It’s no great secret that MMORPG fans fall toward the middle of the age spectrum, given the history and peak of our genre. This means that most of our readers, the people who care the most about these virtual world games we call home, have long seen video games scapegoated by both the technologically ignorant and the calculatedly malevolent. As such, none of this week’s tragic and preventable events, from the murders to the conduct of our national leadership, will seem surprising or novel.
This is why gamers and games journalists, especially those who’ve been around a while, sound so tired right now even in their defiance. It just doesn’t shock us that politicians once again choose to blame video games for societal problems they are incentivized to ignore or even embolden. We’ve seen video games blamed for everything, sometimes more than once as the wheel’s gone ’round. It doesn’t matter that we’ve been right here slaying Hogger for 15 years but somehow managed not to shoot up a bar in real life. It doesn’t matter how many scientific papers emerge with mounting evidence that games cause neither aggression nor violence, not here or in any other country. It doesn’t matter how many journalists dismantle the piles of disingenuous arguments, or how many game lobbies state and restate the obvious, echoing the beleaguered music, RPG, and movie industries before them.
We all know games aren’t the problem here, and so do the people condemning them. These desperate political gambits didn’t work 20 or 30 years ago, and they certainly won’t work now that gaming is a mainstream hobby and pastime for multiple generations far outnumbering their lower-tech forebears.
But that knowledge doesn’t alleviate the frustration of watching grifters exhume and reanimate an antique moral panic for another media parade to satiate pundits and dopes and bankrollers. It’s maddening that real lives in the real world have been shattered with real causes and real solutions, and yet here we are: forced once again to waste everyone’s time justifying the existence of simple fantasy gameworlds and our place within them.
The video game industry is surely plagued by genuine issues that need addressing – labor abuses and consumer exploitation and crippling toxicity most of all. But empowering mass murder isn’t one of them. Players themselves have more than once been victims of precisely the violence being blamed on our industry. If we really want to rise up as gamers, doing the hard work of confronting our legitimate problems is the perfect place to start.