Game-blaming is, by far, the most minor issue surrounding the Sandy Hook tragedy. We just want to emphasize that: There are much bigger problems at work here than Mass Effect catching some flack from dumb people.
Still, it is a problem in the same way that a guy walking up to an ambulance crew about to race to the scene of a car wreck and demanding they yank the splinter in his thumb is a problem: It’s petty B.S. and it’s distracting, intentionally or not, from the real problems at hand. In that way, the gaming community can help by keeping the focus where it belongs. In our own small way, we can help get things done.
#1) Accept That You Won’t Reach Everyone
Some people just hate video games. They always have, and thus will mindlessly blame video games for everything. You’re just not going to convince these people: They’re fully invested in the idea that media causes violence and will not let it go. Make your case, but don’t expect them to ever admit you’re right.
#2) That Said, You Can Reach Other People, Especially People Who Know You
That said, if your relatives or friends start ranting about video games, you can talk to them and they will listen. Why? Because they know you, and presumably do not think you are a homicidal maniac. If they do, well, that’s really a whole separate problem.
Think of yourself as a representative for your fellow gamers. It’s annoying to field seemingly dumb questions, but keep in mind: Their working knowledge of video games probably stops at Pong. They think gamers are either stoned slackers because that’s what sitcoms tell them, or a bad day away from a visit to a water tower with a sniper rifle, because that’s what Fox News tells them. Pop that bubble and instead of mindlessly nodding and agreeing, they’re more likely to say “Hey, I know a gamer, and they’re not like that.”
#3) Rage-Filled Rants Don’t Work
Ask yourself this: When was the last time you read an angry all-caps screed on Facebook in detail and felt the need to reply intelligently, to engage the writer in debate?
Never, right? So don’t waste your time; save your rage-filled rants for gaming forums.
#4) Know Your Science
We’ve gone through several “scientific” studies about violence in video games to explain why the connection is not as strong as people think, but get familiar with the holes these studies have (there are plenty of common denominators, trust us).
The key thing here is raise intelligent, valid questions. Look at the methodology of the study: Why did they make the choices they made? Look at who paid for it: Does the money come from a group, or an individual, with a clear agenda? What assumptions does it make?
It’s a little staggering how often people who don’t trust scientists when it comes to topics with actual hard data will trust a scientist completely when it comes to topics where there’s at best a murky understanding of what happens. It’s important to draw that contrast, to point out what’s dogma and belief versus settled scientific fact… and to do it politely, without being condescending.
We’re not saying taking these steps will mean that the next time something terrible happens, people will focus on what can be done to stop it instead of the news equivalent of jingling your keys at the cat. We’re just saying that if gamers work together, we can nudge people in the right direction so that they have more focus on what’s important.
Image courtesy Mz. Synyster on Deviant Art