Placing Blame: Kids vs. Violent Video Games

[Editor’s Note: This is an older article made a couple years ago on PushStartSelect.  With the recent events thrusting violent games back into the media spotlight, we felt it was a good time to re-publish this article in order to present our thoughts on the matter without being overly intrusive or directly discussing the past month’s tragic events.  The original article follows:]

Being an adult and a gamer, there are the occasions where I indulge in the violent video games.  In fact, it’s a big time stress reliever for me.  So every time I see a news article about someone who’s gone nuts blaming some violent game for their actions…it bugs me.  However, nothing bothers me more than when parents start getting into the argument and think they need to tell the developers of the industry how to operate.

Obviously the industry’s victory in the Supreme Court this Summer [note: this references Summer 2010 and this decision) encourage the gaming community, but the truth is the general media is still try to paint violent games as the cause of social problems in kids.  To me, that’s just as silly as saying donuts and french fries are the cause of obesity.  No.  The cause of obesity is lack of self-control and people who over-indulge.

You can’t blame a product for the actions of those who use it.  It’s just ridiculous, but time and time again this is what happens in the world of video games.  I’m not even talking about the kids here; I’m talking about the parents.  Games aren’t the source of the problem, negligent parents are.

A majority of the time, parents are the ones buying the games for the kids.  The ESRB has done their best to make that rating symbol in the corner as noticeable and understandable as possible, but parents are still ignoring it.  But for argument’s sake, let’s say the kid has gotten the game through ‘nefarious’ ways (not unlike how minors sneak cigarettes or alcohol).  Even if that’s the case, then are you, as the parent, ignoring your child completely to the point that you don’t even know what they’re playing.  I mean, all it takes is for you to pop your head into their room ONE TIME and glance at their TV to see what they’re playing.

At this point, there is really no one else to blame.  The game companies didn’t force you to buy a game that’s inappropriate for your child, and the developers definitely didn’t prevent you from adequately watching your children play in order to make sure the content wasn’t too graphic for them.  Let’s look at it from a different example.  Say your child gets into the medicine cabinet and takes a whole bunch of medicine that they shouldn’t.  Do we turn the blame on the manufacturers even though they’ve placed warning signs and protective measures on the bottles?  Nope, we have to look at ourselves and wonder why we weren’t paying more attention to what our kids were up to. 

I’m a gamer parent.  Even though my child is still too young to really play games, I’m always very careful of what I play when he’s in the room with me.  With more and more people from my generation (those of us who grew up around gaming and the culture) starting to have kids, I’m hoping this will no longer be an issue.

More parents are starting to become aware of ratings and what their kids are playing, simply because they’ve been around games longer than the previous generations.  There will always be detractors though, who claim violent games ruined their kids and caused them to do bad things.  When those people speak out, we need to make sure the right people are held accountable.