Time to get serious for a second, folks.
Video games have been blamed for many of society’s ills for the past 30 years. Did some random guy play Doom once in 1993, and then, years later, murdered his family? Bam! Instant correlation! Let’s call it a day, fellow police officers! Our job is done. ‘Twas video games that were the cause of this atrocity!
Life isn’t that simple. Blaming an entertainment medium, or an artistic work, for the horrid acts of a single person has never worked as a scapegoat, and it will never work. Yet, these same excuses will be trotted out again and again whenever something horrible happens in the world and a video game is somehow involved, even tangentially so.
Sadly, such is the case with the recent tragic mass murders in Norway, in which a deranged far-right wing terrorist by the name of Anders Behring Breivik murdered 93 teenagers at a youth camp, as reported by Yahoo! News. In his no doubt self-indulgent and idiotic 1,500-page manifesto, Breivik stated, “I just bought Modern Warfare 2, the game. It is probably the best military simulator out there and it’s one of the hottest games this year. I see MW2 more as a part of my training-simulation than anything else.”
And with that, you can almost hear the simultaneous popping of erections from the pants of sensationalist journalists around the world.
As anyone that has ever played a video game can tell you, particularly, a game from the Call of Duty series, stating that a game is a good training ground for murder is like saying a game of flag football with 9-year-olds is good training for a career in the NFL. The skill sets required for pointing a real gun at someone and pulling the trigger and doing the same with a gun made of programming code are so vastly different, so separated from one-another, that they can hardly be thrown in to the same sentence without completely discrediting one’s own opinion.
The problem, of course, did not lie with Breivik playing a game, as much as it was one person’s extreme, dangerous beliefs and world view. And the fact that he was a crazy person. Any attempt to pawn off the blame for the murders on to a video game is disingenuous and it deflects from all real issues involved. Most of all, and worst of all, it belittles those affected — those slain and their families. Video games did not train Breivik to be a killer. The echo chamber of hate and bigotry that he encased himself within did. This was an echo chamber that denounced Islam, immigration and multi-culturalism throughout Europe. This kind of mentality doesn’t come from a video game; it comes from years of ideological influence of friends, family, and whatever other real-world societal factors he was in contact with. That level of irrational hatred doesn’t need to be “trained” to hone a specific act of violence, it simply acts.
The media may or may not actually jump on the bandwagon of blaming video games for what happened this past week in Norway, but if they do, just understand that you didn’t become a better eater by playing Pac-Man; you couldn’t swing over crocodiles any better by planning Pitfall; and you couldn’t dunk over Shaq any better by playing NBA JAM.