grparker | Indy Week

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Re: “A history of violence

As a former journalist and a longtime video gamer, I was disappointed with Ms. Sorg's choice to focus solely on video games at the opening of her article. Despite her purported focus on the pervasiveness of violence in our culture, her opening sparks uncomfortably recent memories of the hate-filled rants of Jack Thompson and other anti-video gaming crusaders.

Ignoring for a moment my obvious bias as a gamer, the choice to focus on video games at the outset of this article is deceptive in two ways: it fails to demonstrate how truly pervasive violence is in other media, and it magnifies and vilifies a subset of video games at the expense of an entire form of entertainment. Why no mention of Saw XVI, or whatever number the series is on? Or Frank Miller's latest graphic novel? Why no mention of how many times Hayden Panettiere gets killed on-screen during a given season of "Heroes"?

At the same time, there are rows upon rows of games on the shelves of American retail stores that focus on something other than virtual itchy trigger fingers. I have played dozens of racing games, yet at no point (not even during my morning commute) am I tempted to drift around turns and jump over ravines for extra points. Nor have I ever thrown fireballs at innocent turtles, despite a childhood firmly rooted in the venerable "Mario" series of games. The vast majority of gamers, even those who blast one another's virtual avatars over XBox Live for hours at a stretch, have no desire to kill other human beings any more than a fencer really wishes to impale her opponent.

There have been instances of unbalanced youths focusing and imprinting on video games as part of the buildup to a destructive rampage. This is incontrovertible, and should raise questions about parenting, school counseling, and our society as a whole. But before we lay the ills of a nation on the shoulders of video games and gamers, we should be reminded that not terribly long ago Charles Manson was hearing a call to racial genocide in the lyrics of Beatles songs. Some people will fall apart, and some will try to take others down with them, regardless of whether it's Master Chief or George Harrison that they encounter along the path to their final violent destination.

Posted by grparker on 03/25/2008 at 7:15 PM

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