As we’re probably all aware, video game culture — the games themselves, the players, and the media covering it — has a wee bit of an image problem. No matter how far we’ve progressed in becoming more mainstream, trumpeting video games as art forms to Roger Ebert, and helping to cure AIDS through gamer groupthink, we’ve yet to shrug off this massive reputation of being immature jerks.
Some days, like today, I can see why we’re spinning our wheels with progress in this regard. If you haven’t heard already, there’s this story of a middle-aged dad in the UK who was taunted by a teenage kid over Xbox Live, so he tracked the kid down and choked him. Not to death, but bad enough that it freaked the family out and ended with an arrest.
It’s a story that’s lit up discussions all over the place, mostly due to so many people — wait for it — applauding the choker for his actions. I’m not even remotely making this up. Gamers far and wide are applauding this physical assaulter because he represents “sweet vengeance” or something on smacktalking video game jerks.
What gets me, when reading reactions to this story, is just how petty and vindictive these comments are. Plenty of them start with “I don’t condone violence, BUT this kid was asking for it.” Because violence is bad, you know, unless it’s either funny or provides some sort of vicarious release for gamers who sometimes fantasize about slapping online jerks upside the head.
I get that. We all have those daydreams, especially when someone is just mean, rude or vile to you and you feel like you can’t do anything about it. The thing is, having fleeting dark revenge fantasies is legal. Physically trying to kill someone is not. No matter how much you think this kid “deserved” the payback, words don’t justify assault. It’s when gamers are coming to the defense of the choker that I realize the mob is no better than he. He just did what they wanted to, and they’re cheering him on for it, all while making noises about understanding that it wasn’t really right and hiding behind the shield of “it’s FUNNY so stop taking it so seriously!” No, it’s not funny. It’s sad and kind of sickening.
There’s a lot of other side issues in this topic, such as the fact that this guy is clearly unstable, the kid’s parents should’ve been monitoring their son’s online behavior, and that if this teen was griefing this guy, there were plenty of ways to avoid/block/blacklist him so as to not have to deal with him from then on. I understand the kid and the parents aren’t blameless, but none of this excuses the guy’s actions, and gamers do no credit to their community by trying to provide justification just because of their own personal frustration at griefers.
Seriously, how can we act like we’re maturing when this sort of thing goes on? It’s good to read statements and discussions by those who weren’t rooting for the choker and realize that this gives a black eye to the games community, and that’s heartening. I just wish I had read more of them today.