Students in a school in Florida are being encouraged to throw out violent video games, along with signing pledges in which they state they will no longer play specific games to protest against virtual violence. The effort to “send a message against violence” has seen middle school students participating in the “Violent Video Game Toss,” a campaign in which they’re encouraged to throw away their mature-rated games in the midst of the ongoing debate surrounding gun control in the US.
In the wake of the shooting in Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, politicians and the NRA have attempted to turn the focus onto video games and other forms of entertainment, shifting the blame away from guns in the process. Rekindling an argument that previously reached a boiling point in the ’90s, those who do not wish to see new gun control laws enforced are pointing at violent video games as a root cause of mass shootings, with some US students taking this belief on board.
In a report from WSVN, some Cushman School students spoke about why they were protesting against violent games. “I think it’s important because if you play violent video games, you’re gonna have a really bad mindset, and you won’t be able to focus on your schoolwork,” one student said. “And that’s important, so you can get into a good college.”
Parents and teachers are behind the campaign, with headteacher Arvi Balseiro praising the students’ initiative.
“We believe every student, beyond even Cushman’s blue gates, belongs to each one of us,” Balseiro said. “These are the students who are going to become the leaders of tomorrow and developing a healthy growth mindset that will come back and contribute positively to this community and beyond becomes a responsibility for every single one of us.”
While students being aware of the influence of media is a beneficial thing for them to learn, responding to the Florida shootings by way of making a stand against virtual violence seems misguided. “We wanted to make a change after the shooting,” one student said. “So we decided to get a group of people together to throw away all their games.”
Games are given an age rating for a reason, and though some underage gamers inevitably get their hands on titles not intended for their consumption, the link between violent video games and real-world violence has never been proven. With there being no direct causation between violent games and actual violence, targeting the likes of Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto is detracting from the larger, more pertinent issues that lead to mass shootings.
President Donald Trump is reportedly holding a meeting with the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) in order to discuss video game violence. In a statement given to Polygon, the ESA said: “The upcoming meeting at the White House, which ESA will attend, will provide the opportunity to have a fact-based conversation about video game ratings, our industry’s commitment to parents, and the tools we provide to make informed entertainment choices.”
Image Credit: Gage Skidmore