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Opinion: Don’t Blame Gamer Culture for Gun Violence

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Games were a large part of my childhood and adolescence. I have the fondest memories of gaming with my friends and family, the usual emotions being either happiness or sadness as victory was assured or snatched away in Mario Party.

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Recently, the gaming industry has come under fire yet again for the violence that some titles exhibit towards their younger audiences. It is clear that American politicians are using the gamer community as a scapegoat for the abundant gun violence in the United States. Our local shores are also becoming increasingly aware that violence like this has to have a cause and an effect. In this circumstance, I cannot see the correlation between violent video games and placing guns in the hands of already violent, extreme people. Pauline will stop at nothing to get Fortnite banned in Australia, I can feel her fiery rage in my bones.

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The correlation between children and teens playing violent video games and being physically violent IRL has been disproven a bunch of times. The American Psychology Association took a meta-analysis of 170 separate studies in 2015 and found no statistically significant relationships between games and criminal violence or delinquency. Despite this, American retailers have attempted to bar violent video games from their shelves while still selling firearms at stores such as Walmart. This is just another band-aid fix for wounds and attitudes that are gushing across the United States and beyond.

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Of course, this isn’t the first time that gaming has been blamed for violence in society. People tend to find a correlation between seeing and performing violence and assume it is replicated. Again, the value in getting rid of violent video games over readily accessible firearms is nil and actually quite laughable from my position as an Australian, where buying a gun at a local store is completely foreign. I’ve been to America and have ventured into Walmart. It’s an experience to see guns sitting there, ready to be picked up and used for who knows what. It was a little too much for my 16-year-old brain to handle, that people actually had these weapons in their houses to ‘protect’ themselves. Knowing that I can go into a Walmart and they will be stocking a gun over my favourite video games is like going to EB Games and not seeing a sale sign; it’s unfathomable.

I started playing games when I was a very young child with my older cousins and it’s how we grew close. I vividly remember picking up a controller and playing the first Halo on my very first Xbox; it was thrilling to play.

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As I grew older, these violent video games always had a place on my shelves, but I would also opt for the wholesome games such as Nintendo’s Pokémon and Mario Kart just to spice things up. Sometimes, these games would be just as rage-inducing as a blue shell would magically find its way right up my ass.

I would sometimes play games at school,  such as DOOM and Quake, on the library’s computers with my friends.  Violent games were barred as the worst possible form of entertainment while bullying and gossip took physical forms in the social aspect of my school community. The priorities are all wrong. For me, these games were an escape from reality, a far cry from me seeking out a gun to shoot someone.

Although I don’t see violence in people as a manifestation of violent video games’ influence, I can see the toxic gaming communities breeding a similar form of behaviour. Hopping onto a game of Overwatch can result in meeting people who are aggressive, verbally abusive and people who have a lack of empathy for those on the other end of the screen. But violent gamer communities aren’t directly correlated to the game content; it’s purely a dynamic of the social group. We need to understand the difference between the two.

Think of it like this, a major sportsperson may be a role model to a child in the same type of sport. A streamer or professional gamer has this same type of rapport with children who follow esports. Unlike footy players only having the media on their back, these hardcore gamers usually stream with no breaks or editing, showing their lack of empathy, aggression and violent exchanges with strangers online.

Communities for games such as Overwatch and League of Legends are some that I have found to be the most toxic,  I end up walking away from those games in a worse mood than I started off with.

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The first problem here is gun control, which should be implemented in the US; countries such as Australia with this level of control have benefited immensely in creating a safe country. The second problem here is the lack of an attempt to disseminate the toxicity from gaming communities. Politicians have not differentiated toxic communities and violent video games from each other, piling both categories on top of each other. With the clear lack of control that developers have over the form that their communities take, it will be a long time before we can have wholesome games of Overwatch. I’ll be waiting for both to be resolved.

 

 

 

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