Writing & Research: Aaron M. Weis


Video games are to blame. No, mental illness is at the root of every mass shooting or act of violence. This is evident in the way that the common thread in each instance is the presence of pharmaceuticals or anti-psychotic prescriptions in each instance. If you live in the United States, this kind of, let’s be candidly honest, indoctrination, should be familiar with us by now. To substantiate the fact that it is a very deceptive version of indoctrination, just like at the classroom environment in every occasion that events of this nature occur. As a collective body, we discuss the events, and, in an almost unconscious manner we regurgitate to our teachers, our professors, what has been told to us by the media; we joke about how it’s the violence inherent in video games, and then in a more serious manner, we use mental illness as the unavoidable scapegoat. And holy Toledo, yes, that pun was very much intended, the media that has surrounded the recent shootings in Dayton and El Paso only act to further bolster this claim; that is exactly what we saw.

However, let the reader, just for a second scan through the inherent violence that is evident in our nation through our country’s history for just a moment. Let’s go back, for all intended purpose to an epoch in our national history that dates back exactly twenty years ago with some added changes. Bear with me with the negative feelings and connotations that I am sure will resonate in the reader as I bring to their attention the events that took place in 1999, in the most infamous school shooting in the history of the United States in the gruesome tale of Columbine High.

For any individual of this glorious nation to whom finds themselves being a millennial or older, the circumstances surrounding this atrocity should easily be able to be brought forth to the back of one’s mind, so for that reason, I will spare the details of what occurred on that unforgettable date. However, for the sake of this argument, I will highlight a comment made by the History channel review of the tragedy in Colorado ten years later, as their website notes that upon investigation, that, “violent video games and music were thought to be of blame, although,” and this is the important remark to note, “none of these theories have ever been proven.”

And yeah, if one thinks back far enough, this is unquestionably the case. I myself was only eight years old at the time, and I can vividly recall the media attacking Marilyn Manson and the music that he creates for being a heavy influence in disturbed individuals. Just as I can easily bring to mind documentaries that placed the blame on games like Doom, and other kinds of bloody shooter ups, all on a predicated point of blame that has yet to be proven.
But Columbine was more than twenty years ago, and the article on its behalf more than ten years old to the date, both of which have brought tremendous insight as to how these theories cannot be proven, and that has been common knowledge for quite some time. And yet the happenstance of both El Paso and Dayton, not Toledo, are still fresh in our minds, and all these years later, that is still what we resort to, in this sort of unconscious kind of way, as if it were as commonplace knowledge as the flawed theory in and of itself; as if we the people are painstakingly aware of what it is not.

I entitle this piece as I have, not to just think about this correlation, but more specifically in reference to the definition of ruminate which refers to the way that a cow would chew the cud of a ruminant in such a way that he isn’t spitting it out, or digesting it, but simply chewing. In many ways, this depiction epitomizes the way in which our Politicians have handled this apparent issue. That, is they repetitiously site, it’s a tragedy that is the result of video games and mental health, and then they do absolutely nothing about it, but chew on that statement, and they’ve been chewing on it for twenty something years now, and as a citizen, I think it is due time that we either swallow the message or spit it out, and actually do something about the situation at hand.

But to do so means to actually think about, or ruminate in the other sense of the word, what all this entails. There is no question that video games are not the cause of these acts of mass violence, no, at least they reflect but a partial or fragmented aspect of the larger picture. I ask the diligent reader, to fully examine, and to consider the popular culture of all mediums for the United States alone. Does a kind of common trend seem to perpetuate throughout each one?

No, it is not just video games. As a people, we go to the movies and watch a Quentin Tarantino production where Brad Pitt carves a Nazi insignia in someone’s head, or where a group of Inglorious Bastards shoot up an establishment with our friends. In terms of literature, one of the most referenced authors of our time is Stephen King, whose works often become movies themselves, and only acts to further perpetuate this theme, pattern, trend, or whatever you would like to call it. And even if it’s more subtle, our favorite Spider-Man, X-men, Avengers, or any other superhero or Marvel movie, we are constantly subjecting ourselves to this kind of action-packed reel where violence is common-place.

There is the saying that we are what we eat, but on a thoroughly conscious level, that includes all that we digest through each of the five senses. And not only are we watching violence, but we hear about it, with gang like references and lyrics in the hip-hop and rap songs that we consume daily. One such exemplification that easily comes to my mind is that T.I song My Life, where the introduction begins with a dog barking, an intruder breaking into the house, and the owner of the house shooting said individual.

And popular culture is but just one tiny aspect of the whole. When we come home tired and exhausted, we turn on the news, which ultimately pushes the same agenda. Negative messages proliferate throughout it, focusing on natural and manmade disasters, because they are the most regularly viewed articles watched by individuals. We watch in this tired, and almost unconscious state, about the break in, or the local shooting, or the drug addict that got convicted, or the individual who was kidnapped, and it almost promotes this message that the world is this kind of scary, unsafe place, filled with inherent violence. And we blame video games?

Granted, video games are no exception to this trend. I myself have tried to limit myself to games that were free of said violence, and it proved damn near impossible. If you think about it, even children’s games do not free them from this pattern. The Lego Star Wars games have scenes of iconic figures fighting each other in a quest of glory, which does exactly that, it glorifies it. In the same way, depending on how you look at Mario, the fight sequences with Bowser even follows this pattern. And that doesn’t get into the Halo’s, Call of Duty and war games, Left for Dead and survival horror games, and all the other violence ridden games that our in mass production. If you really tried to remove it, you would be strictly limited to mostly sports and racing games and that would be about it, but it’s a trend that I don’t foresee changing anytime soon.

What is interesting about this fact of our sense of popular culture, which in a way reflects our identity, is that it is for the most part an uncommon trend. In the United States, sexual acts are more taboo than violence being common place, but in most other parts of the world, it’s the other way around. And from a logical standpoint, it makes sense; sex is natural, not to mention one that is an act of creation, whereas anything even remotely related to violence, fighting, aggression, or anything similar is a purely destructive force. And that doesn’t even account for such things as what we see on a global level, in terms of wars of attrition or other things of this nature. So, the end result, is it is not just video games. We are surrounded by, and subjected to it on a nearly daily basis, almost at the rate of the sum 3,000 advertisements that we are subjected to, and it’s probably intended to be that way.

But let us for a moment change the conversation from violence inherent in our popular culture, and examine the issue of mental illness, the greatest scapegoat of all time shall we. Okay, video games aside, mental illness is at the core. So then, what are we going to do about that?

If mental illness is to blame, why aren’t we doing anything about the 40 M individuals who are homeless, the vast majority of which are mentally ill, or our war veterans? If it is to blame, then why are we treating out sick this way, and don’t their living conditions only act to amplify said sickness. What active measures is the government taking to see to it that they have better medications that assist them in treating their conditions? For twenty years now, twenty, we’ve been hearing that this is a problem. If that is in fact the case, then it is due time that we address it, and ensure that these people live a better quality of life, rather than simply scapegoating nearly 20 percent of our population, only to do nothing about it. And that doesn’t account for how these scenarios call politicians to call for more strict gun laws, which is absurd, but that is a matter for another article. That being said, as a citizen of the United States, after nearly twenty years of this same repetitious pedagogy, paradigm, or whatever you call it, all I am hearing is, we are doing nothing about it, because actions speak louder than words, especially when the theory, and logic behind those words are faulty, flawed, and strictly speaking, wrong.