|Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare|
(screenshot from MobyGames)
I was struck by this headline, "New Mexico teen accused of family slaughter loved 'violent' video games, police say."
Apparently, this 15-year-old 'video-game fanatic' killed his parents and three younger siblings. Not only that, he "contemplated shooting up a local Walmart and killing his 12-year-old girlfriend's parents," too, and the sheriff solemnly explains how this young killer loved violent video games.
I don't know anything about this kid, or about the crimes he's accused of committing, but this is certainly a tragedy. Don't get me wrong about that. However, I have to wonder how many 15-year-old boys don't like 'violent' video games. What does this really tell us, that he's just like every other kid in that respect?
I'm no kid, but I certainly love computer games. I own hundreds of games, myself, since I've been playing them for decades. And all but two or three could probably be described as "violent." Sure, you can play card games on the computer, I suppose. Even I play Free Cell.
But I like role-playing and strategy games, and they're almost always violent. Of course, it's not always graphical violence,... but often, it is. And I guess I can't see 15-year-old boys being big fans of solitaire on the computer. So how is the fact that this kid loves violent video games even relevant? Wouldn't it be far more unusual if he didn't?
This article mentions two specific titles as examples: "Modern Warfare" and "Grand Theft Auto." The first, I'm sure, refers to the popular Call of Duty series of games, of which, according to Wikipedia, 100 million copies have been sold, so far. (Actually, that's as of November, 2011, so it's probably a lot more than that now.)
Grand Theft Auto is another admittedly-violent game series - one which professional worriers love to hate - and it has even higher sales figures. Again from Wikipedia, it has sold 114 million copies, as of September, 2011 (and, again, it's likely to be far higher than that now, in 2013).
Now, I've never played either of these particular games, but I know they're violent. Still, when you've got more than a hundred million people playing these games, and one of them commits a violent crime, why would you even bring it up? Why would you imagine that this kid's enjoyment of video games is even relevant?
Now, true, I would imagine that nearly every 15-year-old boy who commits a crime - a crime of any kind - probably likes 'violent' video games. The odds are certainly good, I'll give you that. But the odds are equally good that 15-year-old boys who are perfectly law-abiding also like these games. I pointed out the sales totals for two specific game series, but there are far more games out there than just those two - and there's violence in nearly all of them.
So what does that tell us? It doesn't tell us that 15-year-old killers tend to like violent video games, but that 15-year-old boys tend to like violent video games (just like some of us who aren't 15).
Suppose the headline had read, "New Mexico teen accused of family slaughter was a Christian, police say." It's true. In fact, his father was a former pastor (and a former "jailhouse chaplain"). Actually, if you look at these mass killings in America, they're almost all perpetrated by Christians. Shouldn't we be looking into that?
Is there something about being raised Christian which makes you more likely to go on a killing spree? Or should we expect that most of these young killers are Christian just because most Americans are Christian? You might have thought that headline was reasonable, but would you have thought that my version of it was reasonable, too? If not, what's the difference?
I should point out that this kid had ready access to four guns, including an AR-15 assault rifle, a weapon whose only purpose is to kill large numbers of people quickly. I don't know which gun he used in these killings (I know which gun he would have used, if he'd gone through with his plans to "shoot up" a local Walmart), because that's not even mentioned in the article.
Apparently, that's not important. Indeed, they don't mention the guns at all until two-thirds of the way down the page. And even then, it's just one line.
Well, guns don't kill people, right? No,