Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Pre-teen Distorted Reality Game Led to Violence

Video games can provide incredible benefits to all of us in terms of learning, honing our skills at something, immersing ourselves in performance-enhancing fantasy and even working out things in therapy. Virtual reality is wonderful, but we now see it can have an extremely dark side and that can lead to unimaginable horrors. We’ve heard research that points to the benefits of virtual reality and we’ve heard more than a few stories about how mass murders were totally absorbed in the games to the point that it affected their actions totally. Think Adam Lanza, Elliot Rodge, Anders Behring Breivik (Norway), and even a young man in Thailand and you can begin to assemble an array of video game “addicts.” Using the word addiction, for me, goes against the grain because it is too simplistic a term for what I believe is happening here.

In past media articles about kills related to relentless video game players, the perpetrators of the violence have always been male. Today, we now have another example of how pre-teen young girls, too, can be capable of extreme violence but we have to question how the games played a role and in whom. The girls in question were devoted players of a game related to a VR creature known as Slender Man. 

Women are involved in violence, but in a different, more controlled way. Statistics tell us that more women watch football than we ever thought and some stats indicate 42% of the football fan base is female. You know they must be a significant portion of the viewers when $42M in jewelry spots were bought in 2011 and it just keeps on growing.

Football, albeit unlike hockey, is a rough and tumble sport, but it’s also not virtual reality; people actually watch it live in the stadium or on TV. There’s no separation between reality and fantasy here. The fans maintain their sense of environment unlike the VR games where everything is altered to the point of incredible distortion of actions and powers. There are injuries, but no tries to actually kill their opponent in the true sense.

Destroying someone is the ultimate goal in the games and by destruction we mean total, not just a broken bone or two. Murders are being attributed to the fabulously popular video game, Grand Theft Auto. Given enough violence is it any wonder that one researcher quizzing kids on how they felt about 9/11 said they felt nothing because they’d seen worse in video games. Have our kids (and a good portion of adults) been so desensitized to violence that it becomes meaningless in the pursuit of a goal?

The internet creation, Slender Man, has been acknowledged by these latest girls as their mentor in the vicious attack on a 12-year-old girl that left her with 19 stab wounds all over her body. Some of the wounds hit vital organs and it was all done in order to become a Slender Man “proxy” to avoid having their families killed. Doesn't that ring of something else? What do predators tell their victims will happen if they don't comply with their wishes? Yes, their parents will be killed. 

How did these girls get to this point and what do we know of them? But the real question isn’t Slender Man, but the violence that eats away at kids and adults’ sense of reality, right and wrong or whatever you want to call it.

Undoubtedly, we’ll see a replay of the infamous RonnieZamora case from many years ago in Florida where a teen killed his elderly next door neighbor. The description of the murder fits pefectly into a TV script even down to the last request of the victim. The defense? Television psychosis or TV insanity from watching endless hours of detective shows where no one really died but violence was shown hour after hour. Whether you realize it or not, TV media coverage of wars can affect your sensitivity to violence as has been suggested happened during the Vietnam war.

It will be interesting to see how the media handles this latest violent incident related to VR and what the TV experts postulate about it. Will they have solutions? I doubt it.