On 20 April 1999, something happened which rocked the world. Two young lads known as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, entered Columbine High School at about 11.10 a.m, armed with an assortment of weapons, with the intention of killing as many people as they possibly could. Within an hour, the pair had killed 13 people and injured 21 others, with three people getting injured escaping. They then turned their weapons on themselves. After the event, many reasons surfaced why they had done such a dreadful act, and I was reminded of this recently when writing some recent articles. One theory stated was that the killers were spurred on by listening to heavy metal music and by playing violent video games, which I would like to explore here.
Realism at it's most...realistic.
My first ever games console was a Super Nintendo. While I didn’t have a big game collection, I did have a few different genres, which included shoot ‘em ups and beat ‘em ups. A few years later, my SNES got replaced by a PlayStation. I owned a fair few violent games for this. Doom, Alien Trilogy, Tekken, Tekken 2, Tekken 3, Soul Blade, Quake 2, GTA and GTA 2 to name a few. When I upgraded to a PS2, the pattern continued. And so with this generation of consoles, with probably half my current game collection having an age rating of 15 and over. I should also mention that I have listened to heavy metal all my life. I am also a former soldier, capable of handling a weapon. I have, however, never killed anyone. I have never played Borderlands and wondered what it feels like to really shoot someone in the face. I have never played Soul Blade and wondered what it feels like to hit someone with a sword. I have never played GTA and wondered what it feels like to steal a car.
After the Columbine shootings, the blame for what happened was placed at the feet of Marilyn Manson and the game Doom. While I’m not here to defend Manson, I don’t think that either can be blamed for the actions of others. All through history, any time there’s been an atrocity, there’s always been a scapegoat. Unfortunately, in recent history, plenty of violent crimes have been blamed on violent games or films or heavy metal. When people started blaming the actions of Harris and Klebold on a game and music, I think they were mistaken. Is it possible that these two individuals had this violence in them in the first place, and chose the game and music to fit their character? There have been plenty of cases against video games, and plenty of studies into the effects of violent games on people, which has yielded mixed results, with some claiming that people exposed to violent games are more prone to violent acts, and some saying there’s no correlation between violence in games and violence in real life. While I believe there are some subjects that shouldn’t be portrayed in a game, I think it’s important that people remember that a game is still only a game, and that anyone who decides to copy or try out something from a game is getting lost between reality and virtual reality. Games, music and films are there to entertain us. Games allow us to perform actions that aren’t possible in our normal lives. How many people have dreamed of being a Jedi? How many people have wanted to fly? Or play for Manchester United? How many people have wanted to own a Lamborghini but not had the money? How many people have wanted to fire a gun in a safe environment? Games allow all these things, which I think can only be a good thing. I also think that blaming games, films and music is wrong simply because the people that commit the crimes obviously had the violent tendencies in them to begin with, and chose violent media to suit their personality, not the other way around.
After looking into their backgrounds a little bit, I think that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris would have hurt all those people anyway. Their choice of games and music and films were just ones that fit them, and while there have plenty of people that have hurt or killed others and have a history in violent media, there are many, many more that play the same games, and don’t inflict that same hurt and pain on someone else.