Response to a Vancouver Sun letter about video games and violence

In light of recent events, video games have been thrust into the spotlight once again. As the parade of individuals in elected office, the media and elsewhere begin pointing fingers at digital entertainment as a quick and easy method to distract the concerned public, it becomes clear many of them pass misinformation along to feel better themselves or resolve some sort of internal conflict they have.

As I was reading the Vancouver Sun this morning before getting ready for work, I spotted a letter from Doris Reidweg in Langley that called out violent video games as the source for three murders that occurred in northern British Columbia in July 2019. I won’t go into details about the murders, but the this particular letter, it’s tone and subject really caught my eye.

Now, I know newspapers won’t let subscribers publish full length essays due to publishing constraints, space, and other limitations, so it’s hard to determine the complete picture Doris is trying to make with her brief statement. But, here was an opinion that blatantly called out video games as the root cause behind the reprehensible actions of two teenage males that put a huge part of Canada on edge. With the recent information that these two males did not survive their cross-country flight from the authorities, it will be difficult assess why two tourists and a university lecturer were murdered.

Because we don’t have that information, the media (and others) are forced to glean as many details as possible from family, friends, the community, social media profiles and other sources in order to assemble it in such away that makes a picture to provide better insight and reasoning. Of course, during this information gathering process, emotions can run high, people get concerned of what they find and jump to conclusions. And should someone have an online account for a game, it’s fairly certain someone is going to draw a line between the heinous act and a game itself as a definitive conclusion. When one person blames video games, most everyone turn into a flock of sheep and follow the “leader”, confirming their claim. It happens every time and will continue to happen.

Yes, there are some graphic games out there on the market. Yes, some of them do show gruesome scenes, and yes, some of them are excessive and over the top. But, there is something people quickly forget about video games: they are not real. They do not mimic the complex functions of handling a real gun. Anyone who has held a gun and played a video game knows that. But that’s lost on the general public; it’s just so much easier to say “he played Grand Theft Auto, so it’s the video game’s fault he did this!”. Have suspects in other events played video games? Quite probably. But there’s a bigger underlying picture, with video games (or any other media or propaganda) being one piece of the larger puzzle. There are so many questions that will go unanswered after this, and it’s important we don’t pervert the questions that are answered easily with knee-jerk reactions and emotions.

Everyone needs to take a step back, let the police and officials conduct their investigations fully and respect those affected by these tragic crimes by not jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. This is not to defend the actions taken by suspects (or anyone else for that matter), but rather to focus on the facts instead of feelings. If you don’t like video games, that’s fine, but to pass out misinformation because of your dislike for this medium is misguided and dangerous. There are many out there who play video games and continue to lead constructive, positive lives, much to the detriment of newspaper letter writers like Doris.

About Frederick Linsmeyer

A regular pop-drinking, hockey-watching, snow-shovelling Canadian, Frederick, aka Nephrus, loves his anime. Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Frederick runs amok between his hometown and the states of Illinois and Texas, spending time with friends, at anime conventions and looking for some good burgers or sashimi.

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