It seems that not a month goes by where I do not hear or read an news story about a violent crime that took place and people begin to blame video games because the culprit played a violent video game. Every time I hear one of these stories I get extremely angry and have to resist shouting at the television or computer screen because I am going to draw attention to myself. It sickens me that with all the problems we have in society today, ranging from broken homes to inadequate school systems, we as a public have to come up with other things to blame for society’s ills rather than ourselves.
Video games are not the reason these children commit violent crimes, if this was the case more children would be committing these kinds of crimes. The proof is in the pudding. Lets look at one of the more popular games to get blamed for several violent crimes, Grand Theft Auto. For those that don’t know what Grand Theft Auto is, the basis of the game is your character boosts cars and joy rides. Early incarnations of the game, were simple top scrolling games that no one complained about. It was not until the release and eventual success of GTA3 that sparked controversy over the game. The difference between the first two versions and the third was that in GTA3 you were a character in a completely three dimensional world that you could explore to no end. Grand Theft Auto 3 was responsible for the new nonlinear games we have these days. You were no longer bound by the game’s storyline and instead you could venture all over the virtual world doing whatever you liked, be it stealing cars, beating fellow citizens of the city, or robbing the prostitute blind. The game still had a linear story line you could follow should you desire to to it, but you did not have to follow said story.
Why was the ability to roam freely inside a make believe city such a big deal? Well it was the atrocities one could commit in the game that made it a target for controversy. The point that a lot of people miss is that the game was rated “M” which means “For Mature Audiences Only. 17+”. The “M” rating on a video game is the equivalent of an “R” rating at the movies. A quick search at the ERSB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) website pulls back this page which shows that GTA3 had “M” rating for “Blood, Strong Language, Violence”. But yet parents were letting their 13 and 14 year olds play this game. The company that released the game, Rockstar Games, went through the process of getting the game rated so that it could be rated correctly and (hopefully) not played by children who were too young for the content.
Now the Grand Theft Auto series of video games has been extremely popular over the years with millions of units sold but it has only been linked to a handful of violent crimes. Wait a minute, I thought that playing violent video games lead to life of violent crimes, at least this is what the news would like us to believe. But if it has only been linked to a handful of violent offenders and millions have played it, it must stand to reason that playing violent video games does not lead to committing violent crimes. The media likes to blow things completely out of proportion and instead of focusing on the real issues these kids had they are in turn shifting responsibility to where it does not rightfully belong.
So if playing violent video games does not cause these kids to commit, where should the news reports be placing the blame? Well for starters, someone should really look into the parents. The parents are responsible for raising their children to know what is right and wrong, and since killing and/or beating other people is something that is “wrong” it would stand to reason that the parents were not effectively doing their job. But how can parents raise their children correctly when they themselves are working to pay the bills for the stuff they bought to “keep up with the Jones”? Most families today are broken, there is no simpler way to put it. Divorce rates in this country are so high that most marriages only have a 50% chance of succeeding. With broken homes, this usually means that there is only one parent in the house and that parent has to be judge, jury, executioner, friend, foe, and parent all at the same time. This also means that, the single parent has to work to support themselves and the children which means they are not home with their children. Children without supervision will run amuck. Don’t believe me? Let your children run around freely while you lock yourself in your room, you will come out to a disaster of a home. Because the parents are not home to, you know, actually parent their children, when they are home they want their children to like them so as a result very little punishment ensues for children who do wrong. Parents are not punishing their children. You can not spank a child these days because it can be viewed as child abuse and groundings are only as effective as the parents follow thru.
This means that what we have today is a generation of children not being punished for their actions at home. The school system to which they are entrusted can not handle the punishing because to strike a child is view as abuse. Gone are the days when the principal would give swats to the bad seeds or the teacher hitting your hand with a ruler when you misbehaved. The reason for this is because everyone has become obsess with the child’s “self-esteem” that to do anything that can be viewed as punishment or rebuke is considered “damaging to the child’s self-esteem” and can not be done. The kinds are not being punished at home so they know they can get away with just about anything, anywhere, and pretty much anytime. As a result, they are disrespecting of teachers and classmates. They do whatever they want because they know there is no real reaction to their actions. They are not going to get punished at school and even if their parents do get called by the school, the parent is not really going to do anything about it either.
Now I ask you, if the children are not getting punished at home or at school, does it not stand to reason that they will eventually move to criminal activities? They have been taught that there is little to zero punishment for their wrong doings and as a result they will only become more aggressive. Children by default love to test boundaries, but for them to actually test boundaries those boundaries have to exist in the first place. Very few parents these days are setting boundaries on their children’s actions because they do not want to stifle their kids. And while I agree that a parent should never hold their child back from doing what they want to do, I do believe that when it comes to misbehaving that the child should be dealt with accordingly. I would never hold my daughter back from being who she wants to be, but she does have a firm set of rules that will grow and adapt as she grows older. If there are no boundaries then the child is going to keep doing things that they should not. If the parent(s) never taught their children to respect their boundaries and there was never any punishment for breaking the rules the child has no where to go but more extreme. And thus they kill someone, but I believe that these children who have killed someone did not just go out and kill or beat someone. I believe that they started small. Maybe breaking into abandoned houses, then to non-abandoned houses, maybe it was just vandalising private property, but with each act they progress until they got to the one that got them the most attention.
And it does not stop there. See, when these children are accused of these crimes the parent’s normal first reaction is “not my child, they would never do that” and instead of moving past that line of thought and looking at the world around them and the evidence as it stands, they hire lawyers to get their children off the hook or reduced sentences. So, even though their child has a committed a crime and is finally going to receive punishment for doing something wrong, the parent is still trying to get them out of punishment. And in this case the parents are not completely to blame. They now have trials to determine if a person under the age of eighteen who commits an adult crime can be tried as an adult. This means that if they are not tried as an adult, when they turn eighteen they have a clean slate. Like the Offspring song says, “Hey, pay no mind. You’re under eighteen you won’t be doing any time”. Basically the government is saying, “do whatever you want before you are eighteen and after that it won’t matter” and is this really the best message to send to the youth of today?
I really think that playing violent video games does not lead one to a life of violent crimes. I myself play Unreal Tournament on a regular basis. I have also played most of the Grand Theft Auto series. And I have no criminal record (unless you want to count a few speeding tickets). The thing is my parents taught me right from wrong and stuck to those principles my entire life. I was scared to death of my parents but in a good way. I knew if I did something wrong I would be punished for it, and my parents only took my side when it came to issues at school when I had been proven to have behaved as I should have. Kids today are not afraid of their parents because their parents do not punish them. I think that instead of blaming an industry that has next to nothing to do with the problem we should focus on the parents of the child in question. Controversial, I know, but maybe that’s what we need today.