I remember it like it was yesterday. The year was 1993 — I was thirteen years old — and I was celebrating either my birthday or Christmas (they’re pretty close together). My parents gave me a Super Nintendo game that at the time was shocking and exciting, but I mainly remember it because each time some moron goes on television blaming all the violence in the world on video games, I find myself thinking back to that gift.
The present was a little game called Doom. Doom had a pretty generic story: you assumed the role of a space marine, who dies during a mission to Mars, and has to fight his way out of the bowels of Hell. Retrospectively, it didn’t age very well. But at the time of its release, Doom was considered to be the most horrific thing to happen to children since the bubonic plague or heavy metal. The game was packed to the brim with ultra-violence; gritty, pixelated splatters of blood spraying out of everything your crammed your chainsaw into. And worse, Doom was one of the earliest first-person shooter games. Not only was your kid slaying demons into a gruesome bloody mess of gibs, but they were seeing through the eyes of the character… it was almost like they were right there, killing these things in real life! Oh noes!
So why in the name of all that is holy would my parents buy me a game like Doom when I was that young? The answer is pretty simple: they knew I was intelligent, responsible, and coherent enough to handle what I was watching. They monitored me while I was playing it, and even tried their hands at running around as a space marine themselves. It was pretty common to see my parents playing games with me and my siblings. They always knew what we were up to. They were… oh, what’s the word… engaged? Yep, that’s what I was looking for.
Since then, I’ve killed literally hundreds of billions of people. Well, digital people anyway, in video games. From murdering prostitutes to get a quick refund, to dropping nukes simultaneously on a dozen cities to bring whole empires crumbling to their knees, I’ve been responsible for more death and carnage and absolute destruction than any real-life human in all of recorded history.
And do you know how many people I’ve murdered or even intentionally harmed in real life? Carry the 2, add the… ZERO. I’ve killed zero people. Ever. In fact, if you add up everyone on the Obscure Republic staff, we’ve killed trillions of digital people, and zero humans. Well, as far as I’m aware, anyway. [checks to make sure the office door is locked securely]
But don’t tell that to United States Senator and professional ass-clown Lamar Alexander (R-TN). During a break from a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, Alexander told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd “I think video games is [sic] a bigger problem than guns, because video games affect people. But the first amendment limits what we can do about video games, and the second amendment to the Constitution limits what we can do about guns.” Yep, he really said that. It’s in the video up above… go see for yourself!
Every noteworthy, credible study in the history of time has proven, conclusively and relentlessly, that video games do not cause or inspire violence. Other than porn, video games are the most successful sector of the entertainment industry, pulling in more money than Hollywood, music, publishing, television, or anything else. Estimates for the number of Americans who play video games range from 67% to more than 80%. So how many of them have become murderous psychopaths? Well, let’s say only 50% of Americans have played games, just to make the numbers easier. If all of them killed 1 person, the US population would decrease by — wait for it! — 50%. Half.
Technically, Alexander did say video games “affect people,” and that’s true. I’ve been affected by video games, surely. Perhaps not in the way that Alexander was nauseatingly implying, but in the broader sense, definitely. I’ve been entertained tremendously by them. I used to develop games, and made some money because of them, affecting my wallet. I’ve touted my victories over fallen friends, and whined like a baby when they’ve beaten me, and I’ve made tons of friends through video games I might not otherwise have, so you could say they’ve positively affected me socially, too. And I’ve never had someone I’d refer to as a serious girlfriend with whom I didn’t play games, so there you go, love life, you’re in this article now as well.
If you really want to attack the media over violence, why not go after the Bible? Do you have any concept of how many people have died in the name of religion? If you added up everyone who died in a war that was fought over religion, it would trump the number of people killed in every other type of war combined, with ease. Heck, contemporary wars are still being fought over religion. But you won’t see senators lining up around the block to demand we strip Bibles from bookshelves, will we? Not a chance. You might argue that people have died in the name of video games, too. Surely that’s happened. I can promise you that more people have died eating squirrels. I don’t have the numbers to back that up, but I’d be willing to take a bet on it. Do you know what the difference is between the Bible and a video game? Lamar Alexander has presumably read the bible.
So, Senator Lamar Alexander, I hereby challenge you to play video games with me for one solid hour. I’ll let you pick between a wide array of violent video games. If you play that game for one hour, and feel you’ve been even remotely negatively affected in that time, and will swear, hand-to-God, that you’re being honest, I’ll give up playing video games for a whole year. But if you end up having a good time, and learning that video games actually do not cause or inspire violence, you have to go on television and admit you were wrong, and deliver a brief 30-second promo for the ESRB (the content ratings system for video games… you knew we had one of those, right?). What do you say, Senator? You game?