In the wake of recent shootings, a group in Connecticut decided that they wanted to hand out $25 gift cards to residents so they could buy up violent video games and bring them to a good old-fashioned video-game burning. News of this act spread like wildfire through the news media and the geekosphere (if that’s even a word).
Developers and publishers of video games should have been ecstatic about people being handed cash to go buy video games for a highly publicized event. And $25 won’t get you a new copy of the most violent video games. People really wanting to burn a copy of a top-of-the-line video game full of violence will have to pony up an extra $35, since video games retail for an average $60 these days. To get a good-size bonfire going, we’re easily talking thousands of dollars in sales. For a truly epic Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade-level book burning, we’re probably talking tens of thousands of dollars in sales. And that’s not even including all of the kids saving their pennies to replace all the games that will be lost.
Then, you have to factor in how much great publicity this generates for the video-game companies, and how much good they will get from it. No one likes to see the censorship of book burning, so intelligent people go out and support those being suppressed. Articles are written pointing to the video-game industry as the innocent victim, and video-game makers benefit greatly. Hell, this piece alone will draw thousands of dollars worth of attention to the issue and the industry.
This is all money in the bank for the video-game industry, and it’s all because some angry, misguided people decided they wanted to use entertainment like video games as a scapegoat for a very real problem.
The video-game industry isn’t the only winner here, though. Americans who yearn for meaningful legislation to address the issue of gun crime win, too. Legitimate news sources quickly put the common misconception that video-game violence causes real-world gun violence through the shredder, helping inform the electorate on the real issue: guns.
The biggest loser, though, could have been the environment. Do you know how many noxious fumes and chemicals are released into the air when you burn plastic? At least with book burnings, you’re incinerating a substance that’s meant to be burned. When you burn plastic, it literally poisons the air, the land and the water with noxious fumes. In fact, it’s so bad, I’m wondering if it should have warranted an investigation from the Environmental Protection Agency. Surely burning that much hazardous material is some sort of punishable offense, right?
But none of it really matters. The story spread like wildfire, people got outraged, columns were written, and then the burning was quietly canceled. The organizers of the game burning stated that their point was made without actually having to burn anything. My guess is they realized how expensive the games really were, and maybe—just maybe—they finally read all the data that shows no correlation between video games and the tragedy that broke all of our hearts.
So, for the moment, sanity wins out and the environment doesn’t have to suffer the ill effects of such stupidity.
Now that this has all blown over, I’m going to track down and play the 1986 video-game-based sequel to Fahrenheit 451, written by Ray Bradbury. And while I’m at it, I’m going to memorize every line of dialogue in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, to be sure it can be passed down to future generations. You know, just in case.
Bryan Young is editor-in-chief of BigShinyRobot.com.