I Heart Violence – Written April 23, 2003

I hate beginning an essay by tearing apart another work, but in this case it is necessary based upon my required assignment. John and Nana Naisbitt, along with Douglass Phillips, have a totally misconstrued idea about American culture and the age of electronics. Their argument starts out with a quote from the memoirs of the Columbine High School shooting duo that is quickly (and unjustly) linked to the Doom video game. As an avid video game buff, as well as an ardent fan of violence, I am forced to question a lot of the claims made here about violent video games and their attachment to violence. One of the only things that is true in Naisbitt’s essay is the idea of video game addiction – when a game is being played one does not want to quit, and when there is a better game on the market one must get it. My point is simple: the idea that the killers in Littleton made an explicit reference to video game violence in relation to their killing spree is ridiculous. Though the games may have played a role in the specific actions that were taken, they did not beget the violent nature within the killers at Columbine.

The Columbine Massacre occurred on April 20, 1999, and according to Naisbitt, the kids were playing Doom, a game that was released in 1993. Since the initial marketing of Doom, the undisputed springboard for 3D shooter games, until the Columbine Massacre there were three other crucial games added to what is “classic” 3D shooter gaming: Duke Nukem 3D (1996), Quake (1996), and Quake II (1997).

Homicides and aggravated assaults have dropped for six consecutive years in the City of Los Angeles. In 1997 [the year Quake II was released], homicides and aggravated assaults were down 4.7 percent from the 1996 totals. The declines in 1993 [the year Doom was released], 1994, and 1996 [the year Duke Nukem 3D and Quake were released] were even more significant at 8.5 percent, 7.1 percent, and 9.2 percent respectively.

During the 1990s, crime rates in New York City dropped dramatically, even more than in the United States as a whole. Violent crime declined by more than 56 percent in the City, compared to about 28 percent in the nation as whole. Property crimes tumbled by about 65 percent, but fell only 26 percent nationally.

The totals of the two most major cities in our nation have had dramatic declines in the all crime rates, and the country as a whole has had a 25% drop in violent crime in the last ten years. After doing some more digging, I came to find out that crime as a whole has actually been increasing at a steady rate since about 1975, but violent crime has decreased in the 1990s and continues to fall today.

Concluding my heavy bashing of Naisbitt’s argument, I would like to mention how horrible his statements about Natural Born Killers and Marilyn Manson are. I would argue foremost that John Naisbitt (a former CEO of multiple corporations) would automatically dislike Oliver Stone’s portrayals of reality and Marilyn Manson’s concepts of social revolution just because of who he is and the sort of “status-quo” he adheres to. Naisbitt began his career just as crime began to rise in this country and the generation before him was blaming the hippies for it, so it is honestly no surprise that he is trying to pass the buck to my generation. If they don’t blame it on video games, they’ll blame it on drugs or gangs (all problems that have been dumped on my generation, not made by us). It all really comes down to Naisbitt’s lack of understanding in regards to violent video games.

I have grown up with violent video games. Even as I type this, I can hear my roommates beating each other to pieces at a video game. Some games are extremely graphic – in one it is possible to dismember and disembowel opponents. Some portray hand-to-hand combat like Mortal Kombat, others are first-person shooters like Halo, and others are full-scale war simulators like Command & Conquer. Lately, hand-to-hand combat is favored over the other two; mêlées allow for great competitions to arise. Now that times have changed, there are loads of new games that have been created and certainly there are games that are more popular than others. It’s so much easier now to improve your ranking on a game. For example, if you were to play a game like League of Legends you could go on LoL-Smurfs.com to help you progress quickly through the game. In the 90s this wasn’t even a thing, but now that gaming is so much more popular it’s a necessity with the amount of people that game. Even when I played it with my friends there were plenty of us who were interested in games. Our living room seats about seven people comfortably and there are times when every seat will be filled and people will be playing “King of the Mountain” on Dead or Alive III.

There is a kind of empowerment when you use your perfect Jeet Kune Do or Karate or Kung Fu or Ninjitsu skill to lay all competition to waste. Just imagine sitting there, staring at a TV watching a character that, to you and everyone else in the room, is in every aspect you. Though it does not resemble you in physical form, the style is very characteristic. Each person inherently acts certain ways – some people continuously attack while others will constantly act defensively. You can not help but fight exactly as you would against the other person in real life. And so you go around the room, beating the hell out of all your best friends, many of whom could kill you in real life, but you have now dominated in a video game. They are not dead in real life, but they each know that in the video game world they would be if you were around.

And then someone better than you sits down and kicks you into next week. You take the absolute beating of your life – your skills are not worth anything now, you can’t even block what this person is throwing, let alone attack them. Everyone in the room laughs and says, “Whoa, she just beat the crap out of you, dude!” and you laugh as well because the girl that just whomped you weighs less than a hundred pounds. You don’t want to fight your best friend’s girlfriend, even though she just knocked you around like a rag doll in a video game. I don’t want to shoot people, even though I tell people how I’m going to vaporize them in James Bond or Halo.

Switch the channel to Pulp Fiction or Natural Born Killers or CNN’s 24 Hour Coverage of America blowing Iraq up – it’s all the same. Listening to Cop Killa’ doesn’t make you want to go kill a cop, it makes you think, “Wow, this guy has obviously feels so wronged by the system that he has the need to lash out violently against it,” and to be honest, I can totally understand that (the hatred of the system, not the cop killing). People that say, “In order to like a song, you must agree with all of its premises,” drive me insane; I love Rage Against the Machine, but I hate Socialism. Songs and movies and games don’t make me want to attack people: people make me want to attack people. People piss me off every day, and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have violent thoughts about at least one person each day. Luckily, I am not crazy enough to go and do any of them, but some people are. Society’s problem is that we breed crazy people – Columbine would have never happened had all the meat-headed jocks and all the “cool kids” at the school hadn’t instigated the shooters, who were definitely crazy. I have personally seen more juiceheads lash out violently than kids that listen to “gothic rock,” and I have a real problem with those that try to say that portrayals of violence on a screen is bad but a group of guys pounding on each other after school every day is fine (e.g. football or wrestling).

In ancient England, a method of torturous execution was to crush a person to death with a large wheel, starting with the fingers and moving in toward the torso until the person died a rather painful death. In Tasmania, they would lower a person into a pit a starved Tasmanian Devils by their hands, which were tied behind their back (forcing them to break their arms and go in feet first or simply go in head first with no protection). One French method of torture/death was to cut open a man’s scrotum and tie his testicles to two different horses; after that they tied each of his limbs to a different horse. These people didn’t need video games and movies to make them think of some totally sick sadistic stuff, they just needed to be crazy. If I didn’t see handguns in video games and movies, they would still exist, and I would still wish I had one.

Obviously I agree with Pober’s idea about video games being “a social medium, a social vehicle to talk to other kids,” because I do it all the time. I have never had a fight with my roommates, and we beat each other up every single day in multiple video games. Some days, when people aren’t around, we will just sit and play a game by ourselves and kill the computer – it’s just as soothing. And there are even ways to get over the frustrating times at a start of a game, you can pay someone to do all the hard work for you. That’s why there are sites like Unranked Smurfs to help you have more free time. I find it so aggravating when people like Dr. Kline make playing video games alone a bad thing. They aren’t complaining about girls that play with dolls alone or people that like to read alone; playing games alone is great, one can learn a lot about one’s self.

I would say that Naisbitt’s ideas about parents using electronics as babysitters for their kids is totally valid and an excellent point. I also think addiction to video games is very real. My parent’s generation created video games for my generation not knowing what it would do to us; we are now freaks of nature compared to what our parents were at our age. We are aware of much more because we have been exposed to more through many facets of media, and this has made my generation very clever creatures. When parents let their child be raised by television, they are allowing that child to be raised by society. Sitting a kid in front of a TV is like letting them walk around downtown. It would be a better idea if the parents are with them because there’s some stuff out there they don’t want to have their child exposed to. But it’s in our living rooms, our bedrooms, or kitchens, or bathrooms, our basements, our cars, our billboards – everywhere. How can something that’s everywhere be harmful? A clever retort would be an example regarding ultra-violet rays, but let’s be honest – to much of anything makes one an addict. And if you’re as addicted to video games as I am, my friend recently got a portable gaming laptop and it is great. He brought it over and we bashed out some classics on it we hooked it up to my TV and could play anything on it because it was so powerful. But I digress.

I am addicted to lots of things in my life, not the least of which is video games. I am also addicted to love, hate, and a variety of recreational activities and substances. There mere statistics should indicate what’s going on – my generation is being exposed to more violence and we are finding better ways to deal with it. We are playing more games, watching more movies, and getting presented with all sorts of violence in various forms. And violent crime is down. Sure, there are a few isolated incidents of crazy people who kill people – the generation before us had Manson, Bundy, the Son of Sam – I don’t blame the Beatles or anyone else for these guys killing people: they were crazy, just like people are today. Our society needs to start thinking about how we treat each other and how we can prevent each other from going crazy and stop worrying about insignificant things like video games. If people think about it, games like the now hugely popular “Minecraft” was released in 2009 and since then has garnered many millions of players, daily playing online with each other thanks to online servers as seen on sites like Epic Minecraft Servers and others, have we seen an increase in children and young adults wanting to build structures or become architects? Why do people make the same link to violence from violent video games?

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