Video Games, Violence, and the "Mainstream Media"Gamasutra's Mike Rose
wrote an interesting piece, Video Games and Gun Violence: A Year After Sandy Hook
). If you forgot: Violent video games were found in the residence of the Sandy Hook shooter, news outlets and talking heads blamed video games, Barack Obama tasked Joe Biden with investigating links between violent video games and violent behavior, and... well, nothing. No (government-funded) study was ever conducted, the news dropped the issue, and everyone forgot about it.
It's fine if you didn't follow this closely because it's a similar cycle to what happens after every mass-shooting: Young person kills others with guns, video games blamed for the violence, no change is made to the video game industry.
Rose and Gamasutra took issue with people in the biz who met with Biden, saying that it was an admission of guilt. They also target the Mainstream Media for repeatedly blaming acts of violence on video games, and that blaming their industry is redirection attention away from gun laws.
If that comment sounds familiar, it's because it's the same one gun rights advocates say: Mainstream Media repeatedly blames acts of violence on firearms, and blaming their industry is redirecting attention away from violent media.
I'm not going to get into this
debate (where I might mention video games have never been conclusively linked to violent acts, whereas guns are linked to 100% of gun violence) because I think both sides are missing the point: Mainstream Media is to blame for violence in Mainstream Media.
Instead of targeting the whole of Mainstream Media, let's focus on news media.
Years ago, I fell in love with Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death,
a curmudgeonly reaction to television, circa 1985. His basic thesis is that TV news is no different than anything else on TV -- just entertainment.
I am very familiar with TV news -- I used to watch and report on local and national news for a living. And Postman is totally correct. TV news exists for no other reason than to keep you watching through the commercial breaks. There's sexy news, funny news, scary news, stupid news, boring news, and most-importantly VIOLENT NEWS.
Some people like violent video games or violent movies... and some people like violent news. That's how they get their fix -- watching awful stuff on the news. Whether people get thrills from Call of Duty headshots or watching Nancy Grace berate a woman to suicide, it's the same violence.
So why would the Mainstream Media portray the gun lobby and the video game industry (simultaneously, apparently) as the people to blame for Sandy Hook? Because that's what makes money.
Mainstream Media is just doing what it does -- the same reason Colt still makes firearms and Activision still makes Call of Duty.We shouldn't be concerned when the Mainstream Media creates scapegoats for a few minutes -- We should be concerned that nobody cares enough to do anything, ever.