As we mourn the Sandy Hook shooting, I think many of us are acutely aware of the coming storm that the gun, mental health, and entertainment industries are going to face. On this blog, my primary concern is the backlash that we are going to see in games. To express my point today, I am going to tell a little story.
When my son was about 3 years old, he was very interested in playing the guitar. He would even “strum” the pages of a magazine ad if it had a guitar picture on it. One day, in an effort to encourage a love of music, I purchased a ukulele that (proportionally) matched his size.
He loved the toy. For about 4 months, the only time it left his hand was bath time, and that wasn’t by choice. We frequently heard, through the baby monitor, him wake up at 3am, strum the ukulele, and then go back to sleep. And he loved playing along with musicians any time they were on the television or YouTube.
One day, he watched SpongeBob SquarePants in an episode where Spongebob sang a campfire song. Here is the clip:
Of course, our boy played along as Spongebob played the song. And as the Pete Townsend move at the end played out, we watched in horror as he held the guitar above his head and prepared to bring it smashing down onto the television. We made it there to stop him in time, and it was a while before he got to watch Spongebob again.
I bring this up because I have seen firsthand how imagery in cartoons can influence a young mind, and I can appreciate the fear that people have about violent games. Frankly, I don’t think kids should be playing violent games, just as I don’t think young children should see “Saving Private Ryan” or read “Angel in my Foxhole.” That’s why we have a rating system, and why parents should follow it.
Nonetheless, I would never say that “Saving Private Ryan” or “Angel in my Foxhole” shouldn’t exist. In our attempt to work out our understanding of this mess, we need to keep that in mind: the answer is always more art, not less.