Thursday, December 20, 2012

How Responsible is Starcraft for Sandy Hook?

Article first published as How Responsible is Starcraft for Sandy Hook? on Technorati.

No one can deny the loss suffered in Newtown Connecticut last week.  It was perpetrated by a disturbed individual with no regard for life, including his own.   His actions made more egregious than even Columbine or Aurora by his choice of victim.  Young children, whose lives had just begun, viciously cut short in an instant.  Survivors, whose innocence forever ripped away must now carry the weight of a memory that will never leave them.

There is no denying this single event is unrivaled in recent American History.  Unfortunately, thrown in with public outcries for stricter gun control is the tired rhetoric of the role of violent video games in this type of tragedy.    Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia has a bill in congress in the wake of Sandy Hook to study the impact of violent video games specifically targeting their impact on children. From his introduction of the bill on Wednesday,

"...some people still do not get it," he continued "They believe that violent video games are no more dangerous to young minds than classic literature or Saturday morning cartoons. Parents, pediatricians, and psychologists know better. These court decisions show we need to do more and explore ways Congress can lay additional groundwork on this issue. This report will be a critical resource in this process."

The bill was prompted by reports that Adam Lanza, responsible for the Sandy Hook murders, "may" have played video games like "Call of Duty" and "Starcraft." 

Just as in the Columbine and Aurora incidents we again find video games at the center of controversy.  Frankly, as horrific as Sandy Hook was, it seems we're again searching for the easy scapegoat.  When we act out of emotion, reason has no quarter. 

It's more likely that the good Senator from West Virginia is the one who truly, "doesn't get it."

Just as in Columbine the perpetrator was an individual with a history of emotional and psychiatric issues.  In the case of Adam Lanza, his mother Nancy Lanza (also a victim) was seeking to have him institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital.  Lanza's conflict with his mother, not video games, is a leading theory to explain Sandy Hook.

TCP55VT30 BundleOf course for politicians and media types, anything that even suggests a violent theme must be a contributing factor when a tragedy like this occurs.  A disturbed and bullied teenager is far less interesting than the prospect of that same teenager being driven to madness by the likes of "Starcraft."  Starcraft, by the way is a real time strategy video game more akin to the classic board game "Risk" than the movie "Natural Born Killers." 

In the end Starcraft might as well be Farmville with explosions.  To suggest it's in any way a foundation for mass murder is nothing less than political theater born of sloppy thinking. 

It's far easier to point our collective finger at the symptoms rather than the ailment.  After all, it requires less reflection on our own actions.  In the case of Columbine for example, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were  two disturbed teenagers whose fascination with violent themes was blamed on the video game "Doom."  Only later was it revealed that both had a history of run-ins with the law and psychiatric issues.
Issues exacerbated by frequent bullying and isolation from their peers as well as inattentive parents.  Over a decade later the detrimental effects of bullying have only recently entered the public consciousness when it became a "cause célèbre." 

Here we're presented with yet another example of the fallacy of the straw man.  Be it for political gain or intellectual laziness we prefer the sensational to the rational.  Our preferred solution is always biased toward avoiding our own complicity in the cause.  Think about how many times you looked away when action was required or shunned another because they didn't fit our vision of "normal."  In those actions we sow the seeds of tragedy. 

The ramifications of indifference rarely rise to level of a Sandy Hook but exact a toll just the same.  Blaming an entertainment medium is nothing more than a distraction that allows us to remain in the shallow reality of some idyllic societal norm.

At some point we have to admit that It's not the game, it's the player.

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