Iraq War Vet Defends Games in NY Times Piece

A back-from-Iraq Marine talks about his love of gaming in today’s New York Times.

Jeffrey Barnett, who was deployed to Fallujah, is also the author of a blog called The Midnight Hour. For the NYT he writes:

In addition to being an engineer, new homeowner, and seasoned curmudgeon, I also moonlight as a gamer. I started gaming almost as soon as I could hold a controller. My father purchased an Atari 2600 in 1981, the year I was born…

Video games get a lot of negative press for supposedly promoting, condoning, and even conditioning violence in gamers…

On one hand, I can see how a player might gradually decrease his human inhibition towards violence and killing through repeating the act in a video game. On the other, I think the vast majority of players understand that what is acceptable in the game world may be unacceptable in the real world…

I think steak knives and swimming pools pose a greater threat to children [than video games], but nobody is trying to restrict adult access to those tools…

GP: The NYT readers provide interesting and lively commentary to Barnett’s piece. Worth a read.

Via: Kotaku

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  1. 0
    Coravin ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ GO

    Actually, I was hoping to score our troops some free consoles as “preventative maintenance” therapy to keep down the PTSD


  2. 0
    Hayate no Gotoku says:

    Knowing Ann Coulter, she’d probably hire a hit on anyone speaking for games AND with the likes of the NYT, oy. LOLOLOLOLOL I only said that because of a comment that attention whore once made regarding 9/11 and where the planes should have crashed.

  3. 0
    GryphonOsiris ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Same, he has no right to use it, just as he would have no right to use “Semper Fi” or “Who Dares Wins” (cookie for whoever knows where the second one comes from).

    @ Coravin

    The same argument applies to almost everyone else who plays video games, actually. Nearly all casual gamers play to blow off some steam after work, school, whatever or as a form of social interaction. Case in point, my Halo PC racing clan I’m part of. We play the Race game type, CTF, Custom Edition, Slayer, ect, and have a great time without foul or rude language. Must be a fluke I guess.

  4. 0
    beacon80 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The “Novel” approach might be even more effective. When novels started becoming common, people were afraid that all this reading was bad for the youth.

  5. 0
    Coravin ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Don’t be surprised he’s bright–grunt or not, being an engineer requires some smarts. But there are very few soldiers who AREN’T avid gamers, in part because their daily lives sometimes completely suck and they have far more control over what goes on in the games, which is understandable and, imo, the main reason for leisure activities in general. More so with soldiers, though. Yes, games are omnipresent and soldiers just happen to be from the right age groups (young adults), but mainly that is one speck of normalcy in a chaotic and crazy world.

    I am wondering if anyone’s thought to do the psychological tests of videogame effects on Active Duty soldiers (unlikely to actually happen due to the equipment required). History has proven that sustaining a constant state of “fight or flight”–i.e. always being on guard, ready for battle, with no breaks from that heightened awareness and alertness necessary in war-torn frontlines and many bases or simple towns these days–significantly increases the incidences of mental, emotional, and nervous disorders, on top of decreasing alertness and the healing rate of physical injury, to name a few issues.

    I wonder if videogames–by letting soldiers focus on action that isn’t life-or-death, completely out of their hands much of the time, or emotionally draining–have the capacity to act as a release valve or simple engaging retreat from such concerns, minimizing the tremendous wear on soldiers and others constantly faced with combat stress.

    We already know soldiers require certain amounts of recovery time between battle, but we aren’t giving it to them; if videogames have any statistically significant capacity of reducing this fatigue and its negative impact on soldiers, it could really be a useful tool in proactively reducing the tremendous psychological care needed, and not received, by so many soldiers now that it becomes obvious their physiological and mental needs aren’t a high enough priority to increase their recuperation time between deployments.

    If we can’t or won’t give them sufficient recovery periods, I would have expected somebody in the Service to suggest finding some way of mitigating the damage to all the troops, by whatever means are available.

    @ Austin Lewis

    Hey! I know a bunch of intelligent Marines (however small a percentage of the Corp they may be). Probably something to do with being in an area where the cream of the military crops trained, and meeting people who all maxed (or came within maximum 5 points of maxing) the ASVAB, plus scored high on language-learning aptitude tests, SAT’s, etc.

    Yes, tons of Marines deserve the stereotypes, but there are a lot of brilliant people in the Marine Corps, there because they want more than anything to serve their country in that minimally “elite” environment.

    Unfortunately, they tend to work behind the scenes, leaving the rest of us to deal with the ones who honestly don’t get it (let alone get that it’s a dig at them) when they read things like “never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups”.

  6. 0
    kurisu7885 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    You know what’s funny? This man has been on the front lines of this war, knows from experience video games don’t help, yet, his argument will not be heard by those with an agenda.

  7. 0
    SlyFox says:

    “I think steak knives and swimming pools pose a greater threat to children [than video games], but nobody is trying to restrict adult access to those tools…”

    Pure gold.

  8. 0
    Thefremen says:

    Well there you have it, anyone who attacks videogames hates our troops and wants the terrorists to win. They need to be locked up in Guantanimo, obviously.

    Unless of course this is one of those “phoney troops” Rush has warned me about.

  9. 0
    Shiro ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    we need more like him, so the truth can be heard.
    everything he says is valid, but i can see it all being dismissed. society sure is going to hell…

  10. 0
    Anonymous ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    *Looks around* where is he?

    Last marine who stood up for Video games was told by Jack Thompson to go “Semper Fidelus” himself and told he was a disgrace to the country. I would have expected more of the same from our favourite looney.

  11. 0
    Seamus L says:

    I’m desensitized to everything (not because of VGs might I add), and I would never stab an innocent person. If you get stabbed, then you most likely deserved it.

  12. 0
    spikycentaur says:

    Hey everybody, this is my first GP post :)
    been reading for about 3 months and thought its about time i posted
    on topic now, though, i must applaud this man both for his service to america and for his common sense. it is good to see, every once in a while, an article in the papers that is not against video games. unfortunetly, i dont see those much. usually its just the same old “VIDEO GAMES BRAINWASH KIDS-BAN THEM!!!!111”

  13. 0
    Brent Hay ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The man should be elected to office. He has all the quality logic and he was a vet. He might not be the best president but he certain wont be worst then the one we got.

  14. 0
    HandofCrom ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Good to hear this. I like how many times, we see gamers in positions helping others, such as soldiers or social workers. What do the anti-game people ever do to help others? Folks like Yee or Thompson care only for themselves, and I doubt they have ever done military service, or humanitarian work, or even given to charity except to get tax breaks.

  15. 0
    Austin Lewis ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    One of the few intelligent Marines I’ve heard of.

    Seriously though, this guy is right on the money, especially with that last line.

    Oh, and that’s not underwear on his head.

    Its a goggle cover.

    He pisses me off with his ‘Hooah’. If I ever see him in person, I will make this displeasure known.

  16. 0
    Conejo says:

    well since Thompson insults gamers daily, he’s insulting this guy (and myself, and every other serviceman or woman) so obviously he does hate the troops. (at least the ones who don’t agree with him.)

    as fun as spin can be, i wouldn’t sink to such Thompsonesque lows, though.

  17. 0
    Kirk ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I liked the article and i liked many of the posts, though I disagreed with what they were saying.

    Recently I’ve been using the “Waltz” arguement to defend video games. I point out that most parents would be happy if their children went ballroom dancing. Then I point out that, at the introduction of ballroom dancing and the waltz, it was scandalous. Bodies were close together for the first time ever. I tend to close with a quote from the The London Times 1816 editorial about the evil dance, since it seems to be nothing more than an old time version of the exact same articles we fight daily.

  18. 0
    chris says:

    I’d use the H-word in response as both a salute to the soldier and a pisstake on jack but I’m not in the army/marines, so I dont have the right to use it, but I do have the sense to realise that unlike jack.

    More opinion on games=killers by actually military personal, gun trainers, etc. I’m pretty sure most will point out the huge chasm between games and real life, but we only ever hear from the nutjobs.

  19. 0
    Monkey ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Isn’t it funny, this makes sense and it didnt come from an accedemic. I dont have anything agaisnt accedemics per say,it just annoys me when they debate something that the rest of the population already undestands.

  20. 0
    Icehawk ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    And here I thought it was an extra pair of underwear in case he had an accident.

    I like the piece though sadly it will be ignored by the “high-rollers” like JBT. Since he is not even an officer so not important and “obviously brainwashed by the games to think the game not bad”. It is odd though that so many cannot see the simple truths such as:

    On the other, I think the vast majority of players understand that what is acceptable in the game world may be unacceptable in the real world…

    Those that cannot tell the difference should not be playing games.. in fact I highly suggest they are put in a place where they cannot harm themselves (not that important really) or Others (much more important).

  21. 0
    Baramos says:

    Sorry, Mort, the real reason someone mentioned that as a metaphor for this is some townships ARE trying to pass legislation to restrict driving between the hours of 12 and 4 AM, haha. Yes, I understand the metaphor, but since idiots are trying to pass that kind of stuff as well as the vid games thing doesn’t make for as apt a comparison, they should pick something that isn’t even up for legislation currently.

    My real point is that there really ARE idiots trying to pass legislation restricting driving on (usually local) roads between 12 and 4 AM, so my real real point is that people in general are complete idiots.

    Loaded guns are also dangerous for kids but that doesn’t prevent parents from locking them in safes, but let’s ignore that and attack video games. Very logical.

  22. 0
    Mort ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I actually read the piece yesterday before work. A very intelligent man who put together a well thought out piece.

    When comments were posted that pretty much said he was wrong and that he has read one of LTC Grossman’s books and part of another. He disagrees with the way to mitigate the effects and the solution. Which as he puts it (in comment #21 of the blog) “is to hold individuals accountable, not regulate an industry”

    And again in the same comment…

    “I have heard a statistic that on a weekend between midnight and 4 AM that the majority of drivers on the road are legally intoxicated. I don’t know if it’s true, but let’s assume that it is for the sake of my example. Do we prohibit all driving between those hours? It’s very difficult to catch all the intoxicated drivers, and that would certainly cut down on DUI-related accidents, but is it fair to those that want to legally and responsibly drive between midnight an 4 AM on Saturday night? Of course not! Convict drunk drivers. Convict murders. Don’t tell me I can’t drive or that I can’t play games because of the actions of a few idiots.”

    This guy gets a lot of respect from me, well thought out from someone who has seen both real and simulated violence (and I doubt he was trained on Halo 1 or 2).

  23. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Clearly if he supports games, and doesn’t think they have an effect, he must be one of those “phony” soldiers…

    *ducks and runs*

    Seriously, well said! Desensitization does not lead to actually doing the act. It just means if you are already predisposed to doing the act, you don’t feel the apprehension you should have.

    So someone who gets ‘desensitized’ and stabs you, was already going to stab you anyway, and only the niggly queasiness was actually stopping them from going ahead and doing it… So instead of blaming the desensitization, how about trying to figure out why he thought it was ok to stab someone in the first place, queasiness or not?

  24. 0
    general531 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Barnett’s article is nothing short of brilliant. The last paragraph is my favorite part.

    I thank him for his military service and for defending this nation.

  25. 0
    shady8x says:

    Very good point.

    I would argue that toy knives provide a greater danger to a child’s mind than video games, because they stab real people repeatedly with those knives and the crazy ones among them will think that it’s all fun and games even if the knife is real…

  26. 0
    hilaryduffgta ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    He’s cool in my book then…its suprising sometimes to listen to people NOT say the usual bs when it comes to video games….i can only hear “your playing with a child’s toy” so many times before i want to flip them the bird.

  27. 0
    GryphonOsiris ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Trust me, just by Jack signing everything “Hooah” he is insulting every single grunt who wears the uniform. Hell, I was Air Force and it still insults me. Of course, the day he starts saying ‘Oorah!” is the day some really angry Marines will start getting on his case.

  28. 0
    Goliath says:

    Hey, since Jack Thompson seems to like to twist and spin facts while using ad hominem, if he comments negatively on this article can we then claim he hates our troops, is anti-patriotic, a terrorist, and a traitor?

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