Video Games and Afghanistan

My friend “Jerome” is very sad. His 26-year-old son has joined a security company and went to Afghanistan. He already served two tours in Iraq and saw his best friend blow up on a bomb.

Jerome did all he could to persuade his son to stay home. He offered to pay for his college education, for a place for him to live, and cover any expenses he might have, but the son refused.

“I blame video games,” Jerome told me. “These boys get used to shooting people on a screen and then can’t stop. So they are driven to continue shooting in real life.”

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11 comments on “Video Games and Afghanistan

  1. People have been playing these games for what? Ten years? And yet violent crime has actually decreased. I think video games serve as emotional regulators. My son would come home from school and play shooting video games for an hour or so. (I admit I was not happy about this.) It seemed to serve for him the same function that reading or playing the piano serve for me. I suppose it’s possible that a small percentage of game players get pushed over the edge by games, but they are probably pretty close to the edge anyway.

    • People have been playing these games for what? Ten years?

      Longer. More like forty years.

      The first generation of video-game consoles, the Magnavox Odyssey, was released in 1972. The ’70s and ’80s were also the heyday of video-game arcades.

      According to Wikipedia, the first patent for a “cathode ray tube amusement device” (i.e., an electronic gaming platform) was issued in 1947. (The game you played on this primitive system, you might be interested to know, was a shooting game.)

      But other than that, I pretty much agree with you.

  2. I don’t know. Obviously I don’t know the story from the son’s perspective (and really, I only know it from the father’s in a truncated, second hand sort of way), but I would guess that there’s probably a lot more at work here than someone getting addicted to shooting people in video games.

  3. Many young people are idealistic and have a sense of patriotism. Older people often are more cynical Without many such patriots during the Cold War, USSR filth would be patrolling the streets of Washington, DC. So bless those patriots, I say. And ask ignorant parents like Jerome to converse properly with their children so that they understand what truly motivates them.l

  4. I am a bit divided on the video game issue. I suppose I should start by saying that I don’t believe that there is a direct connection between video games and soldiers going to war. I also think that for adults, video games can be a harmless way of acting out aggression.

    That being said, I think that violent video games might inhibit empathetic capacity in younger children. Though empathy is innate, it is also learned. So when young kids start saying things like “it’s cool to shoot people” and it’s “funny” when the video game characters bleed and die, I find it troubling. I feel the same way about violent movies actually. But video games, because the player is actually performing the act of imaginative violence him/herself, seem to be particularly suited to erode empathetic capacity. Personally, I can’t abide violent movies or games. They really disturb me: CSI is actually too much gore for me. So I’m very sensitive to that type of thing. Still, I can’t think it’s a good thing for kids to be cavalier about shooting and violence.

  5. Isn’t it obvious why kids have less empathy for digital chunks of code than they do actual human being? I guarantee you that if you gave a gun to your average CoD-obsessed child and told them to shoot somebody, they’d burst out crying.

    Of course, there’s plenty of evidence from longitudinal studies that links violent video games with aggressive behaviour. But that’s when “aggressive behaviour” means “kicking and refusing to share candy”. To suggest that video games turn otherwise normal children into killers is ridiculous.

  6. Nope nope nope. I’ve encountered too many people who play all sorts of videogames regularly, including really violent ones, and who are much more moral re violence and war than I, who haven’t progressed much beyond Freecell, am. Simplistic explanations like “(something else, other than the life lessons we his parents have taught him) did it!” cheers the American soul, and it’s always the wrong explanation.

    • Oh, I agree completely. You don’t have to convince me. I believe that it is very silly to attribute this to video games. Human beings have been slaughtering each other with abandon for as long as they have existed. It always shocks me when people choose the easy way out and blame video games.

  7. When I worked in the abusive union workplace, someone made an issue out of the fact that paintball business was advertising in their newspaper. “This promotes violence,” they said.

    I’m more inclined to think that it’s the absence of engagement with real life that promotes violence, psychological and otherwise. You don’t know what anything is, or what anything is worth, of the cost of anything, or what a human experience could be like — consequently, you are emotionally very violent.

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