A group of gamers will put down their video game controllers come Dec. 21 in remembrance of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, but others are unsure if the gesture is a good idea.
The Online Shooters Ceasefire is being organized by Antwand Pearman, who is the editor-in-chief of GamerFitNation and is also responsible for a similar event that was held last year shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting occurred. Last year's event attracted more than 3,000 confirmed participants on its Facebook page, who agreed to stop playing online shooters for a day in show of support for the victims and their families.
This year, Pearman is hoping to expand the event and use it as an opportunity for the gaming community to pause, reflect and show their support once again.
"We decided to do it again this year because there have been lots of issues with gun violence, so we wanted to make it an annual event in remembrance of those who lost their lives to violence," Pearman told Polygon. "This started as something I wanted to do from the heart. I have two daughters and a son, so [when Sandy Hook happened], I just wanted to do something that would be a good gesture, to show my support."
"This started as something I wanted to do from the heart."
The event has garnered support from members of the gaming community, with various media outlets and gaming communities choosing to take part in the event. One of the participants this year is Nia Pierce, who is the founder of video game website SheAttack. Pierce told Polygon that she has a background in education, having previously work as a pre-school teacher, and her experience as both a carer and a gamer compelled her to support the ceasefire.
"I felt that it was my duty to participate in the ceasefire because not only was I a protector of children, but I am also a gamer," she said. "It only feels right and the natural thing for me to do. Looking at the innocent faces of all of my students and the way they reacted when their parents picked them up from school, I couldn't help but grieve over the fact that the children at Sandy Hook were robbed of that very same feeling."
The event has also drawn criticism. One of the key issues raised during last year's event was the way in which a "ceasefire" inadvertently created a connection between violent video games and violent actions in the real world. With the media, politicians and various lobbies frequently making that connection on their own, it was seen as fuel for an already problematic image of video games.
According to technology and entertainment writer Daniel Nye Griffiths, whose work has appeared in Forbes and Wired UK, while he doesn't doubt that the ceasefire is coming from a sincere place, such an event is tricky for multiple reasons.
"It's hard not to see an undertaking that explicitly promotes not playing online shooters as a way of showing respect for victims of a massacre as making some form of comment about the relationship between online shooters and real-world gun violence," he told Polygon. "The second thing that struck me was that it felt like, if we were as a community saying that not playing online shooters for 24 hours was a significant show of respect, we were also suggesting possibly that 24 hours without playing online shooters was a fairly significant undertaking.
"Again, that felt like something of a hostage to fortune at a time when various interested parties were looking more intently than usual for angles around people being addicted to video games, spending an unhealthy amount of time playing video games and so on."
Executive director of the International Game Developers Association Kate Edwards echoes Griffiths' sentiments. She told Polygon that it is understandable that individuals and organizations would want to mourn in remembrance in different ways, but the ceasefire could potentially be problematic.
"I feel the action of declaring a day of cessation of virtual game violence ... is misguided."
"The core intent of the Day of Ceasefire is admirable and rightly placed," Edwards told Polygon. "But I feel the action of declaring a day of cessation of virtual game violence, that has no proven connection to real-world behaviors, is misguided.
"Perhaps if the effort was tied to a broader call for the cessation of all forms of media violence — films, television, graphic novels, video games, etc. — it would help raise awareness of gun violence and not scapegoat a single form of media."
Pearman acknowledges the divide in views and that many gamers feel that such a gesture is an admission of guilt that associates guns with video games. But he says the ceasefire isn't about that, and he isn't concerned about the parallels being drawn because the event isn't about what the media or politicians think.
"It's about us as gamers coming together to do something positive," Pearman said. "Last year the press really understood where we were coming from and we didn't get negative press. It was so positive. It was just a moment of peace.
"I'm not worried or concerned. I feel like we should just do something because it's right, not because it's politically-correct."
Griffiths sees this as a valid conclusion, but believes that the concerns raised are at least worth thinking about.
"With the focus on online shooters and the evocation of a 'cease fire' in the title, it feels like this event, however intended, drew a parallel between video games and real-world gun violence," he said. "If you are making that connection, then it probably needs to be examined fairly critically."
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