I don’t much like writing about the videogame violence debate, because the discourse tends to land squarely in the territory of pure politics — that is, politics for politics’ sake, used as a talking point to further the agendas of senators and lawyers and people who give no indication of caring for those people involved in tragedy. As an engine to further agendas, videogame violence has obviously got some horsepower; but that kind of thinking makes me sick.
I’d encourage you to go to Penny Arcade and read Gabe’s post titled "A Rare Opportunity" before I chime in with a couple of minor comments. In it, he reproduces in full an e-mail he received from the step mother of one of the teenagers who were recently convicted of torturing and killing a homeless man. The kids’ claim is that the action seemed to give them a thrill similar to those they got from videogames. The news media have seized upon the parallel, and undoubtedly we’ll be seeing a lot more of this story, hot on the heels of the "Columbine game" and its minor media circus.
The developments in this story are interesting, because, in some circles, it has moved from being a story about the effects of violent videogames, to a story about bad parenting. Now with the letter Gabe reproduced, it has come full circle to being a story about children who were disturbed enough to criminally violate human decency.
Blame is a slut; it gets passed around from person to person, all rotten and worn. The fault for the boys’ actions does not rest on videogames, the convenient scapegoat; it doesn’t rest on the boys’ parents; it might not even rest on the boys themselves. Unfortunately, it’s the sort of case that fires up the political machine, the sort of case that precedents are formed from.
I’d be happier if legal precedents were formed from logical argument. This is a situation complicated by truck-loads of human emotion. Had videogames directly caused the boys’ behavior, the situation would be much simpler.