The latest gun massacre in America where 12 people were killed in Washington DC has another thing in common with the mass murder last December of 26 kids and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut... violent computer games. To be more specific it was the life-like combat killing spree Call of Duty.
Both killers reportedly spent hours daily playing this game, tallying up higher and higher kill scores, until they felt a need to try out their skills on real people.
It can be argued such games in the hands of some mentally disturbed people can be just as deadly as the guns they eventually use. This may mandate an eventual need for such games to be licensed to buyers much as guns are licensed in most US states.
What Sandy Hook and now the Washington Navy Yard shootings point out is a clear correlation between violent computer games and mass murders. But this is not saying anyone who plays such games will be transformed into a killer.
A lot has changed since crude computer games in the 1980s such as table tennis and Donkey Kong. A three dimensional multi media world makes virtual reality a reality for many gamers. Kids all over the world, who used to have outdoor sports for fun time activities, now stay inside playing computer games. Aside from becoming obese, some also may be developing emotional problems from such long stints as gamers.
Some games are bigger money makers than most movies and have film stars such as Michael Keaton, Ed Harris and Sam Worthington, doing the voices. Grand Theft Auto 5 is being touted as the biggest game of all time and it has just gone on sale. As with Call of Duty, violence is a mainstay.
A generation or so back, movies were the prime way a person could fantasize about action, adventure and war. Before that people were transported to other worlds via books. Now, however, reality and fantasy are becoming blurred by games that seem so real, the only thing missing is physical pain for the gamer who gets shot by his adversary next door or clear across the world. What makes games such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto so popular is you can play them via the internet with people all over the world.
It's easy to say we should ban such games, but that would be a denial of civil rights. And people would say, "It's only a game." And they would be right. Governments have yet to effectively cope with the Internet, maintaining a balance between freedom and security. To comprehend and deal with international Internet use of violent computer games is one more item on the governmental things-to-do list, along with the equally new phenomenon of cyber bullying.
Normally market forces would be the best way to deal with these games. Boycotts and public outcry might convince manufacturers to change course. Unfortunately, the only mass movement is the rush to buy new games, most of which are produced in countries such as Japan.
However, until something is done to rein in people susceptible to the role-playing violence of such games, more terrible crimes could be just around any American corner.