Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Video Games and Me

    I, like everyone else, am struggling with the violence that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I don't know what the answers are to any of it. I do think banning a semi-automatic weapon is a good place to start. I realize this is not all about guns. We have to admit it is partially about guns, though. These things fire off hundreds of rounds in a very short time. It'd be relatively easy for a deranged person to take down a lot of people in an instant with one of those. When a person goes out to kill like that and he takes with him a rifle that a child would be more than powerless against, he's obviously looking to win. He didn't go after grown men. He didn't go after armed guards. He just went after helpless little babies. Bravo. Worse still, he didn't even have the guts to stand up to his actions. He offed himself. And his mom... well, you've seen the headlines.

   I know that video games are about to be pulled to the front of the debate, as usual. I personally think this is a bit of a stretch. I don't think there is a video game on earth that could, alone, inspire a person to kill. I could be wrong, I often am. But, let's examine the video game culture for a moment. I happen to know a lot about it, in fact. My husband is a video game enthusiast. No, that's putting it mildly. He adores them. He reads about video games, he plays video games, he likely even dreams about video games. To him, they are an art form. He became enamored with gaming about the same time he became enamored with me. Our relationship has evolved simultaneously and intricately around this issue. There was a time when I threw his gaming console out the back door and into the woods because I was angry that it was Mother's Day (my first) and he was playing a video-game. About two seconds after I threw it I was so ashamed of myself. I realized it was the same as him throwing my paintings into the woods. Or my journals. Or whatever. I hated myself for being such a brat. He went out and retrieved it. It did not break. I was relieved. I realized my bad attitude was ridiculous. I felt terrible pain over my actions. I said I was sorry and I was. From that point on, I decided these things were worthy of respect because they were A) well built and B) well loved by the boys (ahem, men) (ahem... women... people... whatever) who own them. Gaming is a phenomenon. It's not immaturity. It's not masculine bravado, either. It's just something entirely different. It's just entertainment. Anyone who takes the concepts behind any form of entertainment to some sort of harmful extreme obviously has other issues, other things happening in life that push him or her over the edge. It's the entire picture that we need to examine. Who can do that unless they are practically in it? We must listen to the ones who have survived and they say gun-control is the issue. They don't say video games are.

   About my husband; in his down time, when he is not working, teaching, helping around the house with chores of all descriptions, reading, or sleeping, he is playing a video game. Sometimes we talk about them at great length like we would a book or a movie. I know all about the various kinds of games that are out there. I know what games have decent reviews and what games "suck" and so on and so forth. I even play them myself from time to time. After all, video games and computer games, indeed all games, are fun. They are fun because they are games. To drag this genre of entertainment into the limelight is ridiculous. It's as silly as that stupid documentary Hells Bells, it's as lame as blaming Dungeons and Dragons for people's weird behavior, it's just as much of a scape-goat as blaming Marilyn Manson for the degradation of society. It's silly. It sure takes the joy out of life for the bazillions of us who are at home minding our own business. I mean, doesn't it??? If we take away games, will we take away movies, books? I think these issues are a little more embedded into society's core values than that. It is a much deeper problem than anything a game can provide.

  One thing I've noticed about gamers is they are mostly gentle-hearted people who love to play. Gaming offers a person a million ways to play. It's not all about guns, though there are plenty of games out there like that. In fact, saying what they are not about leaves so much doubt for what they are about. Little Big Planet, for example, allows for creativity like nothing I have ever seen before. In this game you can draw, build, design, create worlds, create people, dialogue, observe physics, and even add a little social this-and-that. You can make "friends"... which translates down to one little sack-person exploring worlds and creating with another sack-person. Sack people look like little crocheted dolls. You can change their clothes, change their expression. Violence is limited... though because we are human we always seem to find ways... anyway. It's just awesome. I love it. My kids love it.

   There are also games that whisk you away to other worlds. Mellow music. Gentle movement. Then there are puzzle games (my personal favorite) and so on and so on. In our family, because games are a passion of my husband's, they have become important to me. My love for him continues to challenge me to open my mind to something I would otherwise dismiss. I have never gone wrong in so doing. So here we have a household where I am an artist and a student, my husband has a full-time job and he teaches our two children from home. We work together and we play together. I've never witnessed any bad thing happening in our home that I could attribute to games... unless it's procrastination. That's about as evil as it gets around here. In truth, games have never effected my children's behavior. Games have never been a source of tantrums or whining. Never.

  Sometimes my husband watches a television showed called X-play. I believe it is a Canadian show. This show features mostly game reviews, DVD reviews... that sort of thing. These guys are a lot of things; killers they are not. The last time I watched the show with him (which I will admit I do not do very often) there was a kind of round table discussion about the best video games of the year. There was around six guys sitting on stools wearing suits. They were discussing the games that made them cry at the end. When I think of video games now, I think of this scene. Gamers are these guys. Not members of the Trench Coat Mafia... not evil gremlins sitting in the basement plotting the demise of the innocent... no. For the most part, these guys are good guys and they are passionate about their hobby.

  So I am going to spare myself some sense of self condemnation and indignation. I am going to admit to the world, that in our house, we play video games. We are not the devil and it is not a sin. It's just a part what we do and who we are. We have hobbies--each and every one of us. For my husband, it's video games. And for that reason, my kids get to play too. It's awesome. Video games are not the reason for these heinous acts of violence.

 Having said all of that, I wish I could also say I have the right answer to these problems. I wish I could rewind it all and make it all go away. I cannot. All I can do is look forward. Move forward. Hope for a better future and maybe even witness it unfold. Maybe I should insist more often than I do that we are the energy we put out into the world. Don't nurture hatred. It's a bitter thing. Allow your bodies to heal from this shock, because it is a shock. A huge shock. Take a breath. Breathe.

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