They say music can alter moods and talk to you, well can it load a gun up for you and cock it too? — Eminem, "Sing for the Moment"
If there is one thing that happens every single bloody time after a high profile mass shooting, aside from people running out in a brainless fit to buy every gun and box of ammunition for fear of the Second Amendment being murdered, it's to look at what video games the shooter played.
Any time society wants to blame something, other than itself, for creating these monsters it looks to the media. Did they play violent video games? Mortal Kombat? Doom? Grand Theft Auto? World of Warcraft? Call of Duty? "Watch out!" they say, anyone who does the same is just as likely to go on a similar rampage. Video games have been a scapegoat for politicians and news outlets to blame violence on since the early 1990s (ignoring numerous studies that state the contrary), and it's time people and politicians alike realized that the video game industry isn't at fault.
Despite the average gamer age being 30, many people still see gaming as a child's time killer. Chalk it up to a generational gap; video games only started to become big in homes at the tail end of Generation X, while many millennials (myself included) grew up with a game controller in hand, so it's kind of understandable why baby boomers and early gen X'ers see it that way. All the same though they fail to understand that as millennials have grown up, so has the video game industry evolved so that it may cater to the wants of its prime demographic. It's pure capitalism, and given how so many of the politicians who lay the blame on video games trump themselves as pure blooded American capitalists it's hard to see how this can be wrong. That the most enjoyed genre of games in North America is the first-person shooter should mean nothing in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. It does though for some reason.
It isn't the medium itself that is to blame, though. Violent media existed long before video games, particularly in the Slasher genre of films. Parents take a large slice of the blame for the simple fact that many think that video games are a cheap, safe babysitter that they can leave their child with. My own parents thought as much, which was why they thought nothing of buying my ten-year-old-self Mortal Kombat 3 despite the ESRB's "M" rating that was clearing printed on both the game box and cartridge.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board is a non-profit, self-regulatory, body that was established in 1994 in response to the emergence of the 16-bit era of video games. The increase in graphical and sound capabilities meant that games could be displayed much more clearly. Where an 8-bit game would be blocky and pixelated, a 16-bit game could show liquid dynamics (which is, to say, blood and gore). Mortal Kombat and Doom were both notably violent, and the content of these games and others aroused the ire of politicians looking to pander for votes. Led by Democratic senators Joe Lieberman and Herb Kohl, and championed by the now disgraced anti-video game attorney Jack Thompson, hearings on violent content in video games delivered a chilling ultimatum to the budding industry: Regulate yourselves or the Federal Government will do it for you.
The ESRB was the result, and just looking at their rating system it's hard to see how it could still go wrong. The rating system is there and while it's not mandatory (just like the MPAA rating system) just about all-game creators submit their finished product for rating so people who pay attention know what they're going to get out of the game they purchase. Despite that rating system ignorance has persisted.
Even today there are a lot of people who are ignorant of the fact that a video game rating system exists. It's much like the MPAA rating system in that it breaks down games into age suitability depending on content. Just like you wouldn't buy a Friday the 13th movie for an eight-year-old, you shouldn't buy a Call of Duty game for an eight-year-old. And yet despite that, because people still see video games as a kid's entertainment, no one pays attention to the rating system even though it's right on the box. At what point does it cease to be the game's fault and starts being the parent's fault for not regulating the content their child is exposed to? At what point does an individual become culpable for his or her own actions?