The Demonisation of Videogames

Last weekend in America 34 people lost their lives in three seperate mass shootings. The powers that be in America were, once again, very quick to distance gun laws from what happened, instead the rhetoric is now that videogames and mental health issues are to blame. Shortly after I watched this video from IGN

My reponse immediately after watching said video:

We’ve also since seen ESPN delay an Apex Legends competition they were planning to broadcast citing that their decision was made in “respect to the victims” .

Not since Jack Thompson was active in 2004-2008 have videogames come under such strong spotlight, but the biggest difference here is that Thompson was lobbying based upon him not really understanding the medium he was demonising.

Trump, his advisors, supporters and the media establishments that back him are doing so in order to project the spotlight on anything that will detract from the financial sources that back them and, seemingly, decide US laws. I’m not massively savvy on US politics, but I struggle to recall a President that was so blatantly looking after his own bank balance rather than address his countries problems. My own country, and indeed the town I reside in, have huge problems of their own (Bedfordshire has the third highest rate of knife crime in East Anglia, and it could be higher as their are suspicions of under-reporting).

Unfortunately, it seems that media are more powerful than ever, and Trump is incredibly savvy at using the media that are friendly to him and shutting out the media that aren’t, providing perfect little sound bites from his public appearances and from his Twitter account that are spread by more neutral media in an attempt to appear unbiased.

But its not like the video games industry hasn’t been here before, from Columbine to the murder of Stefan Pakeerah, Doom to Manhunt, its a storm that developers, publishers and players have weathered time and time again from people who are unwilling, not unable, to understand the hobby, oftentimes these people have a seperate agenda and see videogames as something easy to attack, even more so in these more politically heightened times where, as I’ve discussed before, gaming as a community is more fragmented than its ever been before.

There was an interesting anecdote on Manhunt on a podcast I was listening to a few months ago, though I forget who made it, but the guest on this podcast happened to have been sat in on the trial between the BBFC and Rockstar in regards to the banning of Manhunt 2. The BBFC came forward with a list of 10 reasons they felt it undeserving of receiving certification and their list read something like:

  1. It has violence in it
  2.  The player uses weapons
  3. It’s bleak
  4. It has no sense of humour
  5. There is no reward system

There were 5 more points but the podcast went to lengths to say the reasons were remarkably similar throughout, and the point is, that Manhunt 2 eventually got a release in 2007 and quite frankly we’ve not really made any further steps forwards since then. Politicians and non-specialist media are still at pains to dismiss videogames, it doesn’t matter how big the industry is or how much money it makes, until we see our own generation, and indeed the generations below ours, able to make a proper political impact videogames will still be used as a scapegoat for societies ills.