In America, neither the left nor the right have an exclusive claim on scapegoating violent video games for some societal ill. Both do it in different ways and for different purposes. But tomorrow, the National Rifle Association is expected to blast games and Hollywood in a response to the Connecticut mass killings last week. It's the gun lobby, after all, and a lot of folks are pissed at it, so this appears to be a cheap attempt to shift the blame.
That's why it's noteworthy that The National Review finds little merit with the idea games deserve regulation, or are proximately to blame here, even if the perpetrators of gun slaughters were avid players of violent games. The National Review is as much a conservative institution as the modern NRA, and has been so for much longer. And its deputy managing editor took time to dismantle the mainstream's easily accepted wisdom that violent games and violent behaviour are linked, even after a Supreme Court ruling shot down laws based on such assumptions.
"Video-game restrictions are much like gun laws: More often than not, they're unlikely to help, unconstitutional, or unfeasible," writes Robert VerBruggen. Extrapolating VerBruggen's point, it seems that a firearms advocate who demands that the government stay out of his gun cabinet — because such meddling is unproductive, unconstitutional, and punishes law-abiding citizens — has no business suggesting that it clamp down on violent video games (or films) for the same reasons.
I may not agree with him, personally, on the feasibility or efficacy of gun control legislation, but if it spares video games from an intellectually dishonest attack in the national conversation that's coming, I'm all for it.
VerBruggen's editorial is worth clipping and saving for reference, as it examines nearly all of the major studies that have shaped this debate and points out how the violent behaviour some games seem to inspire could actually be a product of something else. Similarly, the fact killers like Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, or Anders Behring Breivik, expressed affinity for violent shooters like Doom or Call of Duty may be simply that violent people are attracted to violent games.
It's also worth noting that "violent video games keep violent people occupied - every minute they spend with a controller in their hands is a minute they don't spend hurting others," VerBruggen says. Further, "The people most likely to be violent, young males, are disproportionate consumers of these games. And yet violent-crime rates in this demographic have fallen."
The editorial does point out that Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, a Democrat, has called for regulation of violent video games. And the conservative self-interest may be that, in aligning video games and other protected speech with guns, the public at large will back off on a desire to tighten controls on the latter. The National Review is plainly a partisan publication, as it has every right to be.
But even if The National Review disagrees that gun control will solve the problem of gun violence, it's good to see someone there finds it absurd that game control would do anything more meaningful.
The Folly of Blaming Games [The National Review]