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The Blame Game IV: Scapegoat Edition


It's Christmas. It's the end of the year holidays. It's happy times. I'm in Cape Town and all I want to do is spend the day at the beach; a plan shared by thousands of other coast bound South Africans. But I won't be doing that.

Instead I find myself sitting in front of my computer fuming that a hobby I partake in on a daily basis is once again being treated as the scapegoat of some asshole's murderous rampage. It's getting tiring having to defend my pastime from these accusations. So this is the last time I write anything about games and the violence they supposedly inspire.

I have deliberately tried to keep myself ignorant of this most recent mass murder rampage in America. I don't know how many people were killed, I don't know specifically where it happened, I don't know if it the attacker was arrested or committed suicide. But staying ignorant of this whole affair is rather impossible in a world this connected.

There are people that will accuse me of being heartless, of lacking sympathy for the victims of this tragedy. I'm not heartless or without empathy. I am a parent, with children of my own and I would be devastated if something happened to any of them. I simply don't know these people well enough to care about their personal tragedy. And it should stay their personal tragedy. Something that they need to come to deal with on their own terms, in their own time. And not at the speed of the news cycle.

And that's the problem right there, the news cycle. This incessant buzzing of the news media trying to sell these peoples grief for some ad money. It's deplorable. But of course the victims of this tragedy aren't inclined to plaster their pain all over the newspapers and TV screens, certainly not now while its all still so raw. But the media needs to talk about it somehow and inevitably they start speculating on the Why of it all. And as we know, in the 21st century the Why is Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, Activision, EA, Ubisoft et al.

When the news first broke that there'd been a shooting, I said to my wife: "Wait twenty minutes. The words video and games will come up soon". I would really have liked to be wrong just this once.

Video games taking the fall for the actions of a mad man isn't new information. It's an inevitability. And this time, like every time, the accusation is as baseless as it ever was. It is a talking point. A tool that the news media can call on to prolong a discussion that has already run its course. The news anchors and producers don't believe it an more than you or I do. Which makes the accusation even more pathetic.

In this particular instance, my twitter timeline informs me that the killer was supposedly inspired by Dynasty Warriors and Starcraft 2. Yes, really. Dynasty Warriors and Starcraft 2. Now I'm not saying those two games don't contain violence, but a quick Youtube search will show anyone that both those games are less violent than a Wily E. Coyote vignette. And if we really wanted to point a finger at Starcraft, I'll remind you that there is a country that has turned that game into a nationally televised sport and they have had exactly zero mass shootings. Whatever it was that pushed this guy to do what he did, video games wasn't one of them. Especially if those were the games he was playing.

It's human nature to want to know why something happened, especially when it's something bad or tragic. We have a driving need to identify a cause, assign blame and to be able to do something about it. But sometimes bad things just happen for no other reason than that they did. And no matter what we do to try and prevent tragedy, it will always happen.

It behooves us as decent people to take all reasonable steps to keep ourselves and our children safe from harm, but we have to accept that 100% safety is an impossibility. Natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy will happen regardless of what we do. People will die from hunger and drought no matter how many awareness campaigns we run. And banning or censoring media, any media, will not be enough to stop one determined individual from open firing into a crowd should he chose to do so.

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