The Gassy Gnoll: Violence and Gaming, the Debate

Occasionally this Gassy Gnoll has had anger management issues. It’s not something he’s proud of, but it’s definitely something he’s been working on for many years. The current debate around gun control, rights, and blaming the entertainment industry (video games, television, and movies largely) has made him re-examine a few things recently however… So if you’re tired of opinionated blowhards spouting on this topic, you might want to stop now. :)

Gassy Gnoll

Gassy Gnoll

It’s true. I have had some anger management problems over the last 20 years. I’ve put holes in more than one wall in the many places I’ve lived during and since college. I’ve never hit anyone else, nor do I wish harm to anyone. But I have patched drywall a time or two…

And you’re probably wondering what that has to do with the gun control debate. Well, read on – and it does tangentially bring in roleplaying games towards the end.

[begin rant]

My hands are attached to my body. What I do with them is my responsibility. If I someday freak out and hurt someone, I will face the consequences of my actions and pay the price.

If I watch violent television shows like The Walking Dead or violent movies like Kick-Ass and then run around beating the crud out of people or attempting to shoot them in the head, there’s something wrong with me. But I would take responsibility for my actions and face the consequences. It’s not the fault of the TV or movie industries.

If I play video games like X-COM: Enemy Unknown or Fallout 3 and suddenly go on a mad killing spree – again, I will face the consequences of my actions. It’s not the video game manufacturers who take the blame, it’s me.

If I own a gun or a knife and suddenly become a serial killer… It’s not the gun or knife manufacturers’ faults. It’s mine.

Watching the national debate on gun control has spilled into dangerous territory as far as I’m concerned. Sure, we live in violent times. In my city of Colorado Springs I’ve stopped watching the nightly news because I don’t want to hear about the latest shooting, stabbing, or robbery. The authorities (local, state, and federal) are doing what they can to curb the crime rate and I’m not going to get into how budget cuts are affecting their ability to keep up with the insanity.

But we can’t go pointing the finger at the people who make guns, games, television, or movies and ask them to stop. We live in a world driven by capitalism. If they’re making money doing what they’re doing, they’re going to keep on doing it. If you don’t like it, then stop using them. It is possible to say “NO.” Don’t watch violent programs or movies or buy violent video games.

Parents, I’m talking to you here. Talk to your kids. Teach the context that surrounds some of these controversial topics. Show them what you think is right and wrong. And have the conviction to stick by those decisions. Keep an eye on them. What are they watching? What are they playing? It’s not our schools’ fault that our kids don’t know right from wrong – that starts at home. It’s not easy and it’s not fun. But we have to start somewhere.

Those of us who are adults need to take stock in our beliefs and figure out where we draw the line as well.

For example, I am not a gun owner, but I’ve gone shooting. I know basic gun safety. And I still don’t want one in my home. I understand that it’s my right to own a gun to protect my home and family, but I don’t want my kids growing up in a house with guns. I’ll pay to have them learn how to shoot safely from an instructor when they’re at an age when they want to do that, but there are enough things here that could kill them – I don’t need to add to the list. I have even asked my best friend, who carries, to not bring a gun into my home. And he respects that decision.

So going back to my own anger management issues for a moment, do you want to know what my saving grace has been?

Roleplaying Games.

In countless campaigns and adventures, I’ve managed to save damsels, slay dragons, and win the day. It’s a stress reliever. I can laugh with my friends while trying to stop a rampaging horde of undead from killing the townsfolk. Sure, it’s violent, but does that mean that RPGs need to be regulated more closely?

If rational thinkers lose this debate about violence in games, TV, and on the silver screen, I’m afraid to see what’s next. Is Chess really a wargame in disguise? Will they ban War as a card game simply because the name has a violent connotation? Will D&D books be destroyed because they encourage imaginary violence upon imaginary creatures?

Yes, I know this is taking the whole thing to an extreme, but some extremists are already talking like they want to return us to some puritanical ideal of life that hasn’t existed (and likely never did) for hundreds of years. We don’t really want that to happen, do we?

For me the whole debate boils down to personal responsibility. If I do something unspeakably stupid, I am prepared to pay the costs. But dumbing things down and blunting our knives isn’t going to instill that behavior within us. We have to do that.

So let’s fight for a society that embraces our differences and protects our rights without trying to eliminate the joys of freedom of expression. It’s not our games’ fault – it’s ours. Let’s take care of the people who break the law and hold them accountable.

[/end rant]

Ok, I’ll get off my soap box and stop rambling now. Back to your regularly scheduled gaming conversation!

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