This has been an evergreen debate. Right from all our childhoods to this day, when gaming seems to have really taken off – of course, with Covid giving it a push. But one of my childhood memories has to do with my parents expressing their concern with gaming. Back then, and I mean close to two decades ago, I had known gaming to be an activity that people indulged in behind the curtains in shady-looking cafes. By the street. And then came by fascination with Grand Theft Auto. Very few video games managed to capture an entire generation’s fancy the way GTA did. But the carelessness (not to forget the lawlessness) that the virtual GTA world for young minds seeking an escape was both – a cause for celebration for its players and fans, and a cause of worry for parents.
Decades later, as gaming has undergone an almost 360 degree transformation in terms of common perception, the stigmas still remain. And now, with more nuanced debates surrounding them. Here’s a quick look at some arguments made about how violence in gaming might be just as problematic if not more.
Inspiring real-life actions?
Back in August last year, the shooting at a retail store in El Paso, Texas triggered a number of debates and discussions. And rightfully so. Part of that debate spectrum had to do with the shooter’s fleeting reference to video game soldiers. All he has reportedly done was say that he was familiar with video violence.
Of course, such incidents of mindless shooting have a ton of other reasons as an explanation – from no gun control, to ethnic hatred and xenophobia. But the incident did trigger deliberations as to whether there was a link between video gaming violence and real-world incidents. Given the kind of fun-wielding and gory tactics the former indulges in. Of course, this can’t be given a generic clearance. Sure, violence in video gaming is set to trigger aggressive behaviour in players, but can video gaming thus be held as the root cause for all evil in society?
Is violence against animals okay then?
This is a perspective to the whole debate that makes for quite a compelling argument. If violence against animals is looked down and discouraged (by punishment too) in real life, why should video games be allowed to do it? If at all video games trigger aggressive behaviour in its players, by virtue of allowing in-game actions that treat animals badly, aren’t they possibly encouraging players to replicate that behaviour in real life too? Again, needs pressing focus.
Video games and mental health
Not just by watching or playing violent video games (violent in theme, that is) but also the way mental health is portrayed in them. Films are under massive scrutiny for their depiction. Songs, videos, social media – possibly everything under the sun that even remotely claims to portray real life scenarios is being increasingly pushed to consider real life implications. Why not video games which claim the most engagement now, as compared to ever in gaming history?
As you might’ve guessed by now, this ain’t no research paper. But taking note. And possibly charge of things. Nothing seems to go beyond consideration today. Video games, with the massive reach they have now, might do with some minor, if not major, alterations.