Just before Christmas, Wayne LaPierre, vice president of the NRA, called a press conference to hypocritically deflect any backlash from the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings onto the video game industry. It was all very entertaining, until you realized that they're being entirely serious.
Unfortunately, LaPierre's point of view is shared by enough people to justify an old-fashioned book burning. Except, instead of books, they'll be burning video games.
A crew of volunteers from Southington, Connecticut will set up camp at an old drive-in on January 12th. Community members have been encouraged to drop off their collection of violent video games, which will then be destroyed. Anyone who participates will receive a gift certificate to a local restaurant, an amusement park, or a bowling alley.
"We want to stop the violence in our community," said Charlie Cocuzza, board president of the chamber of commerce. "Those games can cost $60 or $70. So we want to give families a certificate to do something fun and family-oriented, something where they can spend a couple of hours together instead."
The group, who call themselves the Southington SOS community coalition, was quick to stress that they're not necessarily linking video games directly to the Sandy Hook incident, but they do perceive video games as a product that desensitizes children to violence.
"We're not saying the use of video games causes people to become murderers," said Susan Saucier, director of community services in Southington, "but there's evidence that it causes increases in aggressiveness, fear, anxiety and desensitization about actions of violence."
Now, I hate to be argumentative, but Saucier is only partially correct. Yes, a few psychological studies have linked aggressive behavior to video game consumption, but far more contradict these findings. In fact, Dr. Christopher J. Ferguson of Texas A&M published a study in 2007 finding that many of these anti-gaming studies have a built-in “publishing bias.” Even so, we can easily demonstrate that even while the popularity of violent video games is on the rise, violent behavior is moving the opposite direction. So burning video games isn’t going to solve anything.
I understand the motivation to make some drastic societal changes in the wake of a tragedy like the Sandy Hook shooting, but we need to keep our eye on the ball here. Burning video games because you don't approve of the content is not a valid reaction to the problem. In fact, some would argue that it only fuels the fire—pardon the pun.
If we really want to change the way society feels about violence, it's going to happen through education and scientific research, not by cutting people off from a form of artistic entertainment. That's going to have the opposite effect.
Date: January 3, 2013