Western societal ideals have always been broken when it comes to animated content. First, there is the core element that states when you are no longer a child you leave childish things behind and grow up. Adults aren't supposed to like the same things when they were children. Kids drink juice boxes. Adults drink coffee. Kids watch cartoons. Adults watch TV dramas. It's not okay to retain your childhood because that means you aren't responsible. This infects the entire scope of western animation production because it is a core principle that we perpetuate. If you liked Toy Story when you were a kid, it's only valid to look back on it with nostalgia as an adult or share it with your kids. Watching it alone, however, is deviant. Cartoons, after all, are for kids.
Adult animation is an alien concept to much of Western Society.
Of course, that all ignores the reality that is the human animal. First, and most critical, we are not static samples of a human being. We shift and change and grow, but a lot gets locked in by 30. That's not to say we don't add new likes and dislikes, but the range of categories/genre/ideas we accept are generally solidified. As an example, I'm turning 50 on the 14th. I play video games and watch loads of animated content. I've been doing those things since I was a kid and nobody told me to stop doing that and grow up. Do I play the same games and watch the same things I did when I was 10? Of course not. My tastes in animation have grown to seek out the beauty of traditional animation and more complex storytelling.
Now, watch this...
If you can't tell, Doki Doki Literature Club, or DDLC, is a dating sim style game. This is a common form of game in Japanese society, where 13 is the age you are considered old enough to take on real responsibilities by yourself. This idea pervades Japanese media and storytelling, where young protagonists feature everywhere.
But, I digress...
DDLC is a dating sim where you play as a character and interact with other characters. Yet, DDLC is also not like other dating sims because it subverts that genre by introducing psychological horror. The makers of the game clearly state that this is what they are doing and aren't trying to fool anyone. The concept behind the game is the experience, not a Sixth Sense grade twist. When I started playing it, I was already filled with a sense of dread because I was caught up in looking for signs that my mind was getting screwed with. That's one hell of a trick to play on a gamer, and it's effective.
But it is also not a game for kids, and the definition of kid in Japan is 12 and under, so the makers of the game clearly state that this game is for people 13 years of age and older. Period.
That's because the adults are expected to actually parent their children, teach them right from wrong, teach them real from fantasy, teach them how to learn, and foster their growth as individuals. Not only that, but 13 makes a great delineation for adulthood because that's when puberty happens and we become physiological adults, too. Around 13 is when everything changes, and there's nothing stopping it, so many societies say "why bother" and prepare their kids for the inevitable adulthood that comes whether they like it or not.
We look at it differently. Because of our puritanical roots, we don't like what puberty brings, so we construct arbitrary boundaries for adulthood, like the age of 18. It's no surprise that most developed societies apply age limits to a range of things like driving and smoking and drinking and buying guns, but these are things we use and do, they aren't what adulthood is all about. We don't turn 21 to drink beer legally. We turn 21 because that's going to happen no matter what, and having 15 year olds running around drunk driving and smoking while shooting guns out the window seems like a terrible idea.
But applying that arbitrary delimiter to a biological eventuality is just crazy. It only make sense to plan in advance for said eventuality. Treating puberty as if it can be delayed simply adds several layers of complexity to the process of growing up, and that brings the potential for divergence from a neurologically stable place. This is, I propose, one of the key reasons why so many kids get in trouble for fooling around, getting caught drinking illegally, delve into drug use, and many other things westerners see as the problems they are trying to solve with the aforementioned limits.
You go through puberty at 13, but you can't do anything with it until your 18. That should go well.
But, I digress.... again...
The point I am trying to make is two-fold:
- There are lots of reasons for anything and no single thing can ever fix another without causing issues elsewhere.
- Video games don't make kids psychotic. Chance does.
You can't blame video games for your kid committing suicide just as the world can't directly blame the parents of the suicidal kid for following through. It is, however, important to note that these two factors are not on the same scale. The video game is a static, external object. The parents, on the other hand, interact with their child daily (I would hope) and their choices go much further in influencing their child's choices and actions, but they didn't murder their child. At the very least, they could be held responsible for not noticing the signs of depression that lead to suicide attempts.
We don't know the recipe of life that leads to suicide in kids, but we do know some of them. Bullying, sexual/physical/verbal/psychological abuse, neglect and abandonment are all serious issues young people face, and how they deal with them depends almost entirely on the foundational development they receive from their parent/parents, friends and family, and other caregivers/educators. If there are too many holes in a kids support net, there is more and more room for bad ideas to pervade.
But even those numerous elements aren't the root/root/root cause. What it really comes down to is the fault of nobody; genetics and environment. Abuse is, without minimizing it, just the operational component. There must also be a structural component upon which the operational crap builds on. It's the same random chance generator that life is that produces kids with Autism or Down's Syndrome or Bipolarity or developmental issues. Psychoses are not, as a rule, created out of whole cloth by a few random interactions. They come from a complex, interwoven, impossibly entangled set of physiological and psychological factors that we just don't understand.
If we all just mimicked what we see in video games, we'd all be dead and the Earth would be a smoking husk. So, clearly, it isn't the fault of video games, and cute stuff isn't specifically marketed to kids, just as vaping juice that tastes like breakfast cereal isn't designed to attract kids. We like the things we like, and some of those things are the same things we liked when we were 9. It's not rocket science. Do you still pick your nose? Did you stop automatically when you turned 18? I do, at least until I found out that I wasn't taking care of my nose properly, and ever since I started using a Neti pot, I don't have to pick any more because I don't produce boogers any more.
Yes, it's gross, but it illustrates my point rather tidily.
So, some of the takeaways:
- Animation isn't an art form strictly limited to juvenile fare. It's just a visual storytelling medium.
- Video games do not create people. People make people. Therefore, video games do not create psychoses.
- Leaving bullying and all forms of abuse uncorrected creates an enormous hole into which people can fall.
- A strong support net that educates kids without coddling them is critical to the development of a well-rounded person.
- We don't learn by being shielded from everything.
- Biology cannot be stopped.
- The cause of a behavior is almost never the most obvious thing.
- Society can change to make things better, but we must be willing to make those changes, no matter how hard.
- I'm a huge nerd.