Cutting Through the Dung-Pile

    It isn’t easy coming up with topics sometimes. In fact, it can be really difficult.

    You see, I have this philosophy about Garwulf’s Corner: I believe that you, my dear readers, are intelligent human beings who want to read about something just a bit more important and insightful than another strategy guide. So, I delve deep into the issues, looking for that little bright gem in the dung-pile that I can hold up in the air and declare: “This is worth talking about! What do you mean I smell bad?”

    So, I began thinking that I would take the computer game magazines to task; after all, the last time I had been a regular reader, they had been of relatively little substance. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

    But then GameSpot, which is run by Computer Gaming World, went and did a very interesting article about the effects of removing children from violent media, and shot that idea right out from under me.

    I thought of perhaps doing one about the walking dead, but having already written two about those creatures already, a third might be going a bit far (no doubt there are one or two walking dead people just waiting for me to show myself so that they can do something nasty to me, such as force me to read a Robert Jordan series from start to finish with no sleep allowed).

    Besides, once I start re-using column ideas on a regular basis, I’ll become a bit dead inside myself. And if there’s something I can’t stand, it’s hypocrisy.

    Back to that GameSpot article: it was a very interesting piece. You see, some researchers took one group of children and removed them from violent or violence-inducing media (Schwartzenegger movies, Quake-style games, Barney the Purple Dinosaur, etc.), and then compared that group to a control group that had gone along as merry as can be, nothing changed in their life except for strange people occasionally asking them bizarre questions.

    The group that had been removed from violent media became less aggressive in the classroom than the control group. The research team declared that it would continue their studies to see if there was any further correlation. The computer game industry, in light of these findings, decided to take further steps to ensure that game ratings are enforced.

    Now, while this was interesting, what was even more interesting was the replies the GameSpot article got. Most of them tried to debunk the article entirely, while some of them blamed the gaming industry for all of life’s ills. Few, if any, actually got the point of the article.

    As I said: hypocrisy. I can’t stand it.

    For crying out loud, there is going to be a correlation between violent media and real-life violence. A child may understand that what they see in Star Wars is fake, but it still exposes them to the violence. The lessons that these sorts of media teach is that violence is often a better way of dealing with a problem than a non-violence means.

    And, in most cases, there is nothing wrong with this on the studio end. Granted, this excludes the recent stink of those studio heads who were marketing R-rated movies to 10 year-olds, for which I think the studio heads should be shot, but let’s look at this objectively. The studios make the films and TV shows. They do not force people to watch them. For the most part, the only crime the studios are guilty of is that of creating stupid movies for the lowest common denominator (but that is for another column).

    Turn that to computer games. As I look at the Diablo II box, I see a warning sticker: the game is rated “M,” and is for mature gamers only. The same with Demonsbane, my e-book. Demonsbane is incredibly graphic, to the point that it gives Braveheart a run for its money. And, on the cover, it clearly states that it is for mature audiences, a move I fully support.

    Imagine my shock and horror when a thirteen year-old kid declared on the Pocket Books website that they intended to buy it. And, I have no doubt that his parents gave him their credit card number so that he could do it.

    I’ve got an even better one for you: how in the name of God did a thirteen year-old kid find out enough about Diablo to know about Demonsbane in the first place? Both games were rated “M” for their graphic content.

    I’ll tell you how: parents. There is no such thing as a thirteen year-old who has the financial resources to afford a game like Diablo II when it comes out (for that matter, there are some adults who don’t have those resources, myself included at times). And there is no such thing as a young kid with a legitimate credit card.

    Back to the GameSpot article again. Here are those same parents, the ones who let little Johnny play an M-rated game because it’s “just a game,” vigorously arguing that violent media have nothing to do with real-life violence.

    To a degree, they are right. When a teenager goes and shoots up a school, s/he is set off by something. However, if they are at the point where they COULD go and start killing people in real-life, then they are not well-adjusted in the first place. If Quake doesn’t set them off, then something else will; it is just a matter of time.

    Those disasters, those tragic deaths that could have been prevented if a parent or authority figure had actually been paying attention and noticed that there was something wrong with little Tommy, are not the fault of violent media. Violence or neglect in the home bear far more blame.

    As I said, to a degree the article’s detractors are right. But only to a degree. A person’s personality is informed by their experiences. If they come from a loving home where they were exposed to non-violent media more often than the ultra-violent movie, they will be well-adjusted members of society. If, on the other hand, they are constantly watching R-rated films and playing Quake, a higher degree of aggression can be expected. They probably won’t go and shoot ten people at school, but they might try to fight their way out of a tricky situation rather than talk it through.

    What gets me is that this vocal group of parents (and whether they are the minority or majority, I do not know) vigorously denied that violence begets violence. No doubt, when they receive a call from the school telling them that little Johnny is in the principal’s office for fighting, they’ll blame the computer game.

    As I said: hypocrisy.

    The computer game is NOT to blame. It is a thing, a toy, and one that is clearly marked for an appropriate age group. The idiot father or mother who bought the game for their 12 year-old, blithely unaware that the nice little warning label might just be there for a reason, bears the blame. All of the after-effects, the greater aggression, could be avoided if the parents would spend time with their kids, rather than letting the computer do it for them. They are the ones that put the game into underage hands, and they are the ones who bear the responsibility of any ill effects.

    You know, I think that if there was more responsibility and less hypocrisy, the world would actually be a better place.

    Next issue:  “Changing the Guard”, in which the author contemplates the loss of one of Fantasy’s finest.

    Disclaimer: Garwulf’s Corner was written by Robert B. Marks and hosted by Diii.net. The views expressed in this column are those of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of Diii.net.

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