For the most part, gamers are not used to individuals outside the video game industry standing in defense of the hobby. It's rare.
That's why gamers everywhere should stand and applaud Stetson University psychology professor Chris Ferguson, who recently penned a clarifying – and greatly appreciated – article, published in the The Hartford Courant .
Ferguson addressed the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left twenty children and six adults dead in December 2012. Specifically, he said murderer Adam Lanza's game playing has been overblown and in reality, it's nothing more than an example of "moral panic." After the shooting, rumors quickly spread about Lanza's hobbies and within days, he was branded a "deranged gamer," which once again put gaming in the negative, black-tinged spotlight. Those who have been playing games for a while weren't surprised. Hell, most of us figured it was inevitable. I remember seeing the awful news and sadly, I immediately wondered how long it would take for the media to somehow blame games.
Didn't take long. But Ferguson says all of it was unnecessary, as Lanza's gaming habits were "unremarkable" for a 20-year-old (something we've been saying for the past year). He adds that nowhere in the official investigation is there a confirmed link between video games and the shooting, nor is it proven that Lanza was "obsessed" with games.
"The condemnation of violent video games following the Newtown shooting is a classic example of a moral panic. Politicians put pressure on the social science community to produce certain types of research results, based on an erroneous assumption. The news media churned out headlines that followed suit. Most of the debate over video games went forward without waiting to see how much the shooter had in fact played them."
Ferguson likened the "moral crusaders" freaking out over video games in Newtown to the battle rock music faced in the 80s and comic books faced in the 50s. Those of us old enough all remember "Twisted Sister" front man Dee Snider coming before Congress and speaking his piece. Ferguson finished with a very strong point:
"During the past 20 years in which video games have soared in popularity, youth violence has dropped by almost 90 percent. We would do well to remember this, concentrate on more pressing matters such as poverty, and forgo discussion of cultural issues, if we are really serious about crime."
We're thankful that Ferguson took the time to write this piece. We rarely, if ever, see newspapers post articles in defense of gaming, so this is refreshing. Of course, it's still a gigantic problem that the media continues to ignore this industry but hey, at least someone got through. By the way, one final question: After the Sandy Hook tragedy, when gaming was brought to the forefront, does anyone recall seeing a single industry representative featured in a paper or magazine, or on the radio or TV, speaking up in defense of gaming? No. We're not allowed to speak. Never have been, really, dating all the way back to the Mortal Kombat snafu in the 90s. That's only one example in a long string of condemnations.
That has to change. But in the meantime, we'll take whatever support we can get. Our silence is not self-imposed.