What fantasy world does Mr. Stuart inhabit where legions of gamers, who tend to be younger and male, would trade the thrills of vicarious combat for snapping a virtual camera?
In an article Mr. Stuart wrote last year about the hugely popular Fortnite game, he described the social experience and scenery in glowing terms. He had special praise for the camaraderie but he failed to look at the factors that created the fellowship.
There isn’t any evidence supporting the popular meme that video games that use virtual firearms have any relationship to an increase in actual use of firearms. If there was, we would expect there to be an increase in firearm-related violence as the popularity of these games grew.
Wolfenstein 3D was released in 1992 and first-person-shooter video games have become hugely popular in the years since then. Yet according to the CDC’s fatal injury reports from 1992 to 2017, homicides involving firearms have fallen more than 34%.
Moreover, the highest percentages of dedicated gamers are in Asia, which generally has lower rates of violent crime involving firearms.
This focus on guns is becoming almost pathological. There are plenty of first-person games that involve melee weapons such as swords and other fighting knives but the Asian countries, where knife violence is more common than gun violence, don’t seem to be in a tizzy about video games.
In addition, just as lots of media and political hysteria over gun control has been a boon to the firearm industry, which enjoyed an all-time record sales year in 2016, attempts to implement Mr.Stuart’s recommendations on a large-scale basis may well spur an even greater interest in first-person-violence video games.
In fairness, my only experience with real video games came more than 20 years ago, playing Robyn and Rand Miller’s Myst on an Apple Performa. The reason I enjoyed the game was the scenery, which was beautifully rendered for the time. But I was in my mid-40s and had a completely different view of computer games than the younger gamers of today. I wonder if a similar perspective disconnect isn’t a major component of Mr. Stuart’s vision.
There is certainly no problem with offering additional alternatives. But they have to compete with existing games on the most level playing field of all — the marketplace — because video game companies are in business to make money.
Surveys indicate that competition and destruction are the top factors in male gamers’ choices of video games. Mr. Stuart’s substitutes don’t address those and that may be the biggest problem of all.