Sharing is Caring About The Violence and Video Games Burden
News is starting to come out of what happened at last week’s meeting that US Vice President Joe Biden had with members of the video game industry and researchers about violence as it relates to games in general. By and large, Biden does not believe there is a link between video games and violent behavior, something that is sure to be a bit of a relief to both gamers and gaming industry folks alike. After all, the industry has had its fair share of having to weather the violence in video games argument before. My good friend and co-host Kristen Fuller and I discussed this on The Netophiles podcast on video games and violence, so to have at least one prominent politician come out at least in a neutral stance is a bit of a small victory.
But Biden also seemed to issue a little bit of a warning to the industry, telling them that perception is a very powerful thing, even if reality doesn’t actually support it. Researchers also seemed to agree that there could be more done to actually improve the image of the industry, and that the assembled executives would do well to do more to ensure it wasn’t an easy target.
But why is this solely the industry’s responsibility? I find it odd that the primary burden of proof that violence is not connected to video games seems to rest on the shoulders of industry executives and developer studios. Sure, they’re the creator of the medium, and would therefore be the most credible source to improve its perception, but I don’t really think it’s something that they have to be solely responsible for. No, I think that when it comes to disproving the violence and video games connection, that everyone who’s involved needs to do what they can.
Parents need to educate themselves about the rating system of games, of the types of games their children play, and get in the practice of telling and teaching their children the difference between playing in a game and acting in reality. The industry needs to facilitate access to more credible research, emphasize and improve the rating system, and provide what notice about content they can to gamers, both inside and outside of games. Gamers themselves need to take responsibility for their own hobby, understand the stigma it can somehow create, and work to help others understand that the stereotypes don’t always apply. And all of these groups can work together to identify someone who just happens to be a gamer who teeters on an emotional cliff and get them the help they need.
The most dangerous thing I see about this whole debate on violence and video games is the notion that someone isn’t responsible for it, whether that is narrow-minded parents, overly defensive industry executives, or regular, disdainful gamers who’d rather be angry at being mistreated or misrepresented rather than doing something to change it. Until people realize everyone has to play their part in preventing things like Sandy Hook or Columbine from happening again, we’ll always be at greater risk than we need to be at such tragedies going down.