Trumps Roundabout Round-Table Talks

Recently I begrudgingly felt I had to write about video game violence in the news, writing an article in which I mentioned Trump wished to meet with games company executives to discuss the perceived issue of violence in games (you can read that here.)

Well he certainly followed through on this talk, bigly. Holding a bizarre and rushed get together with a handful of execs at a round-table meeting that was held on March the 8th, it was closed to the press but what we do know doesn’t do the stunt any favours. The current commander in chief followed in the footsteps of Joe Biden who did the same in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. A meeting that lead nowhere then has once more been staged, and I hazard a guess it will lead nowhere once more again. Another massacre, another meeting with little to show for it other than the illusion of action as a distraction piece.

The meeting was started with the president showing a heavily cut and out of context edit of video game violence. Which the White House laughably later posted to their official YouTube account, spawning a lot of comedic responses and disdain. It went viral before later being taken down, having become something of a laughing stock. If you wish to watch the out of context reel of ultra-violence taken mostly from the Call of Duty series, check out the video below;


After this ludicrous video which he obviously thought would come up top trumps, the Donald stated ‘this is violent, isn’t it?’ He could have literally had the same effect and message by pointing at the screen and repeating ‘BAD’ over and over again as it played.

Video game execs, such as the CEO of Rockstar who was present, must have felt something positive could have come from the meeting, being that they even entertained the thought of attending – let alone following through and going to it. However, I feel and say that nothing positive can come from circumnavigating the real issues just to simply point, hiss and boo at a political and media scapegoat. You can rarely, if ever, get something from nothing – let alone empty gestures.

The mainstream media itself once again has escaped the spotlight and gladly shone its own upon the gaming world, as well as the killer. How about we talk of the treatment of mass shooters and killers in the news, which lets face it, feeds into this mentality and the desire of killers to make a name for themselves. Always focusing on body count, immortalising the perpetrators and their name with 24/7 sensationalist coverage. Showing all to bare to those would be killers how easy it can be to achieve the same disdainful acclaim. The media makes them infamous and feeds into the vicious cycle;


Inaction or even worse, the illusion of action, cannot and will not save the lives of innocent Americans. It is the equivalent of doing nothing disguised as something – a dangerous game to play when there is a human cost at stake.

The dodging of the real issues at hand must stop. It has become nothing but a perpetual carousel in the violent act of flogging one of the deadest of horses. Wheeled out once again to be beaten like an empty piñata. Politicians who employ this diversion tactic lack the will, backbone or desire to rethink the second amendment and so attack the first outright. Gun ownership trumps freedom of speech and the lives of American children in the land of the free. With so much political power coming from lobbyists such as the National Rifle Association will the spotlight ever fully turn inwardly?

Lest we forget the current leader of America received $30,000,000 in presidential campaigning funds from the NRA. Perhaps games will be left out of the firing line if games company lobbyists put up the dosh, to make him shut up.

Alas, I remember the days when games lobbies were a simpler thing, a place to gather players before the start of the match, now they have become more than that. Games industry lobbyists are becoming much more commonplace. Perhaps to combat the political force rallying against their portrayal of violence, perhaps they have their own sinister political agenda too. In a world where games execs are looking to push micro-transactions and extort gamers in ever new ways I’d wager to bet it is both. To me it is a worry that these even began to exist, rising from ashes of this dumpster fire debacle of a debate. I doubt they are about protecting players, focusing rather on their pockets and looking to protect profits.

If you’d like a more in depth, colourful and hilarious look at the meeting check out this vlog by Jim Sterling who as always is putting the world to rights;

 

On Video Game Violence And Addiction; Something Old, Something New

Video games have once again been in the firing line of headlines recently, something that we’re all used to, especially in times of violence. But as well as a recurring debate, there is an unprecedented decision in the headlines this year.

In the wake of the horrific and most recent US school shooting in Florida, which left 17 dead, 16 wounded and many more traumatised, politicians and pundits have wheeled out the old cliché that violent games are the chief culprit. Alongside this, it has been announced that the World Health Organisations’ (WHO) 11th International Classification of Diseases has decided to include a condition called ‘gaming disorder’ as a major public health issue.

One of these pieces of news should be treated cautiously, whilst the other has become a farcical age old argument, yet is still given traction in media and political circles, when it should be outright dismissed by now.

Video Game Violence

Societal issues, especially horrific events such as the most recent school shooting, are the cause of moral panic, more often than not, a moral panic that seeks to scapegoat rather than solve the issue at hand.  Whether it’s comic books in the 50’s;

Or whatever new music is prevalent, it seems politicians look to blame popular culture rather than deal with actual causes, because realistically speaking – that would be difficult and requires real action. It’s easier to point the finger and blast hot air when you lack the political will to enact real change.

Donald Trump has suggested in a timely fashion that perhaps we should provide parents buying games a handy rating system to know what kind of game they might be buying their child. No further comment on that one, it speaks volumes on how much he really knows and cares about the matter. A Rhode Island politician has even gone so far as to seek a tax on violent M-Rated video games, which states lack the power to legislate against the sale of. He states that this extra money should be funnelled into mental health care. Should this not be something that is provided for without punishing consumers of video games? Especially considering that less than 20% of school shooters partake in violent games. Perhaps politicians could foot some of that bill with the money they receive from pro-gun lobbying groups, like the National Rifle Association. I think most rational people would agree that video games have more place in the home than weapons.

Choosing to look the other way or bury our heads in the sand when it comes to facing down the myriad of actual reasons that leads to violence, is traditional of our society. If we are to  actually face up to the real reasons, we might just shine a light inwardly and see that beneath the glossy veneer we present, our societies are often broken in so many ways it becomes overwhelming when trying to hone in on the factors that cause young men to commit such violent acts (I say men as statistically speaking this is the case.) This circular argument which takes us nowhere seems to have no end, as if the 90’s never happened and the diversionary tactics will work this time. We must outright accept that violence is not caused by games. It is embedded there to begin with, even if at the very least, these people play violent games to act out their fantasies.  If we as societies sought to actually be communities and look out for our fellow humans, these kind of events could be more easily avoided but there is so much inequality and alienation that people with these tendencies often fly under the radar until it’s too late. Or in the case of the Florida shooter, the signs are completely ignored by those around them. Politicians lack the backbone and will to do the right thing because it goes against the very ethos of our individualistic and capitalist societies, as well as the gun loving culture of the United States. Until we force them to face up to the many factors, they will keep trying to feed us a pill we just aren’t swallowing anymore.

It is time to end the debate and focus on the real meat of the matter.

Video Game Addiction

Most anyone who loves gaming will be able to recount times when pursuing it has somewhat negatively impacted on their life. Whether it’s the thirst for achievement and enjoyment that drives us to not put the controller down or walk away from the keyboard, making us get less sleep. Or the desire to own the best skins and other such loot hurting our wallet, it’s a simple fact we cannot ignore. Games have a certain addictive quality that needs addressing one way or another on an individual basis at the very least. After all games do have the potential power to affect lives and to change the world. But to what extent is the desire to pursue this hobby habitually a mental disorder? According to the WHOs’ recent classification, it is now considered to be the rule and not the exception.

Whilst I’ll be the first to admit my gaming endeavours have sometimes been slightly detrimental to my life. However the WHO needs to be careful not to view gaming as an inherent evil, as like anything people love and enjoy it can become a hobby people are passionate about or can even be a coping mechanism for other underlying mental disorders. Many psychologists are calling the decision to classify ‘games addiction’ as a mental disorder premature. Even if the WHOs’ heart is in the right place, they risk ‘pathologising behaviours that are normal’ for millions upon millions of young people, something that could do more damage than good. If games are treated as the issue and the true underlying problems are ignored, they have once again become simply a scapegoat.

Whilst the discussion and research of this topic are welcomed by me as a conscientious gamer who would gladly level justified critique at my hobby that would help people. This  classification would put gaming on a similar footing as gambling, which wreaks havoc on peoples lives and destroys families. Putting gaming on par with such an addiction is simply absurd, unless of course we are talking about micro-transactions and how it’s introducing children to gambling, which is much more of an issue than heavy gaming. What is clear, is that we need more solid scientific research and not to succumb to moral panic in lieu of facts, as the WHO potentially jumping the gun risks missing the real issues.

All this begs the question, if even scientific bodies are joining our politicians in succumbing to moral panic regarding games, what does that say about our society? And what hope do we have about getting to the truth of the matter? This is something that must stop, as in the long run it will only do more harm than good.