You knew it was coming. I knew it was coming. It comes after every shooting involving a young person, with the predictability of the sun rise. Say their ridiculous invective with me now: “The problem is video games.”
This time, the mouthpiece delivering the opinion was Kentucky governor Matt Bevin. Governor Bevin raised the subject while speaking with radio host Leland Conway the Thursday after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. While the initial topic was gun control, Bevin brought it around to “culture” by implying a cultural shift was to blame for the rise of school shootings.
The gun is not the problem. We have a cultural problem in America and people have got to face up to this … And then you look at the culture of death that is being celebrated. There are video games that, yes, are listed for mature audiences, but kids play them and everybody knows it — and there’s nothing to prevent the child from playing them — that celebrate the slaughtering of people. There are games that literally replicate and give people the ability to score points for doing the very same things that these students are doing inside of schools, where you get extra points for finishing someone off whose lying there begging for their life.
These are quote-unquote video games and they’re forced down our throats under the guise of protected speech. It’s garbage. It’s the same as pornography. They have desensitized people to the value of human life, to the dignity of women, to the dignity of human decency. We’re reaping what we’ve sown here.
When asked by Conway if he’d want to ban games, Governor Bevin responded:
I think we need to start by having an honest question about what value any of these things add. Why do we need a video game that encourages people to kill people … I’m asking the producers of these products and of these video games and these movies, to ask yourselves what redemptive value, other than shock value, other than the hope that you’ll make a couple bucks off of it — what price?
It sounds like confusing, idiotic refrigerator magnet poetry, doesn’t it? Let’s dissect some of the governor’s peculiar logic:
- “Quote-unquote video games?” Do you doubt the fact that they’re video games?
- “They have desensitized people … to the dignity of women.” Speaking as a dignified woman, Governor, don’t judge gamers on my behalf.
- “…under the guise of protected speech.” You mean the First Amendment? Some of us hold it just as far above reproach as the Second.
My initial reaction to hearing video games mentioned in relation to this is to look up from my figurative cocoon of escapist fiction — one big pile of headphones and controllers, because I need to get away from this sad reality for a while — to say “why are you bringing gamers into this?” We don’t even know if the culprit in this case was a gamer — all we saw on his Instagram account was dead frogs, racism, and a load of guns.
Governor Bevin is hardly the first to attempt to link video games with violence. President Obama suggested researching the effect violent video games have on kids. Psychiatrists attempted to blame the Columbine massacre on the culprit’s video game addiction. A West Point professor said video games were “training” kids to commit violence.
I’m not going to bother explaining, like many have done before me, that there is no causal link between video game markets and an overall increase in violence. Here’s a quick anecdote, which means about as much as anything: I’m a person who plays violent video games regularly, and I live in a state where I could legally purchase and carry a firearm — and I’ve made it to my late twenties without harming another human being.
(And if you want to argue that I have a different lived experience from the Florida shooter that makes me less likely to commit mass murder — well, that’s the entire point, isn’t it?)
All I’ll say is that if you so ardently refuse to let people blame guns for massacres because they are inanimate objects with no will of their own, then it’s blatantly hypocritical to turn right around and blame other inanimate objects for the violence of people.