You kids, and your 'murder simulators'
Anytime a real-world tragedy takes place, it rarely takes long for video games to be blamed. Weve seen everything from Grand Theft Auto to Mass Effect made into scapegoats for violent crime, and decried for corrupting the souls of young children everywhere.
Although multiple studies have indicated that video games alone do not, in fact, directly lead people to go out and commit horrible crimes, that hasnt stopped many from pointing their fingers and lamenting the future of the young generation. But violence isnt the only thing theyve been blamed for. As it turns out, the wonderfully twisted black hole of the internet has allowed multiple voices to connect video games to all sorts of different issues, behaviours, and lifestyles. So, strap on your tinfoil hat and join me as we take a look at some of the things games have been blamed for.
According to some theorists (opens in new tab) on the internet, if youve ever taken it upon yourself to slay the demon hordes (opens in new tab) in a game, youre prepping for a lifetime of wearing inverted pentagram necklaces and bowing to the will of Baphomet as a devout Satanist.
Never mind the fact that youre killing the demons in the majority of these games, or that religious belief (or lack thereof) is something one personally discovers over a lifetime. The idea is that exposure alone can manipulate impressionable minds to eventually follow the way of Satan. So if this theory is to be believed, its thanks to video games that youll be too busy slaughtering goats to join your Grandma for midnight mass.
2. Poor body image
If youve ever found yourself feeling less-than-confident about your appearance, a study conducted by two researchers at Kansas State University (opens in new tab) may have discovered the answer why. Turns out it has nothing to do with social pressure, media representation, trauma, mental illness, or bullying. No, its caused by playing video games with characters featuring well-chiseled and exaggerated bodies.
Yep, its the glistening pecs of Kratos that cause you to flash a wary eye at that bag of Doritos. According to this study, playing just 15 minutes as characters such as the muscled hulk Marcus Fenix or the buxom Kitana could lead male and female gamers alike to developing negative feelings about their own bodies. So if youre looking to have a healthy self-esteem, you should probably just stick to playing The Sims.
UK tabloid The Mirror was the first to popularise this claim, harnessing the power of clickbait titles for print by using the ever-sensational headline 'TV & Computer Craze is Giving Children Cancer' (opens in new tab) to whip its readers into a frenzy.
Instead of presenting a believable case to support this conclusion, the article itself was actually just a collection of experts addressing the ills of a sedentary lifestyle. Never once did they cite video games as a sole cause of cancer. To be fair, there is a grain of truth here hidden within the layers of garbage, because its known that sedentary lifestyles can lead to health complications such as obesity and cancer. However, even a layman can figure out that binge-playing GTA for hours on end isnt likely to be the sole cause of a trip to the local Oncology clinic.
4. Speech impediments
When a British Health and Development survey (opens in new tab) revealed that a significant number of children were unable to use basic patterns of speech, video games--again, along with a number of other factors, including television and poor communication between children and parents--were blamed. This led to the discussion of a potential measure that would place officials in schools to scan children with video game habits to test their speech abilities.
Again--like cancer--video games are merely a small part of the overall problem here. While a child's excessive Minecraft habit may be a symptom of these issues, surely a lack of communication or interaction between parents and children is closer to the actual cause of the problem.
Many outspoken mommy bloggers have long been quick to blame video games for the downfall of society, but its one post from Mom Logic (opens in new tab) that ups the ante. According to the article 'Video Games Will Turn Your Kid Gay', its the homosexual content, characters, and romance options within games like Mass Effect and Grand Theft Auto that will undoubtedly influence impressionable minds and influence children to adopt a homosexual lifestyle. According to the article, that's a bad thing.
Never mind the fact that homosexuality isnt merely a choice, or that genetics heavily influence the sexual preferences of a person. No, if this mom blogger is to be believed, then its Shepards ability to romance a man or woman that has caused many a gamer to come out of the closet. I cant help but wonder what she thinks about alien romance options...
It may seem a tad strange, but theres been a conspiracy theory (opens in new tab) going around for some time that suggests Mario himself is a communist (opens in new tab). This is largely attributed to his penchant for wearing red, favouring communist-looking flags, and curiously adopting the look of many iconic Communist leaders.
Yes, according to some, video games are propaganda tools used by 'evil' communists to further their agenda. In one blog, a father even cited ModNation Racers as a game promoting communism (opens in new tab) to children thanks to its overtly communist car decals and the lack of using other national flags as decoration. So, if youve been decrying the state of a class-based society, or have been stricken with the urge to tattoo yourself with the famed hammer and sickle, now you know why.
7. Social dysfunction
The idea that video games cause children to become socially awkward due to lack of healthy interactions is certainly not a groundbreaking revelation. Ever since the 80s, people have been decrying video games and claiming that the lack of interaction by people trapped inside, staring at pixels, stunts their social abilities. That must be why psychiatrists Gary Small at UCLA threw money and science at the matter.
His studies concluded (opens in new tab) that video games and other entertainment technology are rewiring teens brains for the worse, using the time typically reserved for social interactions and replacing it with long hours of television, computer, video gaming, and smartphone use. According to Small, this has resulted in people being more awkward in social situations and becoming less empathetic. Games are unlikely to be totally blameless here, but what he neglects to recognise is that gaming has become an increasingly connected activity with the evolution of both local and online multiplayer, and some have even used games to help people learn how to better interact with one another (opens in new tab).
Back in 2011, neuroscientist Susan Greenfield appeared in an article in UK tabloid newspaper The Sun, claiming that video games caused dementia (opens in new tab). This isnt the first time shes made such claims (opens in new tab), and according to Greenfield, the dementia in children occurs because of connections in the brain being hindered by sensory input.
Shes a researcher who has spent a great deal of time studying the brain and the effects of Alzheimer's, so her findings should ideally carry some weight. Her outright lack of data to support her claim, however, has been called out by her peers, with one going so far as to completely discredit her entirely. That, and the fact that she put her findings in The Sun, instead of a verified scientific journal.
Gaming is a wonderful pastime that can transport us to different worlds and expose us to new ideas, but if not practiced in moderation, it can contribute to some unfortunate injuries and health risks. However, its all relative. Things like insomnia and eye strain can be plausibly linked to excessive game time, but--like comic books and rock n roll before them--theyre used as scapegoats for society's ills; easy answers when people want to avoid bigger, more complicated discussions. Have any other off-the-wall things games have been blamed for? Share them in the comments below!
Want more? We've got plenty of features for you. Here's one on Why Vita Is Better As A PS4 Accessory (opens in new tab), and another on The Gaming Characters No-One Ever Picks (opens in new tab).