Analysis: Violence Part I

Analysis – Violence Part I

Violence in video games is a very polarizing issue. One one hand, there are people who play “violent video games” and see no problem with them. On the other hand, there are blow hards, propaganda peddlers, fear mongers, and attention seekers who don’t play, “violent video games” that are trying to stir up controversy for their own benefit, like Katie Couric. These are the same type of people who raged against rock music, dirty dancing, pool tables(Trouble with a capital T and that sounds like V and that stand for Video games!), and anything else that was part of a cultural revolution.

I am biased. I admit it with every review and analysis. I specifically asked for a passionate analysis, which is a contradiction in terms. An analysis should be free of bias, it should be objective, it should be a list of parts that make up a whole. To add personal feelings and make something passionate, should destroy all of that. However, I like to think my reviews and analysis still come together to form something useful, insightful, entertaining, and educating.

Katie Couric in her report on violence in video games is biased. The difference between me and Ms. Couric is that I admit to my bias, upfront. Why doesn’t she? I assume it’s either because she is unable to admit her bias, she doesn’t see it as a bias, and she just did an incredibly terrible job of being a professional journalist and investigator. On the other hand, she may just be unwilling to admit her bias. She knows she has it and she knows she’s putting on a one-sided piece with complete disregard to the truth, roots, causes, issues and underlying problems. So, be it unable or unwilling, Katie Couric is either a terrible person, or just terrible at her job. Maybe I’m wrong, I accept the chance of that with everything I type. Maybe I’m missing something. I invite further criticism, I invite discussion, I invite collaboration, and further distancing myself from Katie Couric, I offer more than a 140 character Twitter message to do it.

It’s times like this that I miss journalists and investigators like Hunter S. Thompson and Neil Strauss. They both put themselves into their work, they were part of the story, they did their homework, they infiltrated the sub-cultures that they were investigating. Katie Couric’s surface-skimming fluff-piece is a perfect example of how to not write a story.

I hate to do this, I hate to give her any kind of traffic or support, but in the purpose of fairness, this is the link where I’m getting my information. I still encourage any readers to look at the source for themselves and double check the facts, like any good reporter should.

http://www.katiecouric.com/videos/category/are-video-games-ruining-your-life/

First video – Interview with Marc Petric

There is an info bar on the bottom that Marc Petric, the guest, “says violent video games turned son into killer.” The event happened in 2007. So Katie had to dig back 6 years to find this gentleman and remind him of the trauma.

When asked, “What role, do you think, Mark, violent video games played in Danny’s actions?” “He became very withdrawn” That could be because he was a teenager. “We were wondering what was going on.” Getting involved and asking seemed like too much trouble, did it? “We did not know he was playing hours and hours and hours on end.” If you did not know that, if you’re unaware of what your teenage children are doing for hours and hours and hours on end, then you’re either lying, or just dropped the parenting ball. Immediately following that sentence, Mark says, “In fact, the longest he ever played Halo 3 was for 72 hours.” So, it sounds like you DID know what he was doing for hours and hours and hours on end? I really have to wonder what this parent considers too much? 24 hours? 48 hours? 60 hours? 70 hours? Nope, 72 is where he draws the line! It turns out that he wasn’t allowed to play those types of games at home, so then how can the games be held responsible if there’s a ban on them in the household? How do you take them away if they aren’t allowed in the house. Either the ban signaled the moment of the attack, or there was something else which triggered the attack.

Second video – Interview with Daniel Petric

“He was lovely, he was smart, he is polite, it was really really difficult to square that with everything we’ve heard about what he’s done.” It sounds like the speaker doesn’t want to acknowledge the possibility that people can change, grow, or be rehabilitated. Once a killer, always a killer, and no good can come from them? Or do I misunderstand again?

The father originally couldn’t understand what happened or why his son had changed. It might be as simple as asking because, when asked, the son straight up says he was an athlete, he had a serious snowboarding accident, hospitalized, on heavy medication and he was layed up at the house. As a person with back problems, I can understand how limiting that can be. The father did not know or understand what his son was going through. Katie says, “You compete with nameless faceless people…” and she’s right. The father was competing with other people for his son’s attention and rather than get involved, ask questions, bond and parent, get to know these people, the father chose to take the kid off of his pain medication, by that I mean the video games which have been clinically proven to reduce chronic pain sufferers. Just look at the Child’s Play charity.

I find it particularly noteworthy, even though no one else does, that Daniel does not blame the video games, he never has, and has always taken full responsibility for his own actions. So I have to wonder, why does everybody blame video games when the only person who can, doesn’t? Other people are telling him that it’s video games. It makes me a little sick.

Third video – Interview back with Marc

“I want to help get the word out to other people so these kinds of things don’t continue to happen like the Sandy Hook shooter… Columbine… They’re all related.” Yes, Marc actually said that. I’ve been saying this for years, that when the Columbine shooters references Doom in their journals, if Doom didn’t exist, it would just be replaced with something else incredibly violent like an action movie, a comic book, or literature like Dante’s Inferno. There was already plenty of evidence that the killers behind Columbine were reacting to bullying or mental illness. To say a kid who plays video games is a warning sign is like saying a kid with ears is at risk of drug use, because he listens to rock music. Video games are just this generations entertainment revolution, and anyone who can’t see that is looking in the wrong place.

Michael Welner, MD, Forensic Psychiatrist and guest submits that in this case Daniel had a pathological attachment to playing video games, and the killing happened when they were taken away from him. But doctor, if these video games weren’t allowed in the house, if Daniel went over to friends’ houses to play them, what was there to take away? Something about this doesn’t make sense or add up.

“The key attachment connection between mass shooters and video game violence is that mass shooters use the video games as training videos.” By that logic, I am Batman.

Aside from that strange first analysis of his, I think the rest of what he says has some merit. But just as he’s making sense and drawing focus away from video games, and put attention on how controlling and constricting the father was, Katie cuts him off. Way to go, Katie.

Fourth video – Quinn Pitcock whos video game addiction cost him his NFL career

Am I the only one who doesn’t feel sorry for an NFL player out of a job, given their salary? Not once during the interview do either of them mention Quinn Pitcock was also diagnosed with depression at the time. This begs the question, do you play video games because you’re depressed or are you depressed because you play video games? Either one could be true, or neither. Though it deserves a look on a case by case basis. I believe depression existed long before video games, it’s merely the most modern and recent coping device, not a cause.

Quinn Pitcock was drafted by the Colts in 2007, again, either this video is very old, or Katie Couric just loves digging up buried tragedies. Since the pastor referenced Sandy Hook, that means this is a recent video, further evidence Katie Couric is a terrible person, or can’t be bothered to find examples less than 6 years old.

On a brighter note, Mr Pitcock has since played for Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, and Orlando Predators. So it seems video games haven’t had such a detrimental impact on his career as Katie would love for you to believe.

Fifth video – Are video games to blame for violent crimes?

“Research is still wrestling with that.” No kidding? “What we’ve been able to establish is that violent video games increase the arousal, increase hostility, in a number of people who play them.” So, some people like violence? He didn’t say majority, or a percent, or any solid figure, just “some.” Way to be scientific. This is not news, we know that imagery can excite people, men like Hefner & Flint have made a living off of it. “Players are desensitized to violence…desensitized to gore.” That might be true, I’ll come back to that and call it a positive.

Now there’s an “addiction specialist.” That’s like asking a plumber’s opinion on an electrical problem. This show keeps using the word addiction, which refers to chemical changes in the brain and a dependency. The word they should be using is “compulsion.” This is part of why I can’t take this show seriously. Go take a look at the Extra Credits guys for a better explanation and exploration of the subject matter.

http://www.penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/game-addiction-pt.1

And this is where Michael Welner, MD loses all credibility. “Sometimes research isn’t needed” That first phrase alone chills me. “…when you have Quinn Pitcock saying he could be the best in his career and he basically threw it all away.” Quinn Pitcock also said he could have been #1 in his video game, he was getting ranked on ladders, but he chose not to. Here was a talented man who could have been excellent in 2 careers, but had to pick. “It’s a familiar story to anyone who’s dealt with the addiction model.” I’m sure video games never made Quinn think about selling his kidney, turning tricks, or waking up in a sleazy motel with no memory of how he got there, and then checking himself into a court appointed rehab facility. Yeah, discounting all those, it’s a familiar story.

“The game is designed to absorb people.” “I don’t think the developers are blameless.” So, if a woman dresses in a way to attract people, she is not blameless for any crimes committed? People still have free will. People still have a choice. Nobody is being Clockwork Orange’d into playing games, except for maybe Chinese gold farmers. “…they have to be dealt with in the same way(as tobacco companies).” The video game industry, unlike the tobacco industry, was NOT ordered to place warnings about content onto games. It was a self-policing measure from the games industry because of the controversy. They heard, they listened, and acted with full cooperation. There is a difference.

The addiction specialist begins to make sense in the next scene, I mean after she compares alcohol addiction to food addiction(compulsive eater, not addiction). “We really have to focus on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, before, during, and after.” And just as soon as she’s making sense, she’s cut off and Katie talks to someone else.

The next speaker, Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, had the ear of the White House after the Sandy Hook shooting. He claims America has a culture of violence and violent video games are contributing, but can’t be singled out for blame. I can’t argue that. When he says the video game industry is clearly in denial, I might not be able to argue, but I must ask, how does he define the industry? Has he investigated all the games that don’t sell 1,000,000 copies in a month? How pervasive are they? How much violence is in something like Fez or Super Hexagon? So when he wraps up the entire industry in one neat little violent ticking package, I have to wonder why he is ignoring everyone daring to do something different and actually help his cause? He says the industry constantly blames parents, I must agree. Parents may not be the single factor, but contributing, absolutely! We saw just how “involved” the Petric family was when their story didn’t add up.

So the White house proposed $10,000,000 for research into a link between violence and violent video games. According to Mr. Steyer, the video game industry opposed the idea. This is where the simple assistance of one gonzo journalist can help. Is the video game industry protecting themselves from exposure of a dark secret? Or is there really no link? Not one opinion on this show has come from an insider of the culture. I may as well ask a Martian about the weather on Mercury.

Then Katie brings up the labeling, that the industry “fended off government action 20 years ago,” like it was a bad thing. Katie is saying that fully cooperating and fixing a problem yourself is bad? Then Mr Steyer calls it a, “fox guarding a chicken coop. The video game industry is not a fox if it willingly polices itself. Such an uncharacteristic “nice” move is just unbelievable. “How can we let an industry that denies the science…” They don’t deny it, they just disagree, and two of Katie’s “experts” already said the science is still being wrestled with. The White House just put forth $10m to investigate, because there is no science to back it up yet. “All parents have to do is read the box.” I find that totally acceptable. “An industry that actively opposed positive measures.” No, they actively took positive measures before anyone forced legal action. Imagine if you could drive at any speed until you’re pulled over and told to drive the speed limit. Well, the video game industry is nice enough to not want to get ticketed in the first place. I see absolutely no harm, or badness, or ill will in that. The industry’s self-control seems to confuse people.

We knew it would eventually come to free speech. Again, the only arguments I ever hear about this come from outsiders who claim it isn’t, and insiders who claim it is. Who has the greater working knowledge of the sub-culture? I’ll be the last to say Call of Duty Modern Warfare is art, but I won’t judge an entire concept based on one “grindhouse” entry. To deny the epic works of Chrono Trigger, the fantasy adventure of Zelda & Link, the pantomime story from Shadow of the Colossus, the wit and parody of The Bard’s Tale, one of the greatest sci-fi epic trilogies since Star Wars, Mass Effect, the touching mystery and groundbreaking technology in Heavy Rain, is to cheat yourself out of an incredible experience you will not soon forget. The only argument Mr Steyer can muster is, “he’s wrong.” Then he talks about politicians who need courage and the needs of the family which, to me, sounds like nothing more than The Music Man running through River City.

Katie says she reached out to the Entertainment Software Association for comment. On the surface, that seems like good work on her part. Upon slight investigation, the ESA does not represent Activision, Vivendi, or iD, some of the biggest publishers in the business. To target only one representative shows a distinct lack of effort. If she had contacted Konami, Square, Ubisoft, Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, Capcom, EA, Disney, and Atari, and they all turned her down, I’d be disappointed.

Last video – Warning signs!

“If your child becomes a different person” Well, yeah. Video games or not, that means something big has probably happened and needs your attention. That’s universal, not specific. This person is giving parenting advice, not video gaming addiction warning signs. Then he starts listing the symptoms of depression. Next, they start throwing out the same buzzwords I heard to describe the dangers of comic books.

Katie then says, that when you give kids with a predisposition to violence these games, “that’s when they turn into Adam Lanza.” Really? Really, Katie Couric? Adam Lanza already had developmental disorders for his entire life, long before video games entered it. The Columbine shooters also loved Marylin Manson, or has someone already beaten you to it, in making a special about the evils of music? But if you decide to discount evidence, you can compare that sweet innocent 6-year old girl down the street to Pol Pot. I swear at some point she wanted to say, “basement-dwelling.”

Wrapping up, the MD says that it’s important to talk to other parents at a community level. For some reason actually getting involved in their kids’ lives is never once brought up. Hmm? Why couldn’t she have used an example that was less than 6 years old? There are plenty of examples of South Koreans who die at cyber cafes. There’s the viral misogyny and sexism directed at “girl gamers.” There was the Norway shooter who said he used video games to train. With just a cursory amount of effort, she could have made the segment so much more!

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Posted on May 9, 2013, in TBGNP Analysis and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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