On Sunday, US member of parliament Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats' leader in the House of Representatives, went on Fox News and deflected blame from violent video games as a serious, actual cause of mass shootings in the United States. "In Japan, for example, they have the most violent games and the lowest death-mortality-from guns."
Now here's Martin Short, the actor and entertainer, appearing on CTV News to say much the same thing. Actually, he says exactly the same thing.
"So now there's this desire to say, 'Oh, it's because of violent video games.' Well, Japan has the most violent video games in the world, and they have a very low homicide rate."
When we ran the Pelosi clip on Monday, there was about as much backlash to the idea of Japan being demonised as the home of violent video games as there has been to the scapegoating of those games, whatever their origin, in America's look-for-any-cause-other-than-guns debate over gun violence.
So on one hand, it's nice to have this as an argumentative rebuttal, as it makes a broad generalisation, reduces a complicated issue to a very simple statement, doesn't source its material, and picks a scapegoat that is even more removed from the matter at hand. The NRA and the politicians on its payroll have a black belt in this kind of verbal judo, and it's nice to see them served with the same thing they spew.
But the problem in this charade is how so many others — politicians, lobbyists and assorted agenda pushers — do the most speaking for video games. Is there any basis to the statement that Japan's games are notoriously and distinctly violent? I'm opposed to saying so on the basis of it being an opinion, primarily, that is difficult to measure objectively (ESRB rating? ESRB rating with a "blood and gore" descriptor?) On the other, Ninja Gaiden is an undeniably violent series. Madworld was proudly blood-soaked. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is coming up next week, and it'll feature dismemberments galore too.
Do Japanese games deserve this label? If not, can we morally engage this debate with dirty pool, knowing that if we don't, the other side will still be spewing lies and intellectually dishonest shit like this, without any remorse?