In the wake of Anders Behring Breivik’s horrific killing spree, Coop Norway Retail has removed more than 50 game titles, out of “consideration for those affected.” The titles included Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and World of Warcraft, both games which were cited specifically in Anders’ manifesto.
Breivik’s own manifesto mentions that World of Warcraft was the perfect training tool because it worked as an excuse for his extended training trips. He describes the idea of being too busy to see people due to a raid schedule — that is to say that people never questioned his absence because they assumed he was playing WoW. Though he describes not playing the game more than playing it, which begs the question of whether or not the fantasy-based MMORPG really did contribute to his training. Regardless of whether he did or did not play these games, the card has been played, and the media is already reacting.
Clinical psychologist Christopher Ferguson recently told Forbes that the blaming of video games appears to be isolated to caucasian offenders. He goes so far as to suggest this may be a form of “racism.” As he points out, when shootings or violent crimes occur in “minority-populated” areas, video game violence is never mentioned. It is entirely a white phenomenon. It may be due to an assumption of affluence, which may be to the heart of Ferguson’s racism remark, assuming that caucasian offenders have the “luxury” of blaming objects such as video games. Of course, throwing the term “racism” into this argument may draw even more attention to the controversy, and less attention to the crime itself.
However, it’s also important to note that video games are not the sole culprit in Breivik’s manifesto. He is also points to the rise of feminism and encroachment of Islam as potential reasons as well. He cites the “destructive … Sex and the City lifestyle (modern feminism, sexual revolution)” as a tool of manipulation and isolation towards men. The manifesto goes so far as to suggest modern feminism is creating a gap in Western culture that will allow Islam to swoop in.
While there is no denying that Anders Behring Breivik was an extremely dangerous and disturbed man, he also appears to be casting a wide net of blame. Any or all of these items may have contributed to his crimes, but what will be interesting to see is how his blame of video games will affect the industry. We are, as an industry, rather popular with the anti-violence crowd, and this may serve to fuel their fires. All I hope is that the whirlwind of “why” doesn’t overshadow the crime itself, and the victims who deserve more than knee-jerk reactions and media circuses.