As if the Anders Breivik case needed to have headlines beyond the horrific events, CNN decides to shine the spotlight on the evils of gaming:
silly headlines were noticed immediately and accusations of fear pandering started. Soon after, CNN changed the headline ‘Killer Breivik trained on video games for massacre’ to something less sensationalist. But the damage was already done.
Breivik claimed that he used CoD: MW2 to help train for his killing spree. He also admitted to spending 16 hours a day for one year playing World of Warcraft, which was described as a violent game. I know many of my readers are avid gamers, so I’m sure you can agree that saying WoW is violent is ridiculous. It’s like saying Harry Potter is violent. Andrew Keen writes:
“Most troubling of all is Breivik’s obsession with the multiplayer role-playing World of Warcraft, a violent online game that he played “full-time” between 2006 and 2007. Indeed, one of the few times that he smiled this week was when the image of his World of Warcraft character was displayed in court.”
Of course such a man would smile when thinking about how journalists would jump at the opportunity to use video games as a scapegoat for his abhorrent crimes. However, I’m not an expert and have no idea why the lawyers would find it relevant to display his WoW avatar in this trial. But one thing is clear, the very mention of video games in any murder trial can be very damaging to the industry and its communities.
There is a huge gap between generations when it comes to video games. Those who have not grown up with digital gore may not understand that gamers are able to know the difference between fantasy and reality. WoW is clearly a fantasy game with fantasy combat. The content in CoD is another story, but the most information I ever gleaned from the game was that most people on the server believe they have slept with my mother.
It’s the same old debate that was once focused on violent television. Studies in this area produce different results, and the effects of such media are inconclusive. So why are people so keen to quickly assume causality? It is difficult to imagine that a human being would be capable of such pre-meditated violence without external influences, so perhaps blaming video games is a way to explain how people can perform terrible acts.
I’ve said it a million times already, but I’ll say it again. Gamers come from all walks of life. Some are academics, some are high school students, some are business professionals, some are factory workers and so forth. It is not fair to put such a diverse community in the spotlight just because of the actions of one
fuckwit man. I do believe however, that it does call for further research in the area of media effects. These questions come to mind: (1) Are violent people more attracted to violent games? (2) Do violent games stir hidden violent traits? (3) Are we no longer able to distinguish reality from fiction? (4) Do violent games provide catharsis to aggressive feelings?
We are just in the beginnings of such research, and since results can not yet provide us with definitive conclusions (and may never), one should be wary of what they read in the news.