Monday, 17 December 2012

Blind Ignorance Follows Tragedy Almost Everytime


It's been a while yes. But there's been things happening between now and my last post. I went to Barcelona which was awesome. I had lots of studying for my Health and Safety exams - yes...I'm a gamer, who blogs, is addicted to a sci-fi franchise AND I work in Health and Safety - super nerd. Super married nerd with 4 kids though baby. Awwww yeah.

Anyway. Onto the crux of this post. I wish my first blog back would have been something more jovial, something more jolly, something more festive considering the time of year. But alas, as with some things in life, the dice just didn't roll that way. This is of little to no significance however compared to recent events which have shocked the decent world.

Columbine. Waco. Virgina Tech. Utoya Island. Places of pretty much zero world-wide interest or attention before the tragic events that took place there. We now have the unfortunate requirement to add the name of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton to that rather macabre list.

Being a gaming blog however, it may or may not come as a surprise that this event would be mentioned. Some of the tragedies mentioned above were politically motivated, Waco and the events in Oslo and Utoya Island for example, but as with most of these events the conservative media and the over-reactive elements of society will find a scapegoat. Things seem so much simpler when you can point an angry finger of blame at something or someone and unfortunately video games have bore the brunt of that angry finger for many a year now.

Violent video games will take the main hit obviously, I mean you're not likely to get angry people blaming games like FIFA or Viva Pinata for gun-slinging massacres are you? No.

People will point at video games for many a year to come still, but I feel that not enough is really done in the media to defend them from what is mostly ill-educated, angry and very ignorant people.

Let me take a step back in time to start this lecture. 20th April, 1999, Columbine High School, Columbine, Colorado. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold gunned down 12 students and 1 teacher, injured over 20 more and then shot themselves - not before trying to blow up the school with home-made explosives. It's clear that they were something of a pair of social outcasts, but that they had a variety of mental disorders, Harris was a clinical psychopath with a messianic-level superiority complex and Klebold was a depressive who was a follower. Harris masterminded the killings, but thankfully didn't mastermind the bomb building or the death-toll would have been much, much higher.

However, apart from famously blaming Marilyn Manson, the other channel of blame was aimed at iD Software, more specifically Doom and to a lesser extent Wolf 3D.

Wolf 3D and Doom
The first kings of the shoot em up, FPS genre - Wolf 3D and Doom are etched in my soul as such sublime pieces of gaming, yet I (along with millions of other gamers who have indulged in them) have never played the game and thought "Hey, that looks like fun. I'm gonna go to school or work and do some of this!". Firstly, Wolf 3D for those who don't know is about a POW being held in Castle Wolfenstein, who fights his way out and needs to fight through the Nazi hoards of the castle to escape. Doom is a sci-fi FPS, which revolves around a lone space marine, battling the forces of Hell who have escaped hell through a portal on one of the moons of Mars.

The games, Doom more so, were targeted by an angry society as one of the key reasons why Harris and Klebold committed their terrible acts. Forget the psychological problems involved, forget the social problems involved, they did what they did because they played Doom and wanted to emulate it. Morons.

Let's move on in this grim tour. Let's move forward 12 years to 2011, I'm going to skip the Virgina Tech massacre, simply because I don't know all of the ins and outs and don't want to feed you with misinformation. All I know is that the amazing Counter-Strike was scapegoated for a while. (A Multiplayer game which pits Terrorists against Counter-Terrorists).

In 2011 we saw 2 shootings, firstly one that I mentioned on here a while back - the HMS Astute murder and secondly Anders Breivik's "lone wolf" terror attacks in Norway. Now I mentioned the murder of Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux, and how the British newspapers blamed Grand Theft Auto for the actions of Able Seaman Ryan Donovan - I went into quite some detail, go back and read if you want.

I'll go into the actions of Anders Breivik shall I? He set a car bomb in Oslo, then went to Utoya Island and killed 69 people. An awful, horrible man (loosest meaning of the word) who doesn't even deserve death, someone like that deserves to be kept alive as long as possible, and to live in a state of perpetual anguish for the heinous crimes he's committed. Him and every paedophile out there. Anyway, going back to the topic this one is slightly more controversial a choice to try and defend. I'll explain.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Actually I'll let this extract from The Guardian website explain: Anders Behring Breivik has described how he "trained" for the attacks he carried out in Norway last summer using the computer game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
The 33-year-old said he practised his shot using a "holographic aiming device" on the war simulation game, which he said is used by armies around the world for training.
"You develop target acquisition," he said. He used a similar device during the shooting attacks that left 69 dead at a political youth camp on the island of Ut√łya on 22 July.
Describing the game, he said: "It consists of many hundreds of different tasks and some of these tasks can be compared with an attack, for real. That's why it's used by many armies throughout the world. It's very good for acquiring experience related to sights systems."
Basically, Breivik used CoD:MW to practice his aim and happily stated as much in court. This led to people blaming CoD:MW for the entire massacre, even though the guy was determined enough to set up fake businesses and plan the fucking thing for 5 years, it was all because he practiced on CoD that he managed to do what he did. It couldn't have been his political beliefs or his clearly disturbed mind that led to the killings, no it was because he could use pixels for target practice that on CoD:MW that it all happened. Forget the whole determination thing I mentioned before, forget that if he was THAT determined, that if he didn't use CoD he would have no doubt found another way to practice. Forget that CoD IS actually used by various military's around the world due to it's realism for trained soldiers to protect civilians, so it's probably contributed to saving more lives than ending them...I'll move on.
We now move onto what I feel is the most ridiculous of all the video game blame namby pamby's out there. A few short days ago, Adam Lanza killed his mother, went to Sandy Hook Elementary School, and killed 27 people, 20 of which were children all aged 6 and 7 before killing himself. Whenever things like this happen, I try and distance myself while watching the news, however watching Barack Obama fighting tears while addressing America, brought a tear to my eye, thinking about the words he said as they resonated with me, especially with me as a father of a child almost the same age as the victims.
Then I read something. Obviously as with most of these shootings and massacres, the blame game takes place. This time that angry finger pointed at my all time favourite game series - Mass Effect. This was for me, the straw that broke the camel's back. Anyone who has played Mass Effect will know that the game's underlying theme throughout is that of hope, the game is more about character development and building relationships while trying to defend not just your country, or your planet/species, but to save the entire galaxy. For anyone who's been on here a few times should be aware of my love and admiration for the ME Series.
Considering what happened and the main age group of victims let me let you in on something that happens to the main protagonist in the third game - Commander Shepard (you) have to escape Earth from an ancient race of sentient bio-synthetic machines, in doing so you see a small child who you had previously try to help, die in an explosion caused by one of these machines and the guilt of not being able to help him consumes Shepard throughout the game.
Shepard with the child in one of his nightmares
Well here's why it's ridiculous. Even though the game does involve combat with guns, the main crux of the games is what I've already mentioned, it's emotional, it's thought-provoking, it's inspirational the blame of this game isn't what is ridiculous, it's the way it all went down. Angry finger pointers looked up the suspected murderer on Facebook and found who they suspected was the murderer and saw that he "liked" Mass Effect on his profile. Commence the blame. The following are actual real quotes from the Official Mass Effect page on Facebook, steady yourself for some hate:

"Good job guys. You have blood on your hands that wont wash off"
"Ban this game and the people who created such sickness"
"Burn in hell!!!"
"I'm sure none of these precious children had this game on their Santa list...God help protect us from all the evil our society promotes"
"This is EXACTLY why i do not let my children play MOST video games...i do not want to destroy their innocence with this bulls--t"
And lastly
"Ryan Lanza, the 24 yr old that has killed 18 kindergarten children, 8 adults and his own mother, was a fan of Mass Effect. What are you and other games of your ilk doing to our society? Think on it."

Hang on..."Ryan Lanza"? Ryan Lanza, the older brother of Adam Lanza the ACTUAL murderer? Oh HE liked Mass Effect? Not Adam? Oh.

Before getting the facts and before even knowing the actual numbers of victims, the angry finger pointers had already leapt onto the angry bandwagon of hatred and misinformed ignorance to spew their misguided judgement onto a game that had nothing to do with the ACUAL MURDERER! Amazing.

As I said, for anyone who actually knows these games, knows that it's not a mindless hack and slash or shoot em up, it's a tactical third person sci-fi shooter, with it's main emphasis being on story, characters, relationships. It isn't sickness, any more than Jules Verne's War of the Worlds is sickness, any more than Star Wars is sickness. Evil? Innocence destroying? No.

It then led me to this painfully obvious thought: do these people think that if there were no video games then murder, mass murder and massacres wouldn't take place? Like these things are a symptom of video games that were non-existent in the harmonious "before-time".

Bonnie and Clyde? The Moors Murderers? Jack the Ripper? Albert Fish? Pol Pot? The Zodiac Killer? Many, many more on top of those as well, what video games were they playing to inspire them?

I for one cannot wait for games to finally be accepted by the masses as just another entertainment medium, not as a wrongly perceived way for innocent people to be turned into murdering psychopathic maniacs.

And on that note, despite all of this, the world is generally a decent place, don't forget that! And if I don't do anything on here between now and the 25th December: Have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.