Monday, April 23, 2012
Violent Video Games and the Norway Mass Murders
Video games are under attack once again. This time the case surrounding mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik of Norway has caused an uproar. He revealed that the bombing and shooting spree that led to 77 deaths was fueled by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and World of Warcraft. Breivik stated that he conditioned himself by playing the military battle game and hid his preparations from friends and family by telling them he was sinking all his time into the popular MMORPG. Several articles have been written about this over the past week or so, and several of them incorrectly say that Warcraft was also used for training. Most gamers will know that training for a mass murder with WoW is rather hard to believe given the fantasy setting of the game.
However, the use of Call of Duty for training and simulation is questionable to many and a point of disagreement for all. Those of us that play Modern Warfare know intimately that this game does not mimic real life very well. For example, a shot in the head is an instant kill based on the weapon used, but a shot to the heart is not (unless one uses the highest power sniper rifle or a shotgun at point blank range.) Enemies are armored against attacks, and some of the scenarios are above and beyond what any civilian combat and sometimes any warfare at all would be like. You get no physical penalty yourself for getting hit in the game, so it is difficult to prepare for resistance in reality. However, Breivik says that it is good for simulating police response or escape strategies. I can also see how constant nearly 24-hour exposure could desensitize someone to the violence.
The media has found video games to be an easy target once again due to this news. Some reports directly attack video games, often drawing similarities to the Columbine shooters who played Doom. Others detail how different media in general can spur these deadly attacks. Still others inquire whether or not video games are much too violent. Most people don't seem to understand that these cases are one in a billion oddities. The chances of someone who plays video games doing something so heinous is just as good as anyone else doing so. Sure you can get ideas from video games, but you can also get ideas from movies, books, or TV shows. Besides, it takes someone exceptionally unstable and neglected to actually do something so sinister. You don't see people massacring others with swords because they play Skyrim, do you? The millions of people who will probably watch Battleship aren't all going to try to bomb people. You don't hear about anyone brainwashing people after reading George Orwell's 1984. Although I guess some people want to think that 2 + 2 = 5 when it comes to violence and video games.
ArgentStew, the Gaming Sage
Original news story here.