Saturday, August 28, 2010

Violent Video Games Kill Again

As detectives in Puyallup, Washington investigate the rape and murder of 16-year-old Kimberly Daily by 18-year-old Tyler Savage, the role of video games as a catalyst for teens to commit violent crimes is once again called into question.
According to police statements, Savage confessed to luring the developmentally-delayed Daily into a vacant parking lot, where he subsequently raped and murdered her. Upon further investigation into the events preceding and following the murder, Savage told police that he went to a friend’s house afterword, to play Dungeons and Dragons Online and “cope” with what he had just done.
Although Savage reported playing Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO) after the murder, the courts are investigating the game’s possible involvement in influencing Savage commit the heinous act. As Savage had no criminal record, many are looking to blame DDO as an influence in this, and many similar murder cases.
Daily’s murder is yet another example of misplaced blame in the growing trend of turning the gaming community into a doormat whenever a teenager acts out in an uncharacteristic or violent manner. Just like the accusations in the 1920s that jazz music was causing women to become loose alcoholics, and in the 1950s that comic books were were the cause of juvenile delinquency, today’s scapegoat for the fall of western civilization are video games like Dungeons and Dragons Online, Halo, Manhunt, and Grant Theft Auto.
This trend has repeated itself many times in the past. From blaming the Columbine shootings on Doom, to attributing Daniel Petric’s murder of his mother on Halo 3, critics are always able to blame someone other than the killer, himself. What critics fail to see, though, is that video games are a hobby and a lifestyle no different from watching movies, or reading a book. Yes, it is possible for certain people to become obsessed with or overtly influenced by what they experience in a fictional world, but this is not the norm and certainly doesn’t reflect the experience of the mentally-stable.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), the rating system put in place to enforce age limits on video game purchases, exists for a reason. Games have age restrictions, just as movies do, because it is assumed that an 18-year-old will be mentally stable enough not to act out in real life what they see in a game that is rated “M for Mature”, whereas a 12-year-old would not. Oftentimes in cases similar to Savages, the defendant was either under the age limit for the game, or was mentally unstable. Blaming Dungeons and Dragons Online in the Savage case is an easy answer to a complex murder that people don’t want to wrap their heads around. Nobody wants to believe that an 18 year-old would brutally rape and kill a 16-year-old developmentally-delayed girl. It becomes much easier for society to handle when they can point a finger at the gaming industry for “the way this one turned out”, even though there are measures in place to prevent those who are not deemed mature enough from accessing maturely-rated material.
Claiming that Dungeons and Dragons Online influenced someone to commit murder is like saying that Satan influenced you to sleep with your neighbor’s spouse; both notions are equally absurd and both remove culpability from the culprit. We all know that it is illegal to kill, and we know the consequences; if you kill someone in real life, you’re going to jail. If the defendant isn’t able to reason that logic, or distinguish a virtual world from reality, then he/she is obviously suffering from a preexisting mental illness. If Tyler Savage had said that he went swimming after killing Kimmie Daily, would we be shutting down pools nationwide? Of course not, because that would be ludicrous.
People commit murder for a multitude of reasons, but making a scapegoat out of an innocent third party just to be able to lay blame somewhere is a far cry from justice, and is an insult to the memory of the victim.
So cool-it, all you quick-to-judge critics, and wait here while I go enchant my staff to deal +5 arcane damage to your poorly-constructed logic.

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