This is a subject that has annoyed me for many years. First of all, I’d just like to say…How very easy and convenient it must be for people to be able to lay the blame for mental illness and/or a lack of parenting and/or a lack of personal responsibility on the doorstep of video games. It takes a severe lack of imagination, or at least a good imagination, to use video games, television, and movies as an explanation for why people do dumb things.
I’d like to open my topic by saying that I am by no means, an expert clinician on mental illness. I only have my familial experiences and examples to go by. Haha. I kid. Sort of. My undergrad is in English and I only took intro to psychology. Still, I would like to claim a sort of expert-ship when it comes to gaming. I’ve been playing video games since the original Atari. I even played the black and white Pong but I think that was a little after it was initially introduced. I played The Oregon Trail in elementary school on a Commodore 64. I’ve played games on every Playstation console and almost every Nintendo console. I admit to never having had a Sega or Xbox though. I put my foot down against the Xbox because we already had a Wii and the PS3. I also game on a PC, Mac, iPod/phone, and iPad as well. Suffice it to say, I’ve been playing video games the majority of my life. I still play some sort of game at least once a week and participate in the gaming world via Twitter and blogs. Yup. I’m a geek or nerd or whatever you want to call it. I am joined by millions. We are legion. Deal with it.
I’ve played a variety of games from first person shooters to MMO fantasy games to platform games to simulation games to role playing games. I’ve even played a few sports games even though I’m not a sports fan. I can’t think of a genre of video game that I haven’t played or at least tried. AND LO AND BEHOLD!!! I’ve never felt compelled to get a gun and kill actual people. I've never gone on a hunt for elves or gnomes. I have also never developed a gaming compulsion.
I’ve known people that have had a compulsion to play video games. All of them have said that their compulsion had roots in another problem or issue in their life. For instance, one person said that his/her gaming compulsion stemmed from issues with his/her father (this person was 19 at the time of their gaming affliction). The game became a place to hide, a place to avoid confronting the real problem. Another person said that they had a generally addictive personality. Video games weren’t the first, nor were they the last, addiction that this person had to overcome.
I have to say that I’ve never known someone who translated actions in a game to real life like the criminals we’ve been hearing about in the news. Most people understand that something that is animated, such as video games, isn’t real and isn’t an example by which to live their lives.
How many millions of people who play video games every day and aren’t criminals are there versus the people that play video games and have committed violent crimes because of them?
I’m not saying that there are not inappropriate games, at least in my subjective opinion, out there. Personally, for my family, Grand Theft Auto and all of its incarnations, aren’t allowed in our home. You know why? Because the Mister and I actively parent our children. Still, offensive, objectionable, unacceptable, inappropriate, are all subjective words. What I call offensive someone else might not and vice versa.
I’m also not saying that in some instances, video games cannot play a part in the motivation behind a violent crime. But I am saying, in my inexpert psychological opinion, that even if games have been part of the drive behind a crime, that it is only one piece of a diverse and complicated puzzle. People that have the ability to pick up a gun and kill innocent strangers have way more complicated problems than the video games that they play or the movies that they watch.
My point being is that of all the people that I have known of that have had addictive issues with video games have all had other underlying personality flaws and/or mental instability(s) and/or social issues. They have all said that if it hadn’t been video games, it would have been something else. These people had the ability to take personal responsibility for their actions despite everything else they had to deal with which is more than you can say about most people. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, we are a society full of people with an inability to take personal responsibility for our actions and pass the blame off onto someone or something else. Today, it’s video games, yesterday it was guns, who knows what it will be tomorrow. How about we all take an old fashioned look at our values and personal ethics for a change. If you think I'm wrong, some of my opinions here are supported by someone who is an expert. Read this article on video game addiction/compulsion.
It would be a breath of fresh air if people could demonstrate that they possess common sense. And I’m not talking about the criminals here.