of our world that are supposed to help us make sense of a reality filled with more horror than we can accept. One of the schemas that many people in our world hold on to is “Pretty teenage girls are good.” I have witnessed more blind worship of pretty teenage girls for simply being pretty teenage girls than I have ever witnessed video game induced violence, video game induced seizures, or any video game induced problems of any kind.
Facts like that don’t integrate very well with another schema that many adults share. That schema is that video games are the devil. Or more like “Everything that’s different than what I grew up with is the devil.” That of course includes video games.
So how does our society deal with a news story detailing a pretty teenage girl killing her little sister? My bet is that society will hold tight to the safe and comforting ideas discussed above. It takes a very strong, intelligent, and fair minded person to put aside those comforting but thought distorting perceptions of the world and look at the terrible truth. This newspaper couldn’t. It resorted to blaming Mortal Kombat. I couldn’t at first. I instinctually blamed alcohol. And the police, well, we’ll have to see who they blame.
I’ll be watching this story like a hawk to see if either of these kids end up in jail. If the powers that be at Dtoid permit, you can be sure to read more about it from me here on the front page.