February 19, 2008
There's always somebody who is ready to take advantage of a tragedy to further his own pet issue. Jack Thompson's pet issue is the evils of video games, and he's off on his hobby horse again.
Do kids play too many video games? Probably. But I know plenty of kids who take time out to skateboard, fish, hunt, occasionally do homework, etc. Normal kid stuff. They play video games, and most of them are better at Halo and Counter Strike than I could ever pretend to be. And they don't kill each other!
When I was 5, I had a pair of six-shooters. Fake pearl handles, fake silver finish, six-shot cap guns. I loved those things. Had the boots and hat. I even had a guitar, so I could play "singing cowboy" when there weren't any rustlers to fight. My sister and I used to lay down in the back of our station wagon on long trips, and "shoot" at the people around us, because they were the bad guys. (Unless they were in a brown car -- then they were on our team.)
When I was 10 or so, I got a BB gun. I was the terror of aluminum cans throughout the neighborhood. My neighbor and I set up a commando training course in our back yards, so we could practice going on "missions." I got pretty good with that rifle.
Even today, when I go to the arcade with my daughter (she loves to win tickets), I play games like Time Traveler -- pull the gun, shoot the bad guys. Those sniper games are pretty fun, too. I'm decent, though not great, at most of them.
I've never shot anyone. I figure the first thing I'd probably shoot if I got hold of a real gun would be my foot. Video games haven't trained me to kill people. Video games won't teach someone how to use an Uzi to hose down their school cafeteria -- they can't. You have to actually practice with those weapons to be able to use them. And that's what people forget.
We spent our youths playing cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, Nazis and Americans, Yanks and Rebels -- whatever. We shot our friends three or four times, ran around, took prisoners, then went inside for a snack just in time to watch some good, old-fashioned violent TV -- like Ultraman.
Whenever I hear someone like Jack Thompson blaming video games for the downfall of our society, I remember the scapegoat of my youth -- Dungeons and Dragons. And I remember what everyone always told me, and how none of it ever sounded like any actual roleplaying session I'd ever been involved with. And sure, there were some kids who went a bit nuts with D&D -- but they were the kids with problems to begin with. There are kids who shouldn't be playing violent video games -- but there are thousands of other kids who have no problem with those games.
The real problem is spiritual. The real problem is that we don't teach respect for life. The real problem is that we don't teach moral responsibility -- because that might offend someone. We're so afraid of offending someone by teaching that some things are wrong that we're killing our society off. We're too worried about finding a scapegoat to blame, something to boycott or ban, to find the root cause of the problem, and offer a solution to that problem.
"The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?"
Over 2,000 years ago, Jeremiah saw the problem. And he saw what this problem would cause:
O Lord, the hope of Israel,
all who forsake you shall be put to shame;
those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth,
for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.
We've forsaken Him, and we are put to shame.
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