I'm an IT geek, so as you might imagine, video games have been a part of my life for almost three decades. Starting with a crummy Odyssey2, moving forward through Nintendo and Super Nintendo generations, plus Mac and PC games, and now the XBox and Wii.
I've always been more of a simulation geek, games like SimCity, the "Tycoon" series, and Flight Simulator have always been my favorites.
But, I have, throughout my years, played plenty of "violent" video games too. Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, and in recent years, the "Grand Theft Auto" series.
I never believed critics (mostly Republicans) who decried video games as damaging to our society. "Violent video games don't make people violent," I scoffed.
And I still mostly believe that. I don't think a video game like "GTA" turns a non-violent person violent, or teaches someone to kill.
But after Newtown, I'm not sure. And I have to ask -- do these games contribute to a larger problem? Follow me under the orange squiggle.
Do games like "GTA," like "Halo" and "Fallout," contribute to the overall fetishization of guns, and of killing, that has permeated our society?
I'm nearly 40 years old now, growing out of the video game demographic. But for people aged 15-30, and especially males, there's an attitude that guns are cool.
I see it in movies, in video games, in advertisements and commercials. I see shooting ranges offer customers the chance to shoot an AK-47, an M-16, an Uzi.
Our society is fascinated with guns; and especially for males, a love for guns and shooting and killing and death seems to be some sort of sign of virility. Guns are sexy.
Killing an animated human being in these video games is "fun" and "cool" -- regardless of whether it's done in the course of committing a crime (i.e. GTA) or serving as a pretend soldier, as in "Call of Duty."
Some GTA games have even had bonus rounds called "kill frenzies," where the player has to kill a certain number of people (or specific people) in a limited amount of time.
THIS HAS TO STOP.
I am not calling for a ban on video games like GTA. I do think that it's pretty clear that they should be sold only to adults, not children. (And incidentally, how ridiculous was the "Hot Coffee" GTA scandal a few years back, when some pixelated sexual activity was seen as the end of the world, but blowing someone's head off was just fine, as far as gamers and critics were concerned.)
I'm not saying that violence should be banned from video games, or movies. (Movies, while ultra-violent, are different -- they aren't interactive, they don't allow the viewer to participate, to live out fantasies in the same way.)
All I'm saying is that, as a parent and a concerned citizen, I can't in good conscience play these games any more. My copies of GTA3, "Vice City," and "San Andreas" -- all recently enjoyed -- are going in the trash tonight. I'm not going to resell or give them away, because I think the world could use a few less copies of these games in existence.
And I'll never buy one of these games again. My six year old, for at least the next 12 years, will not play these games, will not own a toy gun, will not pretend to shoot anyone, EVER.
These games are fun, and I'll miss them on some level. But on another, more important level, I think they're indicative of a horrible, horrible dysfunction in our society, and after Newtown, I can't participate in that any longer.
EDIT 12/17/12 11:40PM CST: Thanks all for some fascinating discussion in the comments thread tonight. I wasn't at all sure about posting this diary, wasn't sure there was even a point, but it sparked some discussion and I always think that's a positive.