Of the eight shots he
fired, he had eight hits on eight different kids. Five were headshots,
the other three upper torsos. The result was three dead and one
paralyzed for life. The FBI says that the average, experienced,
qualified law enforcement officer in the average shoot-out, at an
average range of seven yards, hits with less than one bullet in
Grossman admits Carneal
was most likely a naturally gifted shooter, but maintains that the
influence and time spent playing violent video games prepared him
for the shooting rampage.
"You need three things
to kill: the weapon, the skill and the will to kill," says Grossman.
"With video game training it makes killing happen without conscious
thought its a stimulus response."
Carl*, a 34-year-old
father of four who lives in Missouri and owns a video game console,
is not worried that video games might train his children to murder.
Instead, he is more concerned that video games are teaching children
that they do not need to adhere to any code of ethics or morals.
"Kids are coached into
the idea that there is no such thing as right and wrong [by playing
violent video games]," he says. "Its not the violence in itself
that is so bad; its the fact that in many video games there
is no justice.
"In the real world sometimes
violence is a necessary event," he says. "There is nothing wrong
when its used to defend the innocent and enforce justice against
Even so, if Grossman
had it his way children under the age of 7 would never be exposed
to any violent graphic imagery because, he says, they have a difficult
time telling the difference between fantasy and reality.
"When children see brutal
death and destruction in video games they become convinced thats
the way the world works," he says, noting that most children will
not follow Carneals example as teenagers, but many could suffer
psychologically at some level. "Most children are not going to become
mass murderers; they will just become fearful and lead their lives
in a state of fear."
Supply and demand
Violence is only part of the problem.
In November, Acclaim
Entertainment Inc., released BMX XXX, which one reviewer
on the Web site ign.com describes as an R-rated video game. By collecting
coins in the game, players are rewarded with a trip to a strip club.
There, they cash in coins they have accumulated to see a woman strip.
"These arent animated girls either," boasts the reviewer.
"Were talking real strippers gettin real naked."
Such fare does not surprise
Joe Hamell, 28, an artist who designs video games at an independent
game developer in Illinois. In fact, he says, there is far worse
material in the works for the future. "There are Christians in the
industry who are trying to make a difference and the tide could
change with prayer. But it [objectionable content] is going to start
creeping its way into everything," he says, adding that the philosophy
in the gaming industry is to supply what consumers demand. "The
industry is just giving the public what they want."
Last years best
selling video game was the disturbingly violent and coarse Grand
Theft Auto III for the Playstation 2. In the game, players
guide a character through Liberty City where stealing cars, mugging
and assaulting others, and soliciting a prostitute are goals of
On the GTA3.com Web site,
readers are warned that the game is for mature audiences only and
that GTA3 was banned in Australia because, "you can take a prostitute
in your car, have your act and then once youre done, kill
GTA3 is a favorite of
Brandan, a 17-year-old high school senior from Modesto, Calif.,
who says he is drawn to the game because of its goal and violence.
At his school, he says, most students who play video games have
played GTA3 and seem to like it. Brandan has been playing video
games since he was 13 and says his morals and Christian upbringing
will keep him from acting out any scenarios he witnesses while playing
"For non-Christians who
play the game it probably shows them that it [the way the characters
act] is the right way rather than wrong way to live," he says. "But
I dont let it take a toll on me."
Whos in charge?
Even though adults purchase nine out of 10 games sold in the United
States, analysts claim many children still have easy access to games
that are inappropriate for them. The reasons? Experts say many parents
are uninformed, uninvolved and rely too much on ratings, and some
retailers are more than willing to sell or rent violent video games
"Parents dont realize
what is out there in games today," says Dr. Douglas Gentile, 38,
director of research for the National Institute on Media and the
Family. "Many people make the incorrect assumption that if its
called a game it must be all right for kids but thats
no longer true."
According to a study
from the Annenberg Public Policy Center, 88 percent of parents report
regularly supervising their childrens use of television, but
only 48 percent report regularly supervising their childrens
use of video games.
Ratings from the Entertainment
Software Rating Board, an independent, voluntary ratings system
for video games, do accompany almost all video games sold in the
United States. Experts who spoke to Todays Pentecostal
Evangel urge parents to check ratings as a first step in deciding
if a game is appropriate for their children. But stopping at the
rating is insufficient. Parents are encouraged to scour game titles
and reviews, and talk to storekeepers and players. Playing the game
first, say experts, is not a bad idea.
"Be involved and know
what games your children are playing," suggests Gentile. "The job
for parents is to learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff."
Dr. Kathryn Wurtz, a
psychologist and director of the child and adolescent department
at EMERGE Ministries in Akron, Ohio, says parental supervision,
involvement and research into games, plus prayer are crucial in
keeping children from inappropriate video games. But she also advises
parents to concentrate on communicating effectively with their children.
"Because these games
can become so important to children, it is best to listen to your
childs opinion and try to understand it," she says. "You dont
have to agree with them, just let them know you care about their
feelings and you will consider their point of view in making your
No matter what precautions
a parent may take, it is still relatively easy for a minor to purchase
or rent any video game. Some retailers will sell or rent Mature
and Adult-rated video games to minors. This does not sit well with
U.S. Rep. Joe Baca of California who has introduced legislation
aimed at curbing the sale or rental of grotesque, violent and sexually
explicit video games to minors. If passed, the law would create
penalties for those who do so.
"Parents have to take
responsibility for their children and monitor where they are learning
their behavior from, but stores have a community responsibility
to help keep kids from harmful material as well," says Baca. "When
kids play video games, they assume the identity of the characters
in the game, and some of these characters are murderers, thieves,
rapists, drug addicts, and prostitutes."
Today, Elizabeth Woolley is helping other families and players who
are facing the same situation she and Shawn faced a little more
than a year ago. With the help of friends and volunteers, Woolley
has created On-Line Gamers Anonymous, which is a resource on the
Internet for players who are struggling to break their addiction
to video games.
"When I was trying to
find help for my son there was no place to go," says Woolley. "I
had no idea there were other people going through the same thing
I was. Its so devastating. This stuff is breaking up families."
*Name has been changed.
Kirk Noonan is associate
editor of Todays Pentecostal Evangel.
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