Do Violent Games Damage Minds?

Do football, boxing, and computer killer games damage our children's minds, or prepare them to be good soldiers in the reality of a world always at war?

We hear a lot about the damage being done to the minds of children by their super-violent computer games and TV cartoon shows. If such damage is actually possible, then what should be done about a TV channel for adults that glorifies killing alien people with strange cult beliefs, promotes hatred and fear of things they invent to frighten the viewers, considers people who make terms for peace to be weak, and leads viewers to believe that their actions are led by powerful ancient supernatural beings who can take over your mind and make you do bad things, decide who wins the ball game, and make hurricanes happen… FOX NEWS? THE 700 CLUB?

It is not new. It is the same old game, training our children to become soldiers. Today's cutting-edge soldier is a fat kid who grew up on X-Box games, sitting in a bunker in Nevada with a soda and a bag of chips, using his computerized robo-bomber to locate and zap the drug-terrorist devil-worshipping bug-heads in the caves of Saddam Engamorra. It starts with ball games at recess in kindergarten to football, in which boys are taught to sublimate their dawning sexuality to the violence of the game (by showing them their sexiest classmates' panties with the unspoken promise that she goes to the winner). They learn to become organized, submit their will to the group, and to regard all who are not members of the group to be thereby a little less than themselves, and to put all of their physical and emotional resources into proving Bulldogs can kick the Wildcats' asses. It is only a short step to taking up the sword, or the ICBM, and sparing no life to prove the Yanks can beat the Gooks any day of the week.

This is not done secretly, but proudly, calling it "discipline" and "esprit de corps." It does not surprise me to see American men in uniform swaggering the streets of foreign places talking down their enemies as "gomers, faggots, pussies," like they did their high school ballgame rivals. The program works very well, and I am first to agree that the best of my contemporaries driving the 101st's gunships, my section leader Cpt Charlie Rake and Lancer 6 Maj Ken Fitch, were both Oklahoma football players of distinction. I'm not saying it is a bad idea, just that is what violent games are for, and if we intend to keep producing generations of warriors, then we should keep celebrating the games. Likewise, we must recognize that as long as we keep using the games to teach our culture to our children, and to select its heroes, then we make warriors of them, and we make wars for them to fight, for our team's colors.

In the 1970's I wrote some science fiction stories dealing with this mental programming for war by use of games, computer games. That was when a geeky kid named Bill Gates was locked in a garage in Albuquerque with a pre-computer gadget he could write programs for, one byte at a time. I wrote about the use of computer virtual worlds to teach a generation of robot pilots how to get into their roles, and to really be there, fighting for their lives and for whatever abstract notion of loyalty their game calls for. It is still very prophetic and timely stuff, now available as a complete Sci-Fi Anthology: