Watch Out, Video Games Will Kill Us All

Guns don't kill people, his words kill people.

Have you heard this news? Guns don't kill people, people don't kill people, but it turns out that video games kill people. In Louisiana this past weekend, an 8-year-old boy grabbed a gun, then shot and killed his elderly caretaker. Right within the body of the Sky News report, it says this:

Neighbour Johnnie Scott said: "Where did she have the gun? Where did he see the gun, was it in his eyesight? That's the thought that goes through my head."

Well, neighbour Johnnie's got it right; those are the most important questions we should be asking about this situation. Others may include, but are not limited to:

– Was the gun already loaded, or did this kid somehow know how to load a gun?
– Did the parents know there was a gun and ammo in the house where they let their young son stay?
– Did the late victim have any conversation with the parents about a gun (presumably her own) being in the house and so readily available to an elementary school kid?

However, at least two news outlets are wanting to turn the story to this little nugget:


In a news writing class, students are taught about the Inverted Pyramid, which means the biggest, most important pieces of information come first, then as the story goes on, the details become gradually more minor. With that in mind, take a second look at the screengrabs above. The part about the video game made it into the headline and the bolded lead-in sentence. How and why a child got a handgun wasn't deemed important enough for such positioning.
You can see how the regular people in the town—the common folks using their heads—are concerned about, you know, the much more dangerous part of the story; the one where a kid had access to a firearm.

But good old CNN, that bastion of quality reporting, steered away from the concerns of actual citizens and basically said, "Yeah, but hey, everyone, let's not forget that he was playing a video game!" Observe:

Media has an undeniable impact on people's thoughts, words, and actions. It's a huge part of any modern culture. You might not think it affects your behavior, but testifying to the contrary is every single time you've ever quoted, remembered, had a dream about, or taken a picture in reference to a movie, TV show, or game. Ever sung a three-sentence parody of a song? There it is. Some of you out there have dressed up as a character from a game or comic book, and that counts too. The clothes that sell are the clothes the movie stars and musicians wear. There's a foundation for the assumption that games are in some way responsible for some untimely deaths, but unfortunately for, well, everyone, that's where it begins and ends: the foundation.


To take this assumption any further is to see it crumble. Kids are indeed young and impressionable, and we've therefore implemented ratings systems in virtually every territory worldwide. In the United States, where this most recent story happened, the shooter was only age 8, yet he played a game rated "M" for "Mature" not to be sold to anyone under 17 due to its graphic content. If you're reading this article on GameRevolution, I probably don't need to tell you how stupid it is that an 8-year-old was given access to this game. I wonder if his caretakers also offer him whiskey and a pack of cigs after a hard day at school, and read bedtime stories out of Penthouse Letters? Some things are made only for adults and are labeled as such because they can have adverse effects on young, under-developed minds and bodies (or in the case of the drugs, worse effects). 


This is all aside from the fact that media influence takes time to set in. When a kid sees something for the very first time, it can be awe-inspiring, interesting, hilarious, scary, or any number of adjectives, but the human mind needs time and repetition to be influenced into involuntary behavior. Kids don't see something on TV and then immediately turn around and start mimicking it. No, that needs time to sink in. Just as important in turning a kid's brain to mush is repetition. A child will generally need to see something several times before imitated behavior comes out. But the news writeups from Sky and CNN make it sound like the boy played GTA for the first time and immediately said, "Holy sweetshitfuck, I have to shoot someone and I have to do it now!"

This raises another question: How often did this kid play Grand Theft Auto? What other violent games has he played? What kind of TV shows and movies does he watch? What kind of music do his parents play around him, or allow him to listen to?

All valid questions, none being addressed in the news. It takes time to gather information, but a proper report should at least mention the idea that other factors have not yet been investigated.


An unfortunate reality of this situation is that our efforts to change the tone of such conversations will take years to make an impact. Comments within the news stories themselves and letters to the editor will, admittedly, only do so much. It's important to call people out (and CNN has heard from me about this story), but it's gonna take years to see any change in these discussions. To my satisfaction, I couldn't find this story on MSNBC or Fox News; they're either late to the party, or have decided this story unfit for print. If it's that latter, that's a victory here. Games are still the new kid on the block compared to movies, magazines, music, and TV. The older generations undoubtedly still don't understand them, and may in some cases outright refuse to do so. Hopefully, as time goes by, people will start focusing on effective parenting rather than strategies to win The Blame Game.

True fact: I even said all of this as a gun owner, my friends. (I owned a pistol when I lived in America.)