Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Fundamental Misunderstanding

To understand the following argument better read Penn Jillette's argument and then watch the video that Robyn used in her response, "Politics & Frames of Civility in Gaming," if you haven't already:

Though I took issue with a lot of Mike Huckabee's rhetoric, I found a particular fundamental misunderstanding in his monologue that I see constantly in people who argue against videogames for any number of reasons (that they cause violence, they dumb people down, etc.):

"some of the self-righteous elites who buy it will do so without a twinge of guilt over promoting murder, mayhem and mutilation of other human beings."

Now, I understand that he is only flipping the rhetoric back to the some liberal pundits who decried Sarah Palin for her "violent" rhetoric on her website which (they say) led Jared Loughner to shoot Senator Gabrielle Gifford in Tucson a few months ago. But this idea that first-person shooters (FPSs) "promote murder, mayhem and mutilation of other human beings" is something that needs to stop. It's been an extremely popular talking point ever since people tried to find a scapegoat for the Columbine shootings and blamed it on the kids' interest in the game Doom, and it has no basis in fact.

Penn's argument is the starting point for my argument. Those that say that games promote violence and other awful things are the same people that he mentions who are "just not going to understand" the nuances of gaming because they've only experienced it on the surface. I have begun to do some research into the reality of the virtual worlds of games and how they effect the real world, and I have found that although there is a certain reality in the virtual worlds themselves, it does not mean that the players cannot separate themselves from the experience. To say that games promote violence would be like saying playing paintball, or laser tag, or football, or hockey, or Pacman promotes violence. Though these games can be considered violent within the context of the game itself, it does not translate to contexts outside of the game. If it did, we would have to wear pads everywhere we went to avoid being hurt when we were tackled by 300-pound defensive tackles. However, we would probably be too busy running around in a dark room eating little round pills and fruit while being chased by ghosts to worry about it.

My point is that people accept roles within the games that they play that would never, ever, ever translate into the real world because the rules of the real world prohibit that sort of role. If someone is crazy enough to actually shoot someone for no particular reason, then there are probably way more important issues in that person's life than what type of videogames they play.


  1. Sort of goes back to blaming Pearl Jam or Marilyn Manson for Columbine. I think maybe some folks are more open to certain dark messages, but those folks will ALWAYS find those messages somewhere.

    I think the academy has lots to prove as far as gaming not only being not dangerous, but also worthy of scholarly attention.

  2. That's true. It's funny-- old-school RPGs, the ones with the books and dice got accused of promoting violence too.

  3. I have never understood why there is this stigma about the depiction of violence in video games. Violence is a part of human nature. Plus, people are perfectly capable of separating a virtual world from their actual lives. I play first person shooter games all the time to distress and have fun, but I don't go around shooting people in real life. That would be absurd.

  4. communication is really inportant to every. misunderstanding is bad to every.