Early last year, I had a chance to participate in an interview with In Session, a crime and justice daytime program on TruTV.
I was initially brought in as an expert to talk about Xbox Live and to help establish if there was a deeper connection between socialization, video games, and violence. After waiting quite a while to receive this footage from the producers, I finally was able to recover it and decided that a post was in order to further describe this topic in full.
Violence and video games seems to be one of those most controversial topics in our society today mainly because of how people are claiming that both dynamics are related to one another. As a hardcore gamer myself, I personally don’t see video games as the sole influencer in people’s actions. Long before anyone decides to pick up a controller, situations or dire circumstances that a person experiences in life can very easily affect them in a negative manner. I feel it is highly important for people to remember that gaming is a form of entertainment just like movies and music. Therefore, if people want to start blaming video games for violence then the same must be said about every other medium that’s out there as well.
Overall, this interview was a very interesting experience on many fronts. The camera crew asked me several questions centered around both my positive and negative experiences through Xbox Live. Just to be clear, I don’t promote violence in any way, shape , or form and I’m glad that the culprits involved in the murder got what they deserved. My only gripe with everything is how people try to single out video games as the sole cause for these actions, and I can only hope that as time goes on issues like gun control and mental health can be factored into these equations as well.
The following is a statement from my colleague and Senior Editor David Jagneaux on the matter at hand:
Violence and video games have been an increasingly popular topic in media as of late. News stations, reporters and even our political officials are throwing around all types of accusations. However, the video above is not about violent video games leading to violence or aggressive behavior. Instead, it’s an instance where a young man carried out the plotting and murder of his wife with a friend he made playing Xbox Live.
There is a fundamental difference here and this post is not meant to incite any type of debate over the question of whether or not violent games lead to violent actions, but it’s instead to discuss the culture and socialization that takes place when we play video games. As Rich states in the interview, services like Xbox Live have provided gamers with a forum to not only communicate with their friends, but make entirely new ones simply from playing a game. What happens when people abuse that medium? Given the anonymity that a screen name and headset provide, it’s easy for individuals to let their true perceptions and notions shine through, instead of their suppressed “politically correct” personalities they may wear in public.
If you only use racial slurs when playing Call of Duty, you’re still a racist. If you only insult females you play against when in a video game, not in person, you’re still a sexist. It’s true, video games can most definitely bring out some of our more intense and competitive natures, but it’s not an excuse for the way people are inside. The same can be said for violent people and violent behavior.
Playing a video game and meeting a person online did not lead this man to kill his wife. He planned it and carried out the action just like any other person that commits murder. However, it does raise an interesting question: if he had not met this person over Xbox Live, would he have done it? Details are kind of scarce now, but could the environment that he met this other person in have been conducive to the plotting that took place?
This isn’t to say that Xbox Live is the culprit, or that video games in general are at fault here. It’s an issue of how we communicate as a society. If we can hide behind a screen name, or write an anonymous letter, or obscure our identity in some way, it’s almost as if we become a darker version of ourselves at times. It’s unfortunate that video games have taken the blame for a lot of cases like this and I’m not saying that they are being blamed in this tragic situation from a year ago, but I just want everyone to be aware.
Especially if you are a parent or know someone that isn’t mentally developed or healthy, monitor their play time. Not just for the content of the games (violence, sex, vulgarity, etc.) but for the content of the character of the people they will play with. Impressionable minds are even more negatively affected by the evil-hearted gamers they meet on a mic, than the fictional fatalities and felonies they see on a television screen.
Do you agree or disagree with any of our thoughts on the topics of socialization, video games, and violence ? If not, what are your own personal thoughts on the issues addressed in this piece? Feel free to let us know in the comments section below.