So I watched the 60 minutes episode this evening. I watched it with my father-in-law. Two things stuck out in my mind: 1) Cranial menus. What is a cranial menu, you ask? Read on for an explanation on that. 2) For all the things we say about personal responsibility, parental guidance, etc., the truth is people have been forever affected by this tragedy. That should not be sold short.
Now, on to cranial menus. This odd term can be directly attributed to that crazy old coot, Jack Thompson, Esq. In one of the comments by Thompson, he claims the kids (I mean killers) who play these video games (I mean murder simulators) form a type of “cranial menu” where they are able to pick and chose the moves they have done so many times in a video game, only this time in real life. This is supposedly what happened with Devin Moore (I thought his name was Devin Thompson). He grabbed the cop’s gun (why wasn’t that puppy secured?), looked at his cranial menu and his GTA-training kicked in. Here, I’ll just quote him from the transcript itself (which can be found here)
“The video game industry gave him a cranial menu that popped up in the blink of an eye, in that police station,” says Thompson. “And that menu offered him the split-second decision to kill the officers, shoot them in the head, flee in a police car, just as the game itself trained them to do.”
Puuhleese. Even my father-in-law, who watches us play video games but doesn’t play himself, saw through that pile of turds. Now, I know this has been discussed elsewhere, but there’s a big difference between seeing tetris blocks and killing other human beings.
I felt the reporter/commentator (can you be that old and still have an earring?) did a fairly good job of reporting. Things didn’t start out very good, though. Consider this intro:
Imagine if the entertainment industry created a video game in which you could decapitate police officers, kill them with a sniper rifle, massacre them with a chainsaw, and set them on fire.
Now that’s just not fair. I know that’s the allure of the GTA games. But to start a news story like that and you’ve already shown your hand. The viewers are already convinced video games are bad if you can “set them on fire“. But giving him the benefit of the doubt, Ed Bradley did a fair job asking the questions. A couple examples:
He asked David Walsh, a child psychologist (who did a study linking violent video games to physical aggression):
“You’ve got probably millions of kids out there playing violent games like Grand Theft Auto and other violent games, who never hurt a fly,” says Bradley. “So what does that do to your theory?”
“You know, not every kid that plays a violent video game is gonna turn to violence. And that’s because they don’t have all of those other risk factors going on,” says Walsh. “It’s a combination of risk factors, which come together in a tragic outcome.”
Other risk factors! It was glossed over that Devin was from a broken home, in and out of foster homes and most likely had very little parental interaction. The fact that he logged hundreds of hours playing the game was also only mentioned in passing. Where was the parent to tell him to turn off the game and do his chores, or his homework, or go outside and play? The kid was sixteen! Wasn’t he involved with school sports? Didn’t he have friends? Troubled, indeed.
Of course we need to ask the burning question, that of personal responsibility. We get it near the end:
But shouldn’t Moore, alone, face the consequences of his decision to kill three men?
Thompson responds with this doozy:
“There’s plenty of blame to go around. The fact is we think Devin Moore is responsible for what he did. But we think that the adults who created these games and in effect programmed Devon Moore and assisted him to kill are responsible at least civilly.”
I love that. There’s plenty of blame to go around. I’ll just end it with that. That sentence, those seven simple words sum up Thompon’s motivation. You can do awful, unspeakably terrible and despicable things, but since there is “plenty of blame to go around” let’s sue so people in the process. Nevermind the other people who are scarred forever by this tragedy (my second point). If we can make some cash in the process, let’s do it!
Update: You can read the Video Game Ombudsman’s reaction to the 60 minutes piece here.