What Mass Shootings Teach Us About Racism In Video Games

MarioKart 8
MarioKart 8

On April 20th, 1999, Dylan Klebold and some other guy strolled into Columbine high school with a personal armory of firearms, knives, and homemade explosives. Sweeping through classrooms and assembly spaces, Klebold and friend unleashed a terror that would mar the white American suburban consciousness forever.

In the days and weeks that followed the Columbine shooting, a rhetoric developed that found itself parroted in the wake of every school shooting since. Calls for gun reform, commentary on bullying, and reflections on trench coats were abound. Suggestions that Klebold and his sidekick were psychopaths, predisposed to mass shootings, and not direct products of an otherwise functional society, were quickly dismissed. There had to be another reason behind this violence. How, in our perfect white suburbs, could an abject tragedy like this occur? We, as white America, had done everything right. We abandoned the urban cores, bought minivans, conveniently shopped at supermalls, and we even had videos to accompany our popular music. We had created a perfect middle class utopia, shifted economic strife onto easily negated minorities, and fully embraced the idea of marketing directly to children. We told all the kids they were special and crafted an external purpose and identity for them through products they didn’t know they needed. How could that possibly backfire?

And so we cue the familiar refrain, and the morally-panicked secular catechism fleshes itself out. Was it because they listened to Marilyn Manson? Yes! Scary gender fluid music-man is to blame! Was it because they played violent video games? Of course! If you can kill a computer you can kill a man! Should we be afraid of goths? Absolutely! Colored contacts and too much leather mean they’re hiding something!

These days, this line of questioning seems absurd, as we know for certain that the sole cause of Columbine was inarguably Klebold’s love of Doom, a shooting simulator where the player assumes the role of a space marine trying to escape a living hell on one of Mars’s moons. Through the patient and diligent work of Joe Lieberman, the patron saint of media scapegoating, white America raised its soft and trembling arthritic finger and promptly pointed it in the direction of the emerging video game industry.

Every shooting since has had one thing, and only one thing, in common: the shooter’s casual interaction with video games. Klebold, Lanza, Holmes. They all played video games. Even Rodgers was a fan of the Pokemon series in which the player must enslave animals and make them fight for their amusement (Michael Vick, anyone?). When you look at the facts, you can’t deny that these events all share the common catalyst of holding a controller and plugging an electronic box into the back of a television.

But the time to extricate video games from our markets and minds has passed. What was once a nascent industry with very little lobbying power is now an entertainment behemoth that has rightfully earned its patch on the cultural quilt in which we envelope ourselves and pray for safety, meaning, and new product lines. To ask that we ban video games would be as futile as asking to ban guns. Rights be damned, do you know how much money the industry has?

As tragic as it is, we must accept these games as a part of our lives, and in turn, we must accept these shootings as predictable and necessary causalities of an industry that sates the needs of the people. We can’t get rid of video games, and we can’t get rid of mass shootings, but we can address the real underlying issue here – race. Yes, racism, my friends. A problem that is as thoroughly buried in our culture as much as the lede is thoroughly buried in this shitty article.

As many have pointed out on Twitter – these shootings are predominantly committed by men of without color. Whether we want to accept it or not – mass shootings are white crimes.

To say that white people are inherently more violent and entitled, and that their mindset of entitlement is what causes these violent outbursts, would be unfair. It would be accurate, but it would be unfair. The real reason only white men commit mass shootings is simple. Most video game characters are white.

Unlike shootings, this is problem we can fix. We can’t stop video games, but we can at least change the way they affect our lives. We can change the racist ways in which they instigate white crime. We need more minority characters as protagonists in violent video games.

Think about what kind of effect this would have. At the very worst, we’d see a slight increase in mass shootings, but the iterations would involve equitable representations of minorities. Sure, we’d still have crime, but the crime would seem less racist, and wouldn’t that be better than what we have now?

That is of course – the worst case scenario. A more optimistic outlook would show a decrease in shootings. Why? Well mainly because if white men were forced to play as Puerto Rican elves and Sikh knights, they might not identify with the characters, and it might dissuade them from acting out the violence they see on their television screens. If we remove the source of white entitlement towards shooting people, eventually the numbers will slow, and we’ll be able to root out more recent causes of mass shootings, like forums for weightlifting and tips for meeting women at bars.

We need to face the facts, people. Until we live in a world where Black Mario has to rescue Chinese Peach from Mexican Bowser, we’re going to live in a world where white men and white men alone shoot up schools and movie theaters. You may be okay with that, but I’m not. Call me an idealist, but I’d like to live in a world where I fear everyone equally, not just the pasty kids with vitamin D deficiencies. I’d like to live in a world where ALL of our violence is attributable to one source and said violence is distributed equally across all census tracts.

It’s time to introduce some diversity into video games. It’s time to ‘reset’ the way we approach mass shootings. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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