Stannard: It's only a game

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He sits in front of his screen for hours every day. There's not much else going on in his life. He's a loner. Not many friends. Certainly no girlfriends. His life rotates around his screen where he plays realistically graphic video games day in and day out.

Some of the games he plays are surreal, futuristic videos of space aliens attacking the planet earth and must be destroyed. Others are more down to earth. Military men blowing up, shooting and otherwise eliminating "bad guys." Over the years the progress made in the development of these games has been nothing short of incredible. The characters are extremely lifelike and control over them by the user has become very real.

I played video games back in the early 1970s. I, along with some friends, would go down to the VIP Diner in Manchester to play PONG, one of the first video games to hit the streets. Like ping pong, there was a white dot on the jet black screen and each player could control a white bar. When the "ball," or white dot, came your way you positioned the bar in a way that the ball would hit it and bounce it back to your opponent. With every successful return the ball would move faster and faster until one of the players missed it and a point was scored.

It was mesmerizing and it was fun. It was also pretty innocent. It was like playing ping pong or tennis without the burden of getting any exercise. In the right frame of mind one could play this game for a long time; or until you ran out of quarters, which in my case what came first. Not long after my introduction to this new technology the game became available to those who had a home computer, which was not many.

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Over the years the games have morphed from an enjoyable and entertaining game of electronic ping pong to games that focuses on killing. First, killing monsters. Then bad guys. And now journalists. That's right. Journalists.

TFG Co. has developed a disturbing game in which the player gets to look through the hitman's scope and witness an unarmed reporter as the reporter approaches a cop. The player fires and blows off the head of the reporter. The mission is titled "Breaking News" and once the reporter's head explodes the words "That's a cover story," appear on the screen. For some inexplicable reason the developers of this horrid game thought this was a good idea. It's not. In a vacuum it's bad enough, but we're not living in a vacuum these days.

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"Fake news" and "enemy of the people" are chants regularly heard out of the mouth of our president; a president who finds it completely acceptable to incite violence against those he dislikes. Although his fragile ego cannot exist without constant press coverage he continues to rile up his base against the press or anyone who does not support him. Through divisive rhetoric he has done a masterful job of training his base to hate. They hate anyone who is different. Blacks, transgenders, Muslims, the poor. Oh he has plenty of scapegoats and his zombie-like followers are happy to play along. Video games of cops killing journalists fits right in with the agenda. How long before someone hits the threshold of inspiration and decides to have the screen he's staring at become a reality?

In Dallas, Texas, a black, transgender woman, Muhlaysia Booker, 23, was found dead lying face-down on a street in East Dallas early Saturday morning. This is the same woman who was beaten nearly to death by a crowd of people after a minor fender bender accident. She was beaten and shot to death presumably because of her race and sexual identity. She's was different. There's no room in this president's America for those who are different. And now it appears as though the next target is journalists.

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Is this really the America where you want to live? Like the video games of past, our nation that was once the "Shining beacon on the hill" and showed great tolerance and acceptance of immigrants and those who were not white, has changed; and not for the better.

For some time now we've been a divided nation. That's by design. The more divided and distracted we are the less likely we are to focus on the real problem; huge money from rich, greedy donors who want our government to do their bidding. While we're busy finding ways to hate more and more minorities, people like the Koch brothers are, and have been for decades, working hard to buy our leaders to do away with regulations that serve to keep them, the Kochs, et al, honest.

When we have a president who does little more than to divide us and promote violence it serves to distract us from what's really happening. You have a choice. You can either bury your head in a video game and/or buy into the rhetoric of hate; or you can reach back to the time when your parents and grandparents worked hard to make this nation what it's tried to be; a nation of good over evil. Our history clearly shows that we've struggled with this. Our present shows that we still have a long ways to go.

Bob Stannard writes a regular column for the Journal.


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