Maybe you’ve heard of the Bill that’s been drafted to blame video game companies for any juvenile delinquents. If you’re not at all familiar with this particular bill, you can check out our news story as reported by Tom Pandich. A few weeks ago when I found myself in the back of a sheriff’s car, I pondered that familiar question. “Are video games to blame?”
Grand Theft Auto: San Andres is a pretty popular game. In fact, the entire series has been making waves among the younger spectrum of gamers. The ease in which your character pulls someone out of a car and evades the police is noticeable; but it’s fun, clearly entertaining and purely fictional, right?
So I thought, until one night I was returning home from a show and found the parking space outside my home empty. The first thought that came to my mind was that I was the unwitting victim of a GTA. After a quick call to the police and waiting a half an hour, I found myself in what the sheriff called his “mobile office.”
“Boy there sure isn’t a lot of room back here,” I told him from the back seat of the car.
He was busy tapping away at his laptop, “Yeah, sorry about that. It’s not built for comfort.”
Several questions later, I asked what would happen if he found the thief driving around in my car.
“Well, if he’s lucky, he’ll find himself on the pavement looking down the barrel of my shotgun,” the sheriff replied nonchalantly.
“You’d really pull a gun on him?” I swallowed, trying to savor the picture of the little punk who stole my car pissing his pants on the pavement.
“Oh, yeah,” he said with no ounce of bragging in his voice. “Stealing a car is a felony. We don’t mess around.”
“A felony…” I trailed off and we sat in silence for a moment.
I kept thinking how impossible it was for someone to just decide, “Hey, I’m going to steal this here car. I just can’t wait to become a felon.” BAM! Just like that anyone can become a criminal with realities and consequences that aren’t even mentioned in video games. The glory of the chase and the getaway are what you see in video games and even movies. No one really likes to think of the consequences.
I spoke up again, “Well, I really hope you scare the shit out of them.”
“My wife has had her car broken into four times,” he confided in me, “so I really don’t like these kind of guys.”
I could see the truth for what it was. Here was a sheriff who had fought over in Iraq and, while it wasn’t truly personal, he would come down hard on anyone who volunteered to be a criminal by their actions.
After the initial shock wore off, I considered Grand Theft Auto the game and wondered if it would really influence someone to actually steal a car. While the statistics I found weren’t as recent as 2004, there has been no truly noticeable increase in car theft since Grand Theft Auto was originally released. Sure there are more than a million cars reported stolen in the US every year, but I don’t think video games are to blame. Part of the problem is that only 14% of stolen car cases actually result in an arrest. (And as time continues to pass after my car’s dissappearance, so does my hope for recovery.) If someone’s gotten away with stealing a car, why wouldn’t they do it again?
Even with something hitting so close to home, I’m not blaming video games for any crime or violence. The truth is, for someone to act in that fashion, they already had a reason. Maybe they feel as though the world has always laughed at them. Maybe they were getting back at mom and dad. Maybe it’s a thrill. Or maybe they feel as though they were leveling the playing field because they don’t own a car. Someone is not going to commit a crime or an act of violence because it’s fun to do in a video game. The truth is that most people understand the line between fiction and reality. If a video game is able to push someone over that line, it’s likely that a movie, comic book, or any other work of fiction can do it too. A video game is not responsible for a person’s actions. They are.
It makes me angry because I wonder if today’s world could be classified as a “blame culture.” “It’s my parent’s fault that I didn’t have enough love in my childhood, so I killed my wife.” Or how about, “My boss always seemed to be singling me out for criticism, so it’s her fault I shot up my entire office.” Maybe even, “Those boys weren’t socially mal-adjusted. It was that shooting video game that turned them into killers.” If you don’t see where I’m going with this, I give up here and now.
I’m not saying that video games don’t influence today’s youth and even today’s adults. But there are so many different environmental, social and genetic factors that it’s almost impossible to count them all. Whatever the case, I’ve got more than enough spare time to ponder it on the bus while I wait the full 30 days for my insurance claim to settle.