Rage is a terrifying emotion, one that threatens to lead people to inflict some of the most irrational acts of violence this world knows. On Dec 14, we saw another horrific gun-shooting in a school by a young-person in the American suburban town of Newton, Connecticut. A 20-year-old man walked onto an elementary school campus, and killed 20 children, with several adults, and also shot his own mother. One can’t start an article like this without the utmost sorrow for the victims and families involved, and utter disgust the perpetrator involved.
13 years ago, a similar horrific incident occurred in the suburban town of Columbine, Colorado. In that case, it was two teenage boys who took their guns to their high-school, killing and wounding many. The stories immediately afterwards wanted to determine what could cause these boys to want to inflict so much harm. Many pointed to violent video games, such as Mortal Kombat and Doom, as the one of the causes. Since then, we’ve seen many other shootings from young people, and every time this travesty repeats, someone in the media is quick to blame violent music, movies or video games. (Some school-shooters have proven to have no connection to video games, such as the perpetrator of the Virginia Tech shooting, who did not play any video games). As media members look into the life of the 20-year-old man who shot these poor children, there is certainly going to be some media voice that accuses the video game industry for playing a part in this man’s psyche, regardless of whether he was an avid gamer or not.
The truth is that many popular forms of media, including video games, do depict violent actions, yet we know that video games do not teach murder. There’s no training tutorial that teaches you how to choke down emotion and apathetically kill dozens of real life people. Video games do not come with weapon training manuals; in fact, specialists point out time and time again how weapon and fighting techniques in video games are far departed from the real techniques used. What’s more, is that hundreds of millions of people play video games, and none of them develop a “kill everyone” mentality. So when a violent and inexplicable tragedy does occur, one thing is over-whelming clear– video games (and other forms of media) are not to blame.
In all likelihood, the true culprit and cause behind the overwhelming emotional instability that could cause this act, are people. This man was filled with such strong emotion, that he felt compelled not only to shoot his family members, but to also take dozens of other young innocent lives as well. No one knows, nor can they ever know, what thoughts drove him over the edge, but what is clear at this point is that there’s something subversive in our society that is turning people into monsters.
While not the root of the cause, the social aspects of video games can provide a lens to view how cruel society has become. Video games do not inherently cause that spark of insanity that leads to murder, but video games are increasingly becoming a part of social interaction. As gamers, we often interact socially with each other through in-game chat windows, voice-chat options, personal-message options, friends-lists, special forums, fan-made webpages, and much more. It is so easy when playing a multiplayer game, to forget that there are real people on the other end of those animated avatars. Real people deserve some degree of actual respect, but the venomous culture created in online communities could contribute to mental breakdowns. If we learn nothing else from these senseless tragedies, we should at least glean that how we treat each other, as people, does matter!
We as gamers, and as human beings, can do our part to stop these tragedies. It starts with the online behavior because that bleeds into real life. While the violence in video games usually isn’t a problem, the people in the video game community sometimes can be. It would be an understatement to suggest that there is a plethora of bad attitudes in gaming communities. Every multiplayer game has a population of gamers of varying age, background, personality, and emotional circumstance, and these differences routinely clash over the internet. To make matters worse, there’s a consistent form of bullying by people in games that most refer to as “trolling”. According to Urban Dictionary, “trolling is the art of deliberately, cleverly, and secretly pissing people off, usually via the internet, using dialogue”. With the variety of personality clashes, and the occasional trolling that push people to fight even more, there are far too frequent rage-induced rants and death threats that occur over the internet through video games. In highly competitive games like Star Craft 2, Call of Duty, or League of Legends, these fits of rage and threats happen on a daily occurrence, leading these game companies to institute various methods of blocking or banning extreme personalities.
I don’t know what’s worse, that these forms of abuse and these fits of rage occur frequently, or that they occur so frequently that video game companies have to put in measures to regulate the vitriol. We, the people of the gaming community, need to be better than that. It’s time that each of us takes responsibility for our words and actions, and try to prevent these attitudes from prevailing. In the wake of another tragedy, one in a string of tragedies, where so many innocent lives were lost due to fits of rage, let’s all do our part to remove toxic attitudes from our gaming communities. In the end of the day, the internet is the internet, and many of the games we like to play will still have problems, but we can all be a little more mindful of our effect on the world. Rather than making a bad situation worse, we can all try and to improve our own attitudes and responses in order to improve the gaming atmosphere. Let’s do what we can to make sure that no one will ever feel the kind of scrutiny and pain that has led to these tragedies. We’ve had far too many already.
Here’s my plea to our fellow gamers: Let’s take a stand against rage, bullying and threats in the gaming community. When you see bullying or trolling occur, respectfully ask the perpetrators to cut it out. When you see someone overcome with a fit of rage, remind them to calm down, because they’re playing a game and games are supposed to be fun. When you see someone so engulfed in rage that they’re threatening physical harm on another person, you should immediately share the sentiment that threats are unacceptable, and if the game allows, report their actions. When someone on your friends-list commits one of these transgressions, it might be time to show your disapproval by removing them from your list. And if someone asks you why you’re taking a stand, let them know that you can’t stomach anymore bullying, threats, rage or the violence that might come from it. The small actions we make won’t solve all the world’s problems, but it’s a good start to at least cleaning up the gaming community.