Gun confiscation is a goal of the political left, but in regard to these school shootings any gun control measure will have little effect because as I’d argue, there is a new element to our society that is much more to blame. About twenty years ago a video game called Goldeneye, based on the recent James Bond movie of the same name hit the Nintendo 64 home video game console. It was considered the first real “first person shooter” game which changed the industry forever. For the first-time players could play multiplayer death matches in the way that is common today with poplar games like Call of Duty, Battlefront, and even Grand Theft Auto. Two years after Goldeneye was released, there was the infamous Columbine School shooting in Colorado—and there have been occasional mass school shootings since. The connection to the video game industry is much more guilt associated than with the gun industry because there were guns before all this happened. What was new and different was the ability of young people to shoot guns in the world of computer gaming where the typical skills of learning to shoot and the consequences that were once taught to young people have been removed. These modern video games are slick, and fast. The guns fire ballistically in a very similar fashion. I used to tell my daughters who grew up on the next generation of that Goldeneye game experience, Perfect Dark, that what they shot on video games was the cheapest shooting that they’d ever do. And for most kids, they can handle it—but they love to shoot at each other in first person shooters. I’d say that there is an intellectual need people have to play this way. But for a kid that is just a little crazy, it is far too tempting to live out the fantasy created in the video game culture of gunning down lots of people, because for a fleeting bit of moments, it makes them infinitely powerful. And for some kids trading that moment of power for their lives either in jail or in death is a worthy one.
We learned from USA Today that the shooter in Parkland, Florida was a heavy video game player. A neighbor of accused shooter Nikolas Cruz told the Miami Herald that Cruz “escaped his misery” by playing video games for as much as 15 hours a day. “It was kill, kill, kill, blow up something, and kill some more, all day,” he said. Well, that really hasn’t been talked about in the news—the only line of thought that has been this proposal to confiscate guns. The biggest problem with that besides it being flat-out unconstitutional is it’s also not relevant to solving the problem. What is even worse, the way the media used those kids from the Parkland shooting to advance their liberal gun agenda, in the same way that Michael Moore did when he released the film Bowling for Columbine hoping to press the nation into a gun confiscation policy similar to Australia—the media completely ignored the video game problem. Most of the kids they were parading out in front of the cameras were shooters themselves in the world of video games. Because these days, most kids are. Most young people don’t learn about guns from their grandpa or their fathers anymore where they really feel the gun shoot, understand the recoil, and the expense of firing a lead projectile at a target—they only see them in video games under the new social world of online multiplayer battles—which are as common as the milkshake was to teenage kids in the 1950s at the local car hoop. Talk to just about any high school kid and they are playing games online at home.
I know a little bit about this world because I am still very much a part of it. I have always played lots of video games and I’ve watched this evolution, and personally I love it. The PlayStation network for which I’m a member reported to me the following stats for the year of 2017. I was a little shocked by them because as people know, I am a very busy guy. I work professionally 60 to 70 hors per week. I read at least one book every week. I shoot real guns often as well as fulfil many interests that I have. In addition I spend a lot of personal time with my family so I didn’t think it was possible to play as many hours as my PlayStation gamer tag said I did last year. Here’s a bit of the report:
Over the months of 2017, you played
over 17 different games, while making the most progress in November with 118 hours of gameplay.
The average PlayStation gamer played for
The most-active month in 2017 for PlayStation gamers was July with 1.13 billion hours.
So I played roughly three times more gaming on PlayStation than the average video gamer. And as seen by their own stats, people play about 1 billion hours a month in online gaming, most of which are first person shooters like Call of Duty. My thing is Star Wars: Battlefront. Now consider that these stats are just for PlayStation. Xbox has an equally vibrant following as does Nintendo. Presently in our house we have both the PlayStation and the new Nintendo Switch which get tremendous workouts all hours of the day. Video games are the number one past time of young people these days so if any reforms should be tackled, it is in what happens in the world of online shooters. That is the first place to start.
A gun ban will do nothing to curb the violence because the desire to violence is nurtured in online gaming. The need for a human being to decimate other live players is something very inherent in us all, which is what first person shooters are all about. Until that desire is eliminated from all human beings, there will be mass violence occurring. For well over 99% of the population they can play these games and not go out into the world and engage in mass violence. But for some the temptation to do in real life what they can do in the video game world is just too enticing—so they carry out the fantasy like Nikolas Cruz did in Parkland.
These video games are a global phenomenon, people are playing them in Europe and Asia as well, in live time. Guns aren’t so easy to get in those places so the killings that occur are other methods, knives, cars, bombs—whatever terrorists can get their hands on. I would be willing to bet that if most ISIS terrorists were tracked down to their gamer tags, we’d find that they play all these video games religiously in their countries of origin. I’m sure PlayStation and Xbox know who is playing what and how often. If they are tracking me, they are tracking everyone. And you can bet the NSA and the FBI have profiles on certain players and their online abilities and connections.
In real life one of the measurement systems I use to make multimillion dollar assessments of something is the lean manufacturing technique of Gage R&R which is a type of MSA—Measurement System Analysis. Gage R&R (repeatability and reproducibility) are typically only 30% to 50% accurate even with the best inputs that can be acquired so getting the best information to collect is of utmost importance. If I were to run a Gage R&R on mass school shootings putting all the data into a nice big beautiful spreadsheet taking into account the age of the shooter, the back ground of the shooters, the types of guns used, the social circumstances for which they functioned, the political beliefs, the amount of times they had sex with females—was their a father in the home, etc., we’d find that it was none of those elements that would point us to the obvious problem of what causes school shootings. What they’d all have in common to some degree or another was the direct result of the video game industry and the romance that gun violence has been perpetuated by the Hollywood product. Even the music industry would show up on our Gage R&R to show a repeatable influence over the last two decades for desensitizing people to the realities of the world and encouraging violence to instigate social change. The fault of school shootings statistically speaking have nothing to do with gun manufacturers or the NRA—it has everything to do with Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox. The MSA analysis points only to the video game industry followed closely by movies and television as the prime drivers of social violence. Even if all guns were confiscated and the NRA were out of existence today, mass killings would still occur because the cause of the violence has not been yet dealt with. The desire to kill lots of people can be done with a gun or a car, but it’s the problem of our modern society that such desires are there to begin with—and video games assist that desire with a role-playing element that makes the weakest and less disciplined of us seek out that sensation in real life.
You will never hear from me to ban video games. I love them too much and I am willing to put up with the occasional violence that we see because I think there are benefits to what video games bring to people. Violence is a byproduct, but so is the thinking that goes on which is changing us as a species and allowing us to process information so much faster than we ever did before. There is much more good about video games than bad. But if there is something to blame for the Parkland school shooting, it was video games that Nikolas Cruz played which likely pushed him over the edge. If you are harboring resentments in an aggressive setting and losing grips with reality—killing hundreds of people a day online is likely to create the fantasy of doing it in real life. Most of us know how to turn off that switch and to only keep that desire in the video game reality. Obviously, Cruz didn’t have that switch. But if people really want to solve the problem of school shootings, you have to start with the video game industry. Because there are a lot of Nikolas Cruz kids out there just waiting to snap. I think we are headed for a period over the next two decades where there will be many more killing attempts—because kids like Cruz play kill so much online that they want to try it in real life. And because they don’t have strong fathers to hold them together, or a family structure, a church, or even good media influences to look up to, there is nothing to keep them from testing themselves in reality once they have grown tired of killing in the world of video games. Not being able to buy a gun at Dick’s sporting goods or the Kroger stores won’t prevent them from some other method. If they want to kill, they are going to find some way to do it, and when they do, we have to be ready for them.
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