Two of my favorite games growing up were “Halo 3” and “Halo: Reach.”

For the unaware, the “Halo” franchise is based upon a series of science fiction shooter games in which you assume the role of John-117, Master Chief, a futuristic super soldier clad in a suit of sage green power armor. You’re tasked with protecting a dying humanity from zealous aliens, ancient robots and all-

devouring parasites.

In the debate of video games and how they potentially affect the developing minds of children, most of those saying that they are a source of violent behavior would dismiss this series of games as little more than a celebration of violence. And make no mistake, they are violent.

What they step over in this rushed conclusion, however, is the beautiful work of art and storytelling that these games present. While many fans fell in love with these games because of their stellar multiplayer, many like me adore the franchise to this day because it weaves an exciting and engaging narrative that extends well beyond the console, with a vast series of books backing the story.

Video games have always carried a negative stigma, especially in rural areas like those found throughout West Virginia. Many people growing up likely had their parents tell them that video games would “rot their brains” or something similar, sayings equally attributed to excessive consumption of television.

They’re seen as pointless wastes of time.

In the last few decades; however, a correlation between video games and violent behavior has been established, largely due in part to the rise of school shootings and similar acts.

The perpetrators of the Columbine High School massacre, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, played excessive amounts of then-popular FPS (first-person shooters) titles such as “Doom,” “Wolfenstein,” “Quake” and “Postal.” Harris went so far as to name his shotgun Arlene, referencing a character from the “Doom” novels.

The rise of the “incel” movement has also been largely heralded as a by-product of excessive video game consumption. Incel is a short-hand term for involuntary celibate, an individual who is unwillingly unable to establish successful romantic and-or sexual relationships.

The Southern Poverty Law Center described the movement as a “deeply misogynistic subculture made up of men who view themselves as sexual outcasts victimized by the advances of feminism,” according to Newsweek.

A gunman who shot and killed two women in a Florida yoga studio in early November has been praised by some in the “incel” movement, according to Newsweek.

One of the most well-known involuntary celibates is Elliot Rodgers, the perpetrator of the 2014 Isla Vista killings. Rodgers played the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game) “World of Warcraft” excessively, something which he himself wrote about in his manifesto, “My Twisted World.” This manifesto can be found easily with a simple

google search.

Despite all of this, there’s still more to be said on the subject. After all, I’ve played “World of Warcraft” since 2011, and I haven’t had the urge to kill anyone.

It’s ridiculous to say that playing a violent video game is the sole cause behind violent behavior in today’s society. It can be a contributing factor, certainly, but this is only when paired with and compounded upon

preexisting conditions.

Games alone didn’t drive these three and others like them to commit harm unto others. They simply provided them with mediums to express themselves.

If viewed through a negative lens, anything with a modicum of violence in it could easily be portrayed as being the root cause of a movement of

violent behavior.

From that perspective, what difference is there in the violence of a video game compared to the violence of a gory action movie or television show? Should we not be concerned with the violence portrayed in books and works of written fiction?

Some sources even show that video games could be potentially helping to curb crime and violent behavior. ProCon.org, a nonpartisan site devoted to the ethical discussion and debate on topics through the use of information and statistics, lists that from 1998 to 2015, violent crime rates actually decreased as video game sales skyrocketed. Within this span of times, violent crimes per 100,000 people decreased from 550-600 to 350-400, while video game sales rose from 7 billion to 16 billion.

Further, ProCon lists that the number of serious violent crimes committed by teens between 12-17 from 1980 to 2015 has decreased from 800 to 200 per year.

As a new and swiftly evolving medium of entertainment, video games will always be a target for fearmongering until something new comes to replace them. It’s natural for individuals to fear something new and not well understood by their generation.

The discussion should be shifted from whether or not video games are causing violence. It should instead be made into how to best identify the early signs of violent and rampant behavior in mentally unsound individuals, and how to best get them the help and care that they need.

Anything can set off someone with the right conditions, whether it be video games, contact sports, movies or books. Entertainment is entertainment, and all entertainment is subjective to

personal interpretation.