With the release of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine’s report detailing the findings of the Virginia Tech massacre review panel, the influences of violent video games were dismissed as a contributing factor in killer Seung-Hui Cho’s actions. Whilst this will offer little comfort to the victims’ families, it is a welcome development in the almost-daily conflict between the sensationalist media and common sense. Whilst I’m sure Jack Thompson and ‘not actually a medical professional’ Dr. Phil are sharpening their pitchforks and stocking up on paraffin, such instances of blame laid squarely at the feet of interactive entertainment beg the question – why is it so difficult for people to assign blame to the conscious decisions of the individual?
I’m sure many of us had wondered what, if any games had featured in Cho’s (now apparently) non-existent games collection, and how long it would take proponents of the ‘people don’t kill people, games do‘ argument to secure their parasitic mandibles onto the victims’ families’ suffering as a sickening means to further their own weak, tired agendas. Somehow, I can’t see even Jack Thompson managing to pin the blame on the hedgehog this time. I desperately want to believe that there’s another reason for games acting as a perpetual scapegoat other than the fact that people simply cannot accept that people like Cho are simply that fucked up that to assign blame on them personally would be just too hurtful; to acknowledge that society itself is fundamentally damaged enough to spur young men like Cho onto horrific acts of murder would be too difficult to accept, but that too is just too difficult. I’m acutely aware that to dare to imagine such a world is shameless utopianism, but to dismiss the killing of innocent young men and women as a result of playing video games does nothing more than cheapen the tragic loss of life, and the misery of the people left behind.
Perhaps the focus of the attention of ‘professionals’ like Jack Thompson is misguided; surely if anyone lies to blame, the gratuitous media coverage of massacres like Virginia Tech should also be held accountable. If Dr. Phil wants to publicly lambast video games for the moral turpitude they are on shows like Larry King, then surely he has to accept that news coverage of tragedies such as this are equally guilty for glamorizing killing. Pot, meet kettle.
I applaud Tim Kaine and the Virginia Tech review panel for conducting their investigation impartially, without bending to popular opinion or media ‘expertise’. We can but hope that this report will go at least some way towards restoring the sense of personal responsibility tragically lacking in today’s society.