Computer games will help you kill time, not people
I HAVE been writing this column for almost a year and there is something I have never told you: I play a lot of computer games.
While there are, in this regard, many other things I have not told you – like my middle name or the volume, in decibels, of my loudest scream – the fact that I play computer games has been a tactical omission from this page.
You see, it's nothing to be proud of, is it? I know that, you know that.
But while I read widely and greedily; while I both compose and listen to music from all genres; while I write regular short stories for a blog, I come back time and time again to computer games.
Yet, of that list of hobbies, gaming would be the one I would neglect to mention at a social function. Why?
You may have seen this week that President Obama is calling for Congress to spend $10 million so that research can be conducted on the relationship between video games, "media images" and violence.
Academics have long been trying to prove the doomy knee-jerk proclamations of right-wing agitators who are convinced computer games are bad for people.
The Daily Mail famously ran the front-page headline "Ban these evil games" after the murder of 14-year-old Stefan Pakeerah, in 2004, was linked to the game Manhunt, which 17-year-old killer Warren Leblanc had played.
Violent incidents perpetrated by young people are often connected to external stimulus, like rock music, violent films and, commonly, computer games.
The most recent high-profile example is the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a mass shooting which left 20 children and six adult staff members dead.
Killer Adam Lanza, it was revealed, played computer games like Call of Duty for hours on end.
I play Call of Duty for hours on end. And Far Cry 3, Skyrim and (the most evil of all) Grand Theft Auto.
Most games take about eight hours to complete, some as many as 80 or 90. And I don't know exactly, but I would say I complete between 10 and 15 games a year, and play a lot more to lesser extents besides.
That's hours and hours, and I am yet to kill anyone or to injure anyone, or even get into a fight.
This is, of course, a facetious argument. There are many factors that would cause someone to do what Adam Lanza did, or what Warren Leblanc did, or what any criminal does when they break the law.
Guidance and empowerment comes from everything a child experiences as they grow up; confidence to act as an adult comes from the same things. This includes music, films, books and games as much as it does parents, teachers and friends.
Violence exists within human capacity, this is indisputable. And as long as it does, artists of all kinds will be compelled to explore it and to capture it, just as they will love, joy and sadness.
And please, listen to this: computer games are full of these things, too.
Some of the most touching, moving and exciting moments I have experienced from art come from games.
Yet much as there are bad books, cheap, rubbish music and exploitative films, so there are examples in gaming.
But to define the pursuit as a whole by these is a grave disservice to a vital, thrilling artform.