There is much talk these days about violence in video games desensitizing kids to the reality of the effects of discharging a firearm. I have some very serious doubts about that but I do have some thoughts on the modern day militaristic video games; some pro, and some con.
It is nice that the manufacturers label the games with not only an age recommendation but also a description of the content. My theory is as long as there is no sexual content; I don’t have a problem with it. My son knows that if there is vulgar language, he must turn the volume down completely. He always says “I have heard it all at school,” and then I remind him that his eight year old sister is in the room. So in eliminating sex and foul language, we are left with moving a joy stick and seeing enemy soldiers drop on a TV screen. I don’t see a whole lot of desensitizing going on.
Anyone who thinks that pushing a button on a controller is anything like pulling a trigger on a firearm, has never fired a gun or is using some serious hallucinogenic narcotics. Guns are very loud and they really recoil.
There are no video games on the civilian market that come anywhere close to replicating that. So after the first round goes off any desensitizing should be gone. Furthermore, the victim of that first round is bleeding real blood and screaming very loudly, or is just plain dead. If someone can’t tell that this is reality, they have issues way beyond being desensitized and must be delusional. If someone can tell that this is real and they keep on shooting they are called sociopaths, and they didn’t get this way from video games.
The kids who shot up Columbine High School, the Virginia Tech shooter, and the nut case who shot the congresswoman and others in Arizona all had something in common and it wasn’t video games! They were/are all insane. They all needed help and should have been institutionalized until they were thoroughly cured.
But there is another factor that video games don’t desensitize you to, it is called returned fire! You have to wonder if any of these, or any other number of shooters would have had a reality wake-up call if bullets started whizzing past their head, taking chunks out of the wall next to them, or, in a perfect world, burning a whole into their body. You don’t get that from video games. There is no reset button work in the real world either.
Now I am not suggesting that we make games where you really get Tazered when you get hit in the game. Although it could be cool! (If someone out there runs with this idea remember I get a royalty.) What I am suggesting and I know I am not the first, is that if one person, anywhere in the vicinity of any of these shootings, had a permit to carry there would have only been one or two casualties at the most. Just think of the lives that could have been saved!
Hey if someone had stopped Colin Ferguson from shooting on the Long Island Railroad, it not only would have saved lives, but it would have saved us from having a Congresswoman from New York named McCarthy.
Now I said that I had some “cons” with video games, so here they are: in most of the games I observe, especially the online variety, they strongly encourage constant forward movement. I tell my son, “Hey you are in a good spot with great fields of fire, hunker down and watch for a minute,” to which he retorts, “No camping, Dad.” Apparently forward momentum is required. Granted there are many situations where that makes sense (i.e. an amphibious assault across a beach) but not the all the time. Shoot and move until you die, as seems to be the case; we may be training a whole new generation of Audie Murphy’s.
Another issue that never gets taught is ammunition conservation – maybe it is because they die before they ever run out of bullets!
That being said, there are some benefits and accidental learning going on. One benefit is that these kids will make great UAV pilots. On the learning front, I particularly like the historical settings used in some scenarios.
One is set in Stalingrad, and is quite impressive. I talk to my son about Stalingrad while he is playing the game and point out different things in the game. He thought that he was just playing a game, but in reality he was getting a subliminal history lesson. Finally, these gamers are learning a lot about a plethora of real firearms, both historic and current. Some may question the value in that, but as for me, I like it.
Since the beginning of time, kids have been playing “war.” The names have changed but if you went back in time you would, no doubt, find kids in ancient Greece playing some version of combat. Boys will be boys, whether it is Greeks vs. Persians, Cowboys vs. Indians, Russians vs. Chechnyians. When I was young, we pointed sticks at each other and said “Bang- bang you’re dead” and now they use video games. In essence, I really don’t see that much of a difference.
Eric J. Andringa