Does Violence in gaming really lead to Violence in the streets?

Politicians and their bullshit have further corrupted the minds of our parents…but is there any truth to the claims?

Can the parents of this generation truly be foolish enough to believe it…or are they just looking for a scapegoat to deflect their own bad parenting?

Drugs, sexual molestation, violence, racism, knives, gunplay, gangs, physical abuse, blood staining the grass of a backyard…sounds like the plot of the next Grand Theft Auto right?  Nope, it is quite simply a few of the things i went through in my childhood.  Now, despite all of that being present, I graduated went to three universities, and graduated studying Communication, Theatre, Music, TV/Film Production, and Psychology.

So why did I end up successfully maneuvering through the harsh realities of a cold and dark world only to emerge an independently financed media mogul in Los Angeles vs. shutting down back in Detroit, joining a gang, and ending up in jail or prison, or worse, as a guest on the Maury Povich show?

My father was a player.  He had many women in and out of his life, and I don’t see anything wrong with this, if none of them are your girlfriend and you aren’t married.  Unfortunately, he was.  My mother couldn’t handle the pressures of the constant lying and fighting ensued.  I was 5 years old when I finally realized I wanted to be an actor and director when I grew up.  I guess I shouldn’t say I realized it at the age, but I will say that it is definitely when the motives kicked in.  I was forcing my friends to act out things I wrote on the playground, while they all just wanted to play on the monkey bars.  At that age in life and in East Lansing, Michigan, being primarily interested in those types of things meant you were one thing and one thing only…an outsider.  And I was.

Sure, everybody liked me, and why wouldn’t they?  Like most kids, I was silly, funny, fun, and energetic.  But I didn’t like them was the problem.  I didn’t like anyone really.  Mainly because we didn’t share the same interests.  So everyday I would go back to my broken home “which from the outside looking in, looked great and perfect, as did most homes in little Suburbia East Lansing, Michigan”, and I would go in my room and listen through the walls as my parents fought back and forth, and then I would memorize what they were saying and act it out with my Teddy Ruxspin and glow worms and whatnot.

But then, 1985 happened.  That was the year of the official release of something called a Nintendo Entertainment System.  It was a foreign contraption from the land of the rising sun, and we weren’t really sure what to do with it.  When my father brought it home, he said to me, “son, this will be for you what intellivision was for me.”  With no idea what the hell that meant, I opened it up and rushed to plug it into my tv. and find out just what the hell all the fuss was about.  My girlfriend “yes I’ve been dating since I was four” Yuki was extremely excited and told me “ええええええ!いいなあああ、本当にすごいね!” which roughly translates too “Whaaaaaaaaat?!?!?  I’m SOOOO jealous…seriously it’s SOOOO COOOL!”  And we finally got it plugged in and stuck in a gray cartridge with a weird italian looking dude and a blocky shaped duck on the front of it.  From the first jump over a goomba to the first question mark to collect a mushroom and become big, I was hooked.

Now, whenever my parents were fighting, door shut, root beer float by my side, and my trusty NES controller in hand, I was finally doing something I wasn’t sure I would ever do…having a normal childhood.  Now none of this is to say my parents were bad parents.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  They were horrible at relationships, but unbelievable as a mother and father.  They raised me with morals, values, and explained to me religion when I was 7 and told me there are many of them out there, and that while they are Christian, that I should find something that speaks to me, and it didn’t matter what it was, as long as I believed in something.  They taught me right from wrong “my father, now a retired homicide detective, back then was a beat cop”, and they taught me about respect, and both when to give it, and how to earn it.

When I was 6 years old, my favorite game was Hogan’s Alley.  I was shooting a bunch of bad guys and saving women in distress.  My favorite film was A Nightmare on Elm street 3: Dream Warrior’s, and I already knew how to hold and shoot a gun properly.  My favorite thing to do was go to Living Word outreach center on Sundays and sing songs and play games about God with my friends.  I also liked laying in the middle of the woods in the fort I built with my girlfriend Yuki and my german shepherd Rocky and watching the stars in the clear night sky.  I wrote at least one story every week, and to this day my mother has boxes of them.

Throughout my entire life I have been surrounded by violence in games, violence in film, violence in music, and violence in life, and never once did it have an impact on the decisions I made as a real human being walking amongst others.  Terminator scared the shit out of me when it first came out.  I had no desire whatsoever to ever meet that man and the fact that that machine of death and pain, bringer of future destruction and mayhem is the governor of my state is a bit of irony that I’ve always smiled at.  I enjoy Uncharted, Fallout 3, Vice City, Heavenly Sword, and many other violent games, and not a single one of them has influenced me in my life choices, other than to keep gaming!

So why is that?  Why is it that I can turn out so different than the young teens that gunned down Columbine, whom according to politicians did so because of listening to gangster rap and playing violent games, or the guys who laid down on the freeway after watching Disney’s The Program or the many other examples that our government tends to come up with?

Well, I will tell you why, and the answer is rather simple…my parents.  The biggest influence in a child’s life is his or her parents, and if the parents are doing their job, it is the only influence that will decide what choices that child will make throughout his childhood.  There will never be a child that shoots somebody because he was taught that it was okay by a video game if his mother “like my own did” sits him down and says “I will let you play this, but you realize that this isn’t real right?  This is a game.  It is made to allow you to do things that you can NEVER do in real life, because people can get hurt, and they can die.  And is that good or bad Michael?”  “It’s very bad mommy, and I would never do that.  I know it’s a game!”  “That’s my boy…let’s watch a horror movie.”

Simple conversations and spending time with your children will go a long way in the development of what they are thinking when they digest the millions of bits of information that they take in every second.  As a child, we have many influences, but only ONE moral compass, and that is our parents.  The way a child turns out, quite literally 10 out of 10 times, is places squarely on the shoulders of that child’s parents, and until parents start being better parents, we will always have some fool ready to jump out and be the perfect idiot’s example for the government to pounce on.

Now, let’s face it.  Our government is greedy and will do anything and everything that they can to get money from every American that isn’t already knowingly directly funding their stupidity.  They constantly was money on wars, on budgets, and on driving as big a wedge as possible between the top %5 wealthiest people in this country, and the rest of it.

Are you honestly naive enough to believe that this government gives a shit about what video games do to the interpersonal psyche of a teenage gamer?  Hell no.  The only reason they stick their noses into the gaming community is to get votes from parents whom again, aren’t doing their job and think it’s smarter to listen to some random money/vote grabbing politician than their own damn kids.  Bottom line, PARENTS, PLAY GAMES WITH YOUR KIDS.  Listen to them, watch them, see what parts excite them, and talk to them about why.  Learn your damn children so that you aren’t surprised when they do or say something that you didn’t see coming, because at that point, you will probably see most of it coming.

My parents watched horror movies with me, played violent games with me, listened to rap and country with me “even though they hated both”, took me to the gun range, took me to the police training facilities, took me to church “because I chose to go, not because I was forced”, and you know what?  They were my favorite people to play games with.  To watch movies with.  To listen to music with.  To think about life with.  Why?  Because they were INTERESTED IN ME AND WHAT I WAS DOING.  I loved them for that.  I wanted to learn about stuff, and they were constantly teaching me.

The most important sentence my father ever told me about gaming happened when I was entering high school.  He said to me “Michael, high school is very heavy.  You are going to grow through a lot.  You are going to hurt a lot.  You are going to laugh a lot.  You will have a ton of fun, but there will also be a lot of darkness.  Firstly, you are not alone, you know that.  You can always talk to your mother and I.  Secondly, games are going to get you through it.  Outside of your acting and music, there is no better scapegoat.”  My father was very right.  Gaming got me through all of my childhood and up to this point, through my adult life as well.  And while thanks to our stupid government I may not ever be able to save this world, I can always save digital ones.

Parents, the government will never stop blaming gaming, music, and movies for children and teens and young adults acting crazy, but to be quite frank, your children, and what they do, and more importantly, why they do it, rests squarely on YOUR shoulders.  Now I have to go, because the fate of the entire kingdom of Hyrule rests squarely on my head and I’m being called to defend it.

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