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Don't Blame the Game
2005.08.14 (Sun) 21:27
File another one in the Things That Really Piss Us Off category. From ABC News:
A 20-year-old whose lawyers claimed the video game "Grand Theft Auto" and childhood abuse caused him to kill three small-town police officers was convicted Tuesday of capital murder.
Defense lawyers had partly blamed Moore's actions on the hours he spent playing video games from the "Grand Theft Auto" series, in which players shoot police officers and steal cars.
While the judge barred jurors from hearing testimony linking the 2003 shootings to the game, defense lawyer Jim Standridge reminded them that Moore, after his arrest, told police "Life is a video game; everybody has to die sometime."
Officers had taken Moore to police headquarters for booking on a stolen auto charge. Authorities said Moore, who was 18 at the time, grabbed one of the officer's guns and fatally shot all three victims in the head before fleeing in a patrol car.
The victims' families have filed a civil suit against the video game manufacturer and two stores, claiming Moore killed the three after repeatedly playing "Grand Theft Auto III" and "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City." No trial date has been set in the civil lawsuit.
With very few exceptions, everybody knows that it's wrong to kill others. There are a whole bunch of things that we intrinsically know are wrong — not because there is some absolute, objective morality, but because we, as humans, don't want them done to us. Yet, as with so many "bad" things, we're drawn to them despite our certainty that they are, in fact, bad. Most humans have an innate fascination with immoral or unlawful behavior (hence the fascination with crime and judicial proceedings that pervades our mass media). That's exactly why video games like the Grand Theft Auto series are so popular — we actually get to do these things that we all know are wrong, and there are no consequences. The perpetrators and the victims are just fine, when all is said and done — because it's just a game. These games (and their predecessors, the table-top roleplaying games) are a wonderfully safe way to act out such fantasies without causing any harm.
Any person who actually goes and acts out the violence in these games in real life was seriously fucked up to begin with. Sure, it might have been playing the video game that drove this guy to kill police officers, but if he was already fucked in the head, then it could have — in fact, would have — just as easily been anything else that tipped him over the edge. Some people claim that their dog told them to kill people. Should we ban dog ownership? Or if some loon says that their toaster talked to them and made them kill their children, would a nationwide restriction on toasters be in order? Sure, these are silly examples, but it is no more silly to blame dogs and toasters for the actions of fucked up people than it is to blame video games, loud music, roleplaying games, or anything else that is supposedly "E-ville." For an example we could really get behind, how about all those folks who commit murder and claim that God told them to do it? (We can think of one awfully prominent individual whose recent spate of mass murders he claims were mandated by God.) Should we be banning religion because of those few sad individuals? We can guess that the same people who so vehemently cry for the removal of violent video games would be the first in line to oppose any ban on religion (which is historically just as violent).
People who have no socio- or psychopathic tendencies will not suddenly become demonic killers if they play Grand Theft Auto. Likewise, banning Grand Theft Auto simply won't stop psychopaths from killing people — there will always be something that makes them snap, if they're going to snap at all.
There are ridiculous numbers of people who play violent computer games, and the Grand Theft Auto games in particular. Based on the sales figures for those games, if there was any causal relationship between playing them and making non-violent people commit violent crimes, we'd expect the streets of every town in the country to be scenes of bloody carnage and mass hysteria. But that's not the case. Why? Because it's just like plane crash statistics, or subjective validation (which comes up an awful lot in our Rants) — people only remember the few instances in which the correlation did pop up, not the comparitively massive (like black hole massive) number of instances when it did not.
If you want someone to blame, blame the person who committed the crime. Don't blame a game that millions of people play every day without being transformed into depraved, violent killers.
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[ Filed under: % Computers & the Internet % Media & Censorship ]
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