Fair Games?

William Holman Hunt's "The Scapegoat"

Something I’m learning, as I get older and *ahem* wiser (don’t say anything, Husband Bear), is that people love a scapegoat. People love something to blame. Sexualised pre-teens? Obviously, it’s the media’s fault, not parents not doing their job. The obesity “epidemic” (got to love media sensationalism, don’tcha?)? McDonald’s is clearly the culprit, not people’s lack of self-control.

The latest scapegoat to get dragged out (again) is “violent video games”, after Anders Behring Breivik, the gunman who killed 77 people in last month’s horrific attacks in Norway, asserted that video games played a role in his “training” for the atrocities he was planning to commit.

Much has been said on this issue, by people much more qualified to comment than I am. I’m not a politician, a psychologist or even a “social commentator. I don’t think I even really know what a social commentator is. But I do know this: I’m a gentle, pacifist, animal-loving, tree-hugging, racism-abhorring vegetarian leftie. And yet, growing up, one of my favourite songs was Helter Skelter, a song that Charles Manson said partially inspired the murders he committed and encouraged his “Family” to commit. As a teenager, I fell in love with the book, The Catcher in the Rye. So did Mark Chapman. Recognise his name? He’s the man who killed John Lennon. I listen to Metal music. I read vampire books.

I’ve also read the Bible. Anders Behring Breivik read that book, too, and also cites it as an influence.

Also, I have a husband who plays “violent video games”. He was playing one for most of last night – a game called “Left For Dead”, the sequel to which has been banned in Australia for its content (apparently the guns that are used in the first game are A-OK by the censors’ standards. Axes? Notsomuch).

This is also the husband who is devoted to his family, spends most nights cuddled up on the couch with his cat, doesn’t eat meat, gets emotional over sad movies, and who, a couple of weekends ago, I found in our backyard trying to save an injured bird. My husband is one of the gentlest, kindest men I know. And he plays the same games Anders Behring Breivik plays.

I heard a great quote that I think encapsulates this whole issue, and I wish I could remember who to attribute it to. It was something along the lines of, “If you can show me the video game Hitler played before he killed the Jews, I might start believing that video games are responsible for these atrocities”.

Some “commentators” on this issue have come out and said, “if you’re going to ban video games because of what happened in Norway, you should also ban The Bible, because that influenced Anders Behring Breivik just as much, if not more”.

I don’t agree. “Banning” anything never works. Censorship never works. I believe the biggest cause of violence, bigotry and hatred is ignorance, not video games, music, books … or even McDonald’s (though I wouldn’t eat there if you paid me). The Norwegians responded the the attacks on their country in an awe-inspiring, inspirational manner. They basically said, “We will fight this attack on our democracy by becoming more democratic”.

They didn’t try to assign a scapegoat. They realised that Anders Behring Breivik was just man; a man whose own personal “demons” (for want of a better word) were the real reason behind his actions. No song or book or video game can change a person’s personality or propensity to commit crimes of this nature. Most people know the difference between reality and fiction in the same way that they know that pre-teens dressed provocatively on the cover of Vogue is probably not okay, and that that Big Mac probably will make their jeans a bit tighter and they should have a salad instead.

Video games don’t kill people. People do.

3 thoughts on “Fair Games?

  1. Hi Kate,
    Really enjoyed reading your piece on Scapegoats – couldn’t agree more, everybody is always looking to blame someone(thing) else for what’s wrong with them or their lives or the world! Regarding violent video games I also agree with your comments, I have a teenage son who plays them and so far he hasn’t gone on a shooting rampage and still loves to hug his Mum. We’ll see how he turns out, let you know in a few years – lol.


  2. The thing that’s always missing in these debates is evidence, ie peer reviewed scientific evidence. And even when we have that there a certain elements of society that seek to align findings with their own moral outlook. I am talking specifically about discussions held between Dr Ben Goldacre and Baroness Greenway(sp?) who likes to spruke her own research in favour of her views.


  3. Great article, Kate.

    You’re right – most people can separate fantasy from fiction.

    Except, I find, those who claim “eternal, unyielding truth” based on a book.

    These are the same people, ironically, who call for the censorship of media to placate their own sense of moral panic.

    Weird, huh.


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