On Freedom of Speech and Video Games

There seems to be no shortage of politicians seeking to blame violent video games as the cause for the tragic Sandy Hook shooting, as opposed to lax gun control or psychological issues, but a town in Connecticut has decided to up the ante. As previously reported on the site, a group dedicated to helping the victims of natural crisis has decided to start destroying violent video games in exchange for coupons around the town. After the video games are destroyed, they will be permanently disposed in a dumpster. All for the sake of preventing violence among children. Skewed priorities aside, this event will only incite more violence and encourage censorship in America. Where else did such an event take place? A little book called Fahrenheit 451.

In Fahrenheit 451, books are outlawed and any homes containing them are burned to the ground. While it’s true that we won’t sink into a dystopian future, what Southington SOS is doing promotes such a view—destroying anything that could cause violence is a priority, whether or not those objects also encourage insight, hone reflexes, or help gamers become more cooperative. Their logic for destroying the video games is that the games cause aggression in young adults—well, guess what, your little bonfire is going to cause far more aggression than any of those games will. Parents who hear about the event and feel compelled to ‘help’ the cause will take their kids’ games, whether the children want to participate or not, and no kid is happy having their games destroyed.

While I hate to say this, this event makes Southington look very bad. I am sure the entire town does not share the same views as Southington SOS, but visiting or resident game devs might feel the need to leave, and larger game companies and retailers in the area might see that their stock is unwanted and limit supplies. The restaurants and parents that end up supporting it show that interactive media—or any violent media, for that matter—are unwelcome in the town. They are showing that they do not want to hear the stories that pale in comparison to the crimes and violence of the real world. This is their open threat to freedom of speech—‘you might be able to talk about violence, but this is what happens when we get our hands on it.’ Destroying media is a sure-fire way to support your non-violent cause. Really.

What about the kids who will be losing their games? What about the kids who decide on their own to give up their games? How are they going to talk about real-world violence, with such a huge, imposed stigma around it? Where do we draw the line between fantasy violence and real-world violence? Simply put, the violence of news is real, and the violence of media is not. Refusing to address the real cause of violence and instead destroying an obvious scapegoat certainly shows the motives and integrity of Southington SOS. Perhaps if they stopped destroying games and started embracing them as a new method of thoughtful interaction, they could find a wiser way to react to the tragedy.