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The Universal Reset
Wednesday, 29 June 2011

This is the one and only reference I will ever make to the Columbine Incident on The Universal Reset.

You remember your English classes, right? Literature, book reports, MLA handbook, that kind of thing. Well, in college English, you stop reading and start writing. Especially in a course called, "Writing & Research". Well, it so happens that I'm taking that particular class at the moment over the Internet and the one thing that occupies the entire ten weeks of class is the researching and composition of a research paper of our choice. My choice: the FPS controversy. Do violent videogames cause violent behaviour?
Now, I'm sure you probably have some rather strong opinions about that question -- since you're here, you're probably one who would say "no" and list all the reasons you can think of or make up to support your position. I know I would. And, that's the stance I'm taking in my paper.
However, there really isn't a debate about this subject anymore. All people do (regardless of viewpoint) is to cite the results of clinical studies from the 1990s and the turn of the 21st century or claim their respective positions by deferring to empirical data based on observations and experience. The US Supreme Court, itself, has ruled that for the government to regulate the sale of games stymies the freedom of choice: the choice to risk it and let your 7-year-old play Grand Theft Auto or the choice to keep him safely sheltered from that sort of behaviour and only let him play Clapping Party.
In order to make an argument one way or the other, all you do is change the order in which you present the facts. If you talk about the risks first and the benefits second, you'll appear to take a stance for violent games. If you flip it around, you'll take the stance against. This works because readers will remember most of what they get from your work in descending chronological order -- they'll remember what's on page 5 longer than what's on page 4 because the stuff on page 5 will, essentially, overwrite the memory of page 4. So, I'm presenting my argument in the risks-then-benefits format. I won't be able to present any new ideas because (A) it's a research paper which requires verifiable facts and (B) there's not a single new thing that can be said about it.

So, that said -- as I've been researching things for my paper, I've come across more than one reference to a possible causal interaction between the FPS, Doom, and the shooting event at Columbine High School. In the way that I research things, I mine Wikipedia for sources and then paraphrase the article's sourced text that is relevant to my research. I came across two wikis with articles on the Columbine Incident: the Doom Wiki and Wikipedia. The Doom Wiki, being Doom-centric, of course focusses more on the references to the game made by the two perpetrators and the fact that one of them was a prolific WAD creator (that is, a user-defined modification to Doom), rather than the actual incident. The Wikipedia article is a direct reversal: Doom and the shooters' penchant for it was mentioned, but largely left alone.
What I went to Wikipedia for was some sort of sourced acknowledgement that the Columbine Incident was the catalyst for the debate about videogames in general to shift focus almost solely onto the violent ones... y'know, something that said, "This incident prompted psychologists to study the effects of violent games more in-depth," or something like that. What I came away with was all the details that were lost on my then-11-year-old mind.

Let's face it -- the Columbine Incident happened in 1999. That's 12 years ago! A 14-year-old freshman at the school in 1999 would be 26 years old in 2011. But, even though it dominated national news reports at the time, I was only in fifth grade and certainly not caring about the news. The only thing I had heard was that the people who shot the school up had used a videogame as practise, and since I was way into GoldenEye 64 at the time, that's all any adult ever told me -- "Don't play that. You'll go mad and start shooting people." I found it incredibly annoying that people kept generalising me as a potential risk, by dint of my love for GoldenEye.
However, in retrospect, it's entirely possible that the details were carefully hidden from me. The incident was not simply a troubled pair of students who happened to mistake real life for a videogame and shoot a few people. From what I read of it, they planned this for months. The warning signs were all there, from the death threats to their web-published instructions on how to make bombs. They managed to acquire firearms through a couple of other students and used them to commit other crimes prior to the shooting. Then, they take those guns to school and actually kill people with them. At the final gunshot, they had killed thirteen people without any valid excuse to redeem them. So, as there was no worldly escape for them, they swiftly killed themselves with their own weapons.
To me, anyway, it logically follows that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were pure evil. 100 per cent, unrestrained, inconceivable, unfeeling, unthinking evil. There is no word yet known to the English language which can describe the hatred and revulsion I have toward them and what can only be described as their purposeless massacring of their fellow Man.
At least Seung-Hui Cho thought he was making a political statement when he shot up Virginia Tech -- not that I sympathise with him, either, but at least he had a purpose, which he made clear in no uncertain terms. It may have only made sense to him, but it was there.

Did Doom cause their violent tendencies? I don't know. No one knows. Regardless, when I finally lifted the veil that was hiding the Columbine Incident from me, my opinion of all first- and third-person shooter games soured somewhat, GoldenEye included. If there is even the slightest possibility that all young people who play shooter games will experience some kind of psychological effect, no matter how small and otherwise undetectable to modern science, game developers need to exercise a modicum of self-censorship. Damn the freedom of speech! It's called good judgement and foresight. If you make an expansion pack for or a sequel to a violent game that makes it even more violent, are you doing it because you can? Talk about unbalanced commercialism.
Of course, the parents of the children who are playing these games are not devoid of fault, either. It logically follows that if you are the parent to a child, it is your responsibility to regulate what your child does and does not play on the PS3, the 360, the Wii, or whatever-the-hell else you have. Haven't you ever seen the great black letter "M" on the front of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas? That was put there by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board to mean not intended for children. Want to know why? Flip the case over and look at the description, not only for the rating, but for the game itself. But then, forgive my Anglo-Saxon, there are some parents who just don't give a flying shit. The only reason their children exist is because they've never heard of "contraceptives". So, since they don't really care in the first place, of course they'll let their kids play whatever game they want.

The unfortunate part is, the Columbine Incident is only going to get a paragraph in a seven-page research paper. One which is prefaced by a flippant quotation from Shigeru Miyamoto ("Videogames are bad for you? That's what they said about rock 'n' roll!"). I'm going to finish this paper eloquently, from the standpoint that violent games have no measurable effects on the human mind. I'm going to turn this paper in and I'm going to get a very high mark for it. However, the next time I write about FPS games here or in any other context, I'll always think about the Columbine Incident before, during, and after.

Posted by theniftyperson at 11:39 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, 3 July 2011 1:53 AM CDT

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