Digitalk: Stop using gaming as a scapegoat

Ross Tibbles
Ross Tibbles

This has really got to stop. I awoke this morning to see a yet another whole page in The Daily Mail, decrying the horrors of video games and how they’re destroying our youth and innocence. Blaming them yet again for making children violent and badly behaved.

On this occasion, they have turned their fearful gaze upon Fortnite – the biggest game in the industry at the moment with one of the largest player bases and highest viewerships on social media platforms.

A Fortnite streamer called Ninja daily attracts over 150,000 – 250,000 viewers of this game while at the same time being a very pleasant chap who gives great advice to his viewers both about the game and life in general. He is the ideal role model. He promotes hard work, kindness and honesty.

Here is the root of the problem.

There have been thousands of scientific studies conducted over the last two decades to try and determine the psychological effect of video games on all age groups, trying to prove that they increase the player’s tendency towards violence and delinquency.

Very few studies have shown correlation and those which do state that the types of games can be a factor, but the amount of time spent playing is more impactful.

Video games are just being used as a scapegoat to avoid dealing with the real issue and to tell yourself that you’ve done nothing wrong, “it’s that darn videogame’s fault”.

In the cases used in the Daily Mail’s articles they talk about primary school children not focusing on classes because they’re discussing Fortnite instead of paying attention to the teachers.

This is a failure of two parties.

The first failure is of the parent. Fortnite is age restricted to 12+, meaning that primary school children should not be playing this game at all. Their parents allowed their children to play a game that was not intended for their age group.

You wouldn’t take your child to see an 18 rated movie in the cinema? Would you? That’s essentially what they’ve done and then complained when the movie gives their kid nightmares and keeps them up all night.

These games are age restricted for a reason. If we treated the age restrictions on games and movies like we do the age restriction on alcohol where it’s illegal to purchase for a minor then this wouldn’t be an issue. But instead it’s left to the parent’s discretion and they use that freedom to shift the blame.

The second failure in on the part of the teacher. If they can not command the attention of their class they can’t teach.
Back when I was at school if you were ignoring the teacher you’d get an earful and be sent to stand in the corridor for disrupting the class. And the teachers went out of their way to try and get you to want to learn the subject. They made you want to know more.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not putting all the blame on the teachers for this. In my opinion the school system is too hard on them and they are exceptionally underpaid for the important task of teaching the next generation.

They are over stretched across too many students and can not be expected to give the same amount of individual attention as a student would have received 20 years ago.

And the blame game has shifted the wrong way. Twenty years ago when your grades started dropping it was your fault and you got the telling off and were encouraged to try harder to improve. Today the teacher is blamed for not doing their job well enough.

The blame should be shared, not laid on one party.

The solution here is for the parents and teachers to work with their children to incorporate their interests and set up work and reward systems.

If you want to play a game, you do your chores first. If you’re playing too much and it’s effecting your performance at school, then you shouldn’t be allowed to play until you improve.

I would welcome stricter control on the sale of video games. I firmly believe that 10 year olds shouldn’t be allowed to play gory or violent games until they are old enough to understand what it means as it could be traumatising.

As a gamer approaching 30 I feel awkward when I go to play an online war game and get teamed up with a 12 year old. You wouldn’t send a child to war yet you’re letting them play one through a screen.

But I don’t believe the games themselves should be blamed for the consumer’s failure to keep them out of the hands of children.

Games are being used as a scapegoat to avoid tackling the real problems. You need to work with your child as a parent, not dictate to them. You need to encourage and incorporate their interests as a teacher into your lessons.

And don’t even get me started on America blaming video games for mass shootings when they need to drastically rework their gun control laws instead.