Violent video games work, for elites

It’s a felony to throw a hand grenade at an ambulance.

I was intrigued by Bobak Ha’Eri’s Friday column, “Violent video games worked for me!” Ha’Eri suggests that, in a stable family environment, children who enjoy violent entertainment can grow up to become healthy, productive citizens. Is it surprising that students in the Law and Medical schools, who typically enjoy the advantages of a stable family situation, would become successful?

Perhaps Ha’Eri has not, as I have, talked with members of our society who have been abused and/or neglected. I know convicted felons who suffer from crippling psychological and emotional disorders, because as children, their already vulnerable psyches were further disrupted by careless, selfish and greedy corporations selling violence and sexism as entertainment. I also know counselors and psychologists who agree such individuals can be dramatically affected by exposure to violence.

Entertainers and lawyers, who typically come from stable and wealthy families, argue that the First Amendment protects their marketing strategies. They say it is the job of parents to oversee what children do with their spare time. This claim forgets the interests and rights of children themselves. What about children who lack involved parents? What are the rights of a child of an alcoholic, workaholic or drug addict?

As a society, we should avoid taking serious risks with the minds, emotions and attitudes of the vulnerable by continually exposing them to shocking, frightening and sexist images. To be clear, I am not stereotypically focusing upon inner-city families who continually struggle against gang violence and drug abuse. There are plenty of suburban parents who choose work over family, money over parental involvement and alcohol consumption over responsibility on a regular basis. There are also parents who, because of economic pressure, must work long hours to feed, clothe and house their kids.

Is it wise for our society to collectively add more burdens to parents than is absolutely necessary? Our neighborhood groups, religious organizations and entertainment venues need to make life better for all exposed children, regardless of their economic and ethnic backgrounds, rather than selfishly or greedily profit at the expense of the vulnerable.

Having presented my general views regarding violent entertainment, I also want to briefly articulate my beliefs regarding video games in particular. I grew up playing Pac-Man, Mario Brothers, Mortal Kombat and other video games. I am something of an expert on the subject, as I collect vintage games and own more than 200 Atari 2600 cartridges, 75 Nintendo Entertainment System games and a smattering of other titles from various systems.

I remember, as a teenager from a stable family, playing extremely violent games. These games, I believe, contributed to my attitudes and behavior that were rude, condescending and occasionally violent. Ha’Eri suggests people express violence through murder and arson. But fistfights, shoving and controlling words are also potential manifestations of continual exposure to violent forms of entertainment.

I believe that actively deciding to punch, kick, stab and kill virtual beings contributed to negative thoughts, emotions and actions. For this reason, I decided to purchase and play less violent and disturbing games. It is not about purging all violent scenes or games from my life. It is about actively reducing the amount of violence I expose myself to, in the hopes that I will become a more peaceful, polite and compassionate human being as a result.

I am glad that my stable upbringing enabled me to make this choice. I deeply regret that our society forces others, especially vulnerable children, to make such a complex decision.

Jason Eden is a University graduate student. Please send letters to [email protected]