The Dawson College shooting incident drew a devastating attention to both Canadian and the world. According to a report on CBC news (“Shooting in Montreal”, 2006), the event happened on the afternoon of September 13, 2006. Kimveer Gill carried three guns and shot people at random in Dawson College, Montreal, resulting one innocent death, 19 wounded, and he later committed suicide. The public was quick to put the hate on violent media such as video games. An article published by Buffalo News (“Columbine game called”, 2006) noted that “Super Columbine Massacre” was Gill’s favourite game, where the players role play as Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold to kill teachers and classmates. However, video game designers are not the ones to blame; it is more of a government and the individual’s issue.
Responsibility of a game designer
Games are by all means an entertainment. It provides us a fantasized dimension that the events are “normally” not possible to happened in the real life. One of the most critical job for game developers is to create this virtual world for the users to easily forget all the misfortunes in real life, focus only at the fantasy, and have a great time in the game. After all, everything, the factual or imaginary events, are all possible in a game. For instance, slicing zombies’ head by swiping the fingers frantically, stabbing a character’s body by clicking the right mouse button intensively, or shooting a gun till a soldier’s head explode by pressing ‘x’ key freakishly are the actions that we can easily take in the 2D or 3D environments. It gives us the pleasure of killing without being sentenced. We are free to do anything in a gaming world, and the game developers are just trying their best to implement this freedom.
Even when a crime happens and the perpetrator was inspired by video games, I don’t think the game designer should hold any responsibility for it. First of all, it was the player’s decision on buying or downloading the game at the first place. Nobody forces them into joining the game. Secondly, Danny Ledonne, the creator of “Super Columbine Massacre”, estimated that the game has more than 100,000 downloads (“Columbine game called”, 2006). With so many other players playing his game, they don’t go around and massacre people like Gill did. A mentally unhealthy person will, either with or without the help of violent media network, do whatever they are going to do. The video games cannot manipulate a human being into hurting the others if this person doesn’t already have the mind for destruction.
Although it is not necessary, the video game designer could do better on preventing the players from simulating the game’s world to the real life. They could make up some imaginary weapons that are not accessible to the general market. For example, the image of the weapon could be a lightsaber from Star War that functions as a normal blade. So it can maybe slash people valiantly and ruthlessly in the video game, but can be imitated nothing more than a flashlight in the real world.
The designers could remind the content of the video game more constantly to its audience. For most purchased games, they already labelled ratings to indicate the intended audience on the cover. Many website holding online games has content warning screen before given access to it. What the developers could improve on is to display a short message to remind the users that this is a work of complete fiction at every startup of the game. For example, instead of showing “loading…” every time the game is starting up, they could add more warning strings for the violence contents.
Just as we are told to distinguish the accurate and fraud information on the internet, it is the government and the individual’s responsibility on how to interpreting the game. The resource providers only want their readers to know what they wish for the readers to know. That’s why I believe it’s the never the video game developers’ responsibility on creating misleading images, but the failure on government’s education and individuals’ misjudgement.
Responsibility of the government
There is a saying that government is the parent of a nation. While the video game makers have only the strength to restrict their audience by a small sign of content warning, the government could take more powerful actions on supervising its citizens and deciding the right target audience.
The first thing that the government should take care is their education system. By giving a Mature Rating to a game, it means that the player has to be age eighteen or older both mentally and physically. To make an individual mature mentally, children under eighteen in Canada are stuck in the mandatory school for approximately 7 hours a day, 5 days per week since they reached the age of six. School is an important place where we gain the basic knowledge, learn to make decisions, and learn to be responsible. But many of the high-schoolers skip classes because it was super easy and the school doesn’t seem to care. And then, the teachers in British Columbia went on strike a couple times in just these past five years, so I guess there’s that. Education is the most effective process to teach the civilians on distinguish the right and wrong information and I think the Canadian government can do better on this.
Another thing that the government could do is to limit the access to violence genre of games in protection of its people. While the developer’s goal is trying to entertain as many people as possible, it is the government’s duty as a guardian to figure out if the content of the product is suitable for its society. In Gill’s shooting incident, he was allowed to mimic the killing in the video game because he could obtain the weapons conveniently. The government can either set a rule to limit the use of guns or filter the contents of improper use of weapons away from the media.
Lastly, the government should give out strict punishment for those who done wrong. How the Canadian government handles Maple Batalia’s case recently is one of the examples that a serious case taken too lightly. According to the news article by Jennifer Saltman, the murder that was responsible for the SFU gunshot case was granted bail on January 11, 2013. Giving such light sentence will make the people feel like it’s okay to do whatever they would like to do right now, even if it means to commit crimes, and worry about the consequence later because it can always be lightened up. Canada is a country that values the individual rights very much, but sometimes, it feels like they are over-protecting the perpetrator which can encourage more crimes. It is the government’s duty to act as a guardian of its people.
Responsibility of the players
The active players should carefully consider the question: is this a game for me? That is, am I really mature enough to get involved in the world of violence? Will I be able to control my actions later? What effects will I bring to the society? As long as the player does not bring negative impact to the society, it is quite alright. The players should have a clear conscious of knowing what they are doing at this instant. They should probably set up a set of rules to make sure that they do not go overboard as mixing the reality and games.
The users should pay attention to their surroundings while playing the game. They might not want to play it with underage children around. They probably shouldn’t share the screen with their friends without notifying what the content is the game composed of.
If a player lost their mind and committed a crime by the influence of the game, they should be ready to take the full responsibility. Consider the case when a teacher distributed a math quiz to the class. One of the students forgot to set the mode from degree to radian and calculated all the answers wrong. As a result, he received a zero on the test. The student argued that it was because his calculator (the source) was wrong that he got the incorrect answers, it does not change the fact that his solutions were extremely inaccurate. So the student can only blame on his own carelessness and accept the result.
Similar idea to the murder’s case where the crime committer as the student, government as the teacher, and the calculator as the games. The murder can blame their actions on the games, but it does not change the fact that they had done something that is not socially acceptable.
To prevent more Dawson College incidents from happening again in the future, the video game designers should remind the user as constant as possible that the game was a work of fiction. The governments should also take their role as the guardian more seriously to supervising its people. Finally, the individual users should have a clear mind on the interactions that they performed on the screen are not applicable to the real life.
Columbine game called risky lure. (2006, September 15). Buffalo News, p. A4. Retrieved from www.lexisnexis.com
Jennifer Saltman. (2013, January 11). ‘Disgusting’: Co-accused in Maple Batalia murder case granted bail. The Province. Retrieved from http://www.theprovince.com
Shootings in a Montreal college. (2006, September 15). CBC News. Retrieved from www.cbc.ca