Video games are just a scapegoat for politicians looking for easy way out
In the wake of the tragic shooting in Parkland, Fla., video games have again become a prime target of blame as everyone tries to reconcile more senseless killings.
Two days after the shooting, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin spoke up and offered video games as a scapegoat for the tragedy. He said video games "celebrate the slaughter of people" and the digital pastime is a reason for school shootings.
"There are video games that, yes, are listed for mature audiences, but kids play them, and everyone knows it and there's nothing to prevent the child from playing them," he said. "There are games that literally replicate and give people the ability to score points for doing the same thing that these students are doing inside of schools, where you get extra points for finishing someone who's lying there, begging for their life."
President Donald Trump continued that train of thought and attempted to make the correlation between violent video games and the uptick in mass shootings over the last several years. In comments made Thursday, the president pointed his finger at the violence young people are often exposed to in popular culture.
"More and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts," he said.
Trump went on to say that he believes video games should have a ratings system to protect younger children from these violent games. The industry already has that ratings system the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. Any game deemed too violent for younger players is rated "M" for mature. But just like the Motion Picture Association of America's own ratings system, there is no law that forces stores to prohibit the sale of M rated games to minors. Nor should there be. This isn't like selling alcohol to someone under 21 or cigarettes to someone under 18. Stores are welcome to and often do ask for proof of age before selling games. But the idea of prohibiting such sales has already been proposed and been struck down.
Seeing a different path, an opportunistic Rhode Island state representative, Robert Nardolilo, has taken the next step and called for a tax increase on violent video games rated M or higher by the ESRB. In a Facebook post made Wednesday, Nardolilo announced his intent to introduce legislation that would use proceeds generated from a 10 percent tax to fund mental health and counseling services in schools.
"There is evidence that children exposed to violent video games at a young age tend to act more aggressively than those who are not," he said. "This bill would give schools the additional resources needed to help students deal with that aggression in a positive way."
Let's give credit where credit is due, Nardolilo understands it's illegal to ban the sale of violent video games. It's also commendable to allocate the additional funds for mental health and counseling something that is severely underfunded across the country. But his logic is extremely flawed.