Video Games have been linked with real world violence ever since Doom was released way back in 1993. That tradition continued over the years with the Grand Theft Auto series, Manhunt, Call of Duty and lots more being blamed for influencing mentally unstable people to commit atrocities against society. For a while, things had settled down but then the whole Norway incident took place and they got dragged back into the foray kicking and screaming. Now you probably know my stance on the matter since I’ve spoken about it here and more importantly, I haven't killed anyone yet. However this time I thought I’d rope in a professional for her take on the matter. I caught up with Sonali Gupta, clinical psychologist at the Tata Institute of Social Science and we spoke at length about the whole violence and video game issue.

Now keep in mind that even though people are subjected to violence through movies and TV shows as well, more often than not, games end up getting a bad reputation. This is primarily because in today’s day and age, people are just not educated enough. Walk into a game store and you’ll be shocked at the amount of parents buying Grand Theft Auto IV or God of War III for their ten year old son. Hey parents, you do know your son can have sex with a prostitute and then kill her to get a refund or proceed to stab women in the breasts in either of those games right? Oh what’s that, little Rajiv told you that game has rainbows and ponies in it. Of course he did. But that’s because he’s a kid and you should know by now that he’ll do anything to get his hands on the game.

This is why Mrs. Gupta feels parents today should be more actively involved in their kids’ life. This means not only monitoring the stuff they watch or play but keeping an eye out on their peer group as well. Because we all know kids can be a real pain in the a** at times so you really don’t want your kids running with the wrong crowd. Luckily for us, India is still pretty strict on gun laws but this whole trend of being an “angry young teen” is catching on fast over here as well. This once again is tied into the fact that kids today are pampered like crazy by their parents flashing Blackberrys and iPads by the age of 10. And since they’re so used to getting their way, they kind of don’t know how to handle rejection. Still it’s far easier to inculcate the good habits in kids at an early age rather than once they become teenagers. Sure your kid may hate you for a while but in the long run, you’ll be glad you were firm with him/her.

Remember kids, it's just a game

Remember kids, it's just a game

Another issue facing today’s youth is the fact that they remain unsupervised especially when both parents are employed. The nanny you hired is obviously not going to bother what your kid watches or plays, so oblivious to you your little one could be imbibing all sorts of stuff his/her little brain is not capable of handling. This sometimes makes it tough for kids who play games to differentiate the real world from the virtual world. And since there are no serious consequences of death in the virtual world, they may feel those rules apply to the real world as well.

But hey, most people who’ve embarked on murderous rampages over the past decade have been people well in their twenties or thirties so how do you explain that. According to Mrs Gupta, this mental deterioration is brought on by low self esteem caused by lack of parental attention, ridicule from peers and lots more. In these cases, she feels a person may lash out on others to feel empowered, to feel for once like they are in charge of a situation. If they’re the more timid kind, they may end up inflicting pain upon themselves or live the rest of their lives in anguish. These traits need to be picked up immediately by those close to them so they can administer the necessary help ASAP.

To be fair, the media is to blame as well since violence is glorified in today’s day and age. But why single out games then? Movies are just as if not more violent than their virtual counterparts so why is it that people were up in arms with the airport level from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 where players embarked on a killing spree throughout an airport when I’m sure there have been countless movies dealing with terrorism and the murder of innocents. This once again ties into illiteracy as even most media outlets aren’t aware these games are not meant for children. And then there’s the whole Copy Cat syndrome which according to Mrs. Gupta is predominant everywhere. Bluntly put, it’s people jumping on the bandwagon blindly as they’re too scared to realize the fact that they may have failed as parents. Way to pave the road people.

To conclude, I think the world would be a better place if everyone took off their blinkers and started taking responsibility. If this means not going out to spend time with your kids to ensure he/she doesn’t have a turbulent childhood, do it. If this means keeping an eye out for your kid so he/she doesn’t get into the wrong company, do it. And most importantly, please make sure the game you end up buying for your child is age appropriate.

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