In recent days, a certain video game has found itself atop the social justice liberal hit list agenda: Fortnite.
Fortnite is a survival-based co-op game where people team up to fight off hordes of zombies using resources to build defences, weapons and traps. There is also a sort of every man for himself mode named and styled after the film Battle Royale, where individual players or small squads fight to be the last standing. Its gameplay, like any good game, can be extremely addictive and enthralling.
Enter Suzanne and her son Leo. The interview that got this debate started, like so many ‘video games are the devil’ debates before it, was on This Morning, and it featured Suzanne telling us that Fortnite, unlike any other game she had encountered before, has corrupted and stolen her son from civilization.
It has turned him aggressive, confrontational and lacking concentration, to emotively paraphrase the interview. This is because, as she assures us, he can’t pull himself away from it. Its simply too addictive. He would spend hours and hours playing (this ‘12’ rated game as a ten-year-old boy) and there was nothing she could do to stop it.
Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? No, not the heroin-esque addictiveness of this evil video game – I am talking about the fact that in today’s society, in today’s dystopic mutation of what was once considered British culture, we are giving weight to someone so lacking in their parenting ability that they can’t discipline their children enough to not ruin his life with video games.
A ten-year-old boy is only going to do as his parents and intellectually and socially developed superiors allow him. As a child, he has no jurisdiction, no authority. How can any self-respecting parent seriously make an issue of this when all it comes down to is lacking discipline facilitated by overly lax, bad parenting and increasingly weak societal attitudes towards control?
But alas, we have commissioned this with our complacency. On This Morning, Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby’s reactions seemed to be those of empathy, concern for the child and relation to the struggle of the mother – they almost reasoned it out. When, as a society, did we become so weak as to allow for this behaviour?
If your child is doing something you don’t want them to do, and in the course of that action even potentially ruining their lives and changing their mentality to the point it can negatively impact them at school and elsewhere, then surely as rational adults, parents and guardians it is our responsibility to stop them doing that self-destructive act? If, for example, her child started smoking, would she simply cry helpless victim of modernity and play farce parental responsibility in favour of the western wonder drug that is sympathy? I should hope not, and I think its fair to say that we aren’t quite at that point yet (but hell, we are damn close), and this is in fact a more odious symptom of a wider illness.
We have started to reward weakness as a society in the last decade or so. Not necessarily with financial gain or critical acclaim, but with Facebook likes, with sympathy, with this convoluted and damning process of reasoning we have developed, which allows us to shift the burden of responsibility for almost anything from the main party involved to a third party.
It is most visible and dangerous in children, and is, unfortunately, around them from the day they are born. They now mature with this atmosphere of cradling, the idea that we should ban stuff if it has been mis-used or abused (as Suzanne is recommending we do with Fortnite) and that the notion of responsibility is the archaic reserve of the mean, old conservative right. Your son started failing at school because you are too weak to discipline him and stop him abusing computer games to the point of mental illness? Must be the fault of the teachers. He has started acting anti socially because you’re allowing him online with strangers who will expose him to the realities of real people beyond that to which he should be freely exposed? Must be the fault of the video game. An inanimate disc, housing millions of lines of code, is to blame for your once excelling son’s intellectual decay. Obviously.
There is seemingly an atmosphere surrounding blame at the moment, almost as though it cannot fall on anyone who could be considered even slightly ‘under privileged’. It’s a strange and difficult phenomenon to describe; for example, people are so very ready to accept the diagnosis of a working-class child with ADHD or ADD, because it absolves the parent of any responsibility for their behaviour, responsibility rapidly becoming this spectre of yesteryear which haunts people with the idea of consequence. It gives us an excuse, as video games give us an excuse. We are seeing hundreds of thousands of children being failed by this practice, leading to massive overdiagnosis of conditions like ADHD, arguably in the face of simply lacking parenting.
What are we setting ourselves up for aside from catastrophic failure if we can manufacture excuses which absolve people of responsibility for their actions? Where does it stop? Surely, allowing a child to play video games to the point their personality changes should be considered neglect, in the same way allowing a child to develop a 40 a day smoking habit should be? They have all the same characteristics- addictive, come with huge withdrawals, cause mental and physical harm.
And yet, the former of those two scenarios is completely overlooked by society at large, used as an easy platform for sympathy and this misplaced rage people seem to have developed a need to harbour in recent years, as though it elevates their opinion from that of subjective rambling to objective and ultimately justified truth.
People are always looking for excuses to justify their shortcomings. Calling for things to be banned (whether that be video games or guns) is an easy way out, a weak way out, ignoring the responsibility for our actions and our autonomy as humans.
Of course exposing your child to hours and hours of unmonitored gaming is going to have adverse mental effects on them. And I’m not saying they shouldn’t be allowed it in moderation- I was an avid gamer as a child and love the medium to this day- I’m simply suggesting that as a wider society we need to stop making concessions for peoples failures, even if that be in parenting, and we need to stop pandering to this weakness of character so increasingly prevalent and tangible in modern liberal society; If your child is spending too much time on a video game or indeed smoking too many damn cigarettes, it is up to you as a parent or guardian and you alone to stop that behaviour, and it is pathetic and defeatist (all too common characteristics nowadays) to suggest otherwise.
At what point does lacking responsibility become neglect? At precisely the point you start answering to your child, and not the other way around.