Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech

I heard about the shootings yesterday morning on NPR. While driving to school. This gives a perspective that you don't really have when you're working for some software company. (Especially a game company. For all the talk of video games causing violence, I don't think there's ever been a single case of a workplace shooting in the game industry.)

It was appropriate for me to say a few words to my morning class about this. I started off by saying that I gave it a week before the first news story linking the killing to violent video games. I forgot about Jack Thompson, who was on the media scene within eight hours. I didn't expect a second volley from Dr. Phil. Ouch.

I said that any student asking themselves Why This Happened will find plenty of easy answers, all of them wrong. Those wishing to find the truth will have a difficult search, but hopefully a rewarding one.

For those students who wanted to explore their thoughts and feelings on the subject further, I recommended two movies and two games to get them started:

Arlington Road. Granted, the movie is about terrorism and not school shootings, but the lesson is the same: lots of people care more about having the false security that an incident is over, than learning the truth.

Bowling for Columbine. A documentary that examines shooting deaths directly.

Super Columbine Massacre RPG. Despite the obviously-inflammatory title of this game, it examines the anatomy of a school shooting from the inside. My students who played it already said that it made them feel very uncomfortable. And I think that's the point; if you aren't uncomfortable when examining a national tragedy, you're probably taking the easy way out.

Doom. One of the games most often cited as a catalyst in violent crimes. Thus, it's important (especially for students studying video games) to actually play the original game and decide for themselves just how much of a "murder simulator" it really is.

For what it's worth, my students had varied perspectives on the shooting... but we could all agree that our sympathies lay with the victims and their families and friends.

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