The White House hosted a meeting Thursday to discuss the most dangerous threat to America — violent video games.
President Trump’s administration even released a video to highlight how violent today’s games are. Unfortunately for the White House, it came off more like an ad for these games.
It’s a fitting result for the ridiculous dredging up of this 1990s moral panic. Video games have been blamed for mass shootings ever since Columbine, and many conservatives have argued they need to be further restricted or flat-out banned in the wake of the Parkland shooting.
We put our kids at too much of a risk by allowing games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto to exist, so the argument goes.
But there are already restrictions in place to keep kids from buying graphic violent. In order to purchase a game rated Mature, you have to be at least 18. It’s not like 10-year-old can just walk out of a store with the game that allows them to chainsaw innocent civilians.
So the next step would be to ban the games, which is incredibly dumb. The majority of American households include a frequent gamer and the average age of male gamers is 35. For women it’s 44.
The vast majority of people playing these games are not troubled teens but adults.
Conservatives have a lot of problems arguing this position, besides the inconclusive studies showing a link between games and real-world violence.
Arguing that the few bad apples justify getting rid of violent video games is a similar argument to the one gun control proponents make. Because a few crazy people — who usually are precluded from owning firearms by law, but the system fails to ensure that — may use guns to murder, we must take guns from the 99.999999 percent of law-abiding gun owners.
That’s the exact same argument conservatives make when they want to ban violent video games. Just because teens might be negatively influenced by video games, we have to make sure 30-year-olds can’t play Wolfenstein.
The other problem with wanting to ban video games is that it undermines conservative support for free speech. We can’t chastise college students for shutting down right-leaning speakers because their ideas are too offensive when we want to ban bloody video games. Like offensive ideas, mature people should be able to handle make-believe violence without becoming violent themselves.
Conservatives look silly when they say they stand for the First Amendment and embrace censorship.
Especially when they themselves enjoy violent media.
Millions of American adults, particularly working in media, enjoy television shows like “Game of Thrones,” “Westworld” and “The Walking Dead” — all shows that depict violence more extreme than anything found in the White House video. Basic cable features violence that would have never made it into R-rated movies only a generation ago.
Back in the 1990s, adults could at least say they were disgusted by the extreme violence of Doom and Natural Born Killers and not feel hypocritical. Today, when they gleefully tweet out about the gruesome executions happening in this week’s episode of “Game of Thrones,” it looks hypocritical when they huff about headshots in “Call of Duty.”
Additionally, many violent video games, such as the Elders Scrolls series, promote more conservative values than the television shows loved by adults. Call of Duty, for instance, is considered a valuable recruitment tool by the U.S. military.
That’s not to say there aren’t problems with millions of teenagers playing video games all day long, but the problem isn’t the video games. Kids turn to games to escape from the pressures and anxieties of daily life. Taking away the games are not going to resolve absent parents or the intense loneliness some of these kids feel.
Spending long hours playing video games is a symptom of larger social problems, not a cause of them.
It would be much better for Republicans to focus on restoring the family than banning video games. A lonely kid with no father is not going to magically turn into an upright citizen because he has no violent computer games to play.
Republicans are right to argue against liberals’ gun control push in the wake of the Parkland shooting, but it is stupid to deflect the blame to video games. Neither banning AR-15s nor banning violent games is going to convince a troubled kid from turning to murder.