Violence & Depression

On December 21st, 2012, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre released a statement accusing the video game industry to be the cause of the recent Sandy Hook shooting, along with all other violent acts involving guns. LaPierre refers to video games as “vicious” and “violent” and defines the (what he would probably call) glorification of violence the filthiest form of pornography. While I cannot speak for everybody and I have not myself conducted any tests or surveys that link video game violence to psychopaths or criminals (even though it has been proven by other studies to not have a huge correlation between the two), I can share my personal experience with my mental disorder. The shooter of the Sandy Hook incident is reportedly assumed to be influenced by StarCraft, and was revealed to have a mental disorder as well, and although I do not know the specifications of the condition he had, I can reveal personally that video games and other violent media have not lead me to be a violent person, even though I enjoy extremely aggressive and violent games (including God of War, Mortal Kombat, and first-person shooters, among many others).


I had developed depression in 2006 when I was 13, but it wasn’t officially diagnosed as clinical until 2009 when I was 17. Depression is linked to many things: traumatic events, bullying, or a bad home-life, but also a chemical imbalance in the brain. This is scientifically proven as a mental disorder, though some disregard it, even when proof is lying in front of them. Whether you believe that depression is real or not, it has already been proven and is described as a mental disorder. This basically means that my brain acts in a way differently than others, while still functioning in other normal ways. This affects everything from my feelings, thoughts, and personality. It has completely changed me; I am a different person because of it. Although I’ve struggled with it for years, I’ve learned to accept that this is who I am. I don’t know what led to it, and I wish I could be completely cured, but in the dark, there is always a light, though shining dull it may be.


With my depression, I see the world in a whole different way: I am more sensitive to certain subjects and I take things too personally, but it has also taught me tolerance, obedience, and how to stay strong. Having a mental disorder can be a huge crutch, and it has nearly cost me my life, but I have not been influenced by violent images. Of course, I cannot speak for every disorder, but from my personal experience and my specific circumstance, I will have to disagree with LaPierre’s comments.


When I was four years old, I played Mortal Kombat. It was on the Super Nintendo so there was no blood, but that’s still not to say that the game wasn’t violent. (Fun side note: I could beat this game when I was at this age, but now I suck at it.) Being a little kid, your mind is very fragile and vulnerable to your surroundings. I am unaware if my condition had affected me when I was younger or not, but what I do know is that this violent video game had no influence on my mind when I was growing up. I knew right from wrong, and I knew this wasn’t acceptable behavior in real life; it’s a video game, not an instructional tool. Growing older I continued playing video games, and as time passed, games evolved and became more realistic. The graphics represented humans much better and the violence was over the top, and with a ratings board in place, it was easier to release graphic, bloody games than it was in the early days of gaming. Still at this point, I had not become violent and had no aggressive thoughts to anyone around me.


Now we come to the disorder: some would think depression and suicidal thoughts would cause these images to make matters worse, but if anything, it actually made me realize what would really happen if I had copied a video game. I was angry, I was depressed, I was empty, I was sad, but whatever my feelings, I had no urge to hurt anyone, only myself. I have had suicidal thoughts before and almost caved in and went through with those thoughts on many occasions, but it was not because of what I’ve seen on the TV, just what I’ve seen in my mind. I’ve been around guns: I’ve seen them, I’ve held them, I’ve shot them. However, anytime I was near one or was physically holding one, I never had a thought of shooting myself or any other person around me. In all honesty, I don’t think I have the mind and willpower to even shoot an animal.


My mind works differently. I do have dark thoughts, and I do have moments when I even scare myself, but how I take care of these thoughts is with writing. I have written many songs and poems, most of them sad, depressing, and even violent, but I would never take these ideas and act upon them. I have never engaged in violent behaviors, and probably never will, even with video games apparently “influencing” me (as some people would accuse). Video games have not warped my mind. Video games are an alternate reality; in other words, it’s not actually real. It is a digital media that you control with your fingers. Of course, there have been cases where people have admitted that their crimes were influenced by video games, but I don’t believe the games themselves are the things to blame. I’ve been a gamer all my life and I understand how they work and react with my mind. If someone sees something in a video game that is potentially dangerous and want to imitate it, then they are not fully aware of the consequences and the difference between fantasy and reality.


Video games give you a chance to do anything you want: Do you want to be a cowboy? Play Red Dead Redemption. Do you want to be a badass that annihilates anything in his path? Play God of War. Do you want to a hero? Play almost any game out there. There are so many different games and genres that enable you to be anything you want. If you have problems, take them out in a fantasy world. In a game, you have continues and checkpoints, but that isn’t how reality works. Video games allow you to be a different person, and have proved to be very therapeutic for me. It transports the player into a different world and a different reality, though fake as it may be when you turn the game off. When I’m sad, I play a video game. When I’m angry, I play a video game. When I’m feeling happy, I play a video game. Anything I feel, I can cure with a game. It makes me forget about my problems, my depression, and my aggression. If video games make people violent, then I would have been arrested a long time ago. If I can suffer through a mental disorder and not be influenced by disturbing images, how can someone who functions normally be any more influenced than I am?


Obviously, I am not speaking with scientific facts or experiences from other people. However, I feel that politicians and leaders of organizations find anything they can to blame people for their actions. There have been many bills and analyses from the government to study and even stop violent and sexual images in media, mainly seen in video games. While I do agree that video games do have some influence on people, I do not believe it is as harmful as these groups would suggest. If someone cannot decipher the difference between reality and fantasy, then their playtime with video games should be monitored. Otherwise, we can all move on with our lives, sit down, and waste hours of our lives on video stimulation.