A man who admitted killing 77 people in Norway last summer testified he was trying to kill the prime minister and other government ministers by bombing a building in Oslo.
Anders Behring Breivik also admitted killing 69 other people at a Labour Party youth camp as part of his fight against multiculturalism in Norway. During his testimony, Breivik said he trained by playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 video game which, as you know, puts the player in the role of soldiers fighting a multi-national terrorist group.
Before critics jump on the “video games are bad” bus, let me pull the keys out of the ignition right now:
Video games do not cause violence. There are multiple studies done by doctors, psychologists and other behavioral scientists and they all point in opposite directions. Some studies claim that video games increase violent tendencies that may already exist. Others claim gaming stimulate the brain to solve problems creatively.
There have also been multiple cases in the courts where defendants have tried to use video games or video game addiction as an excuse for their behavior. The courts have rejected that defense many times over. We do not blame the automobile industry or the alcohol industry for drunken driving deaths. We do not blame the weapons manufacturers for those 77 people killed in Norway.
Why then does the video game industry get criticized when a game is mentioned in a crime? Is it because it is easy to pin the blame on something that isn’t going to defend itself? Is it because of the sensational nature that we as a society assign to crimes involving gaming?
A Google search reveals hundreds of stories with Breivik’s name and “video games” in the headline. If he had trained at a local gun range, would those titles have included that in the headline? Probably not. It seems too easy these days to want to pin responsibility on something or someone else rather than face the reality that some people genuinely want to hurt others for reasons that are all their own.
I have played video games since Pong was introduced. I’ve played all different kinds of shooting games and yes, I have actually used real weapons on ranges and in the field. Do people look at me differently because they think I’m a killer?
No, because ultimately, the decision to kill doesn’t come from a video game. It comes from something much deeper inside a person.
Video games did not kill those people. A man who wanted to prove a point did. Video games did not train him to be a killer. While he may have played those games and thought he was “training,” there is a world of difference between holding a game controller in your hands versus holding (and using) a high-powered weapon.
The terrorists in the infamous 9-11 attacks in the US allegedly played flight simulator games before embarking on their mission; they also went to flight schools and learned how to fly real planes.
So before we load up the blame bus and try and run over video games again, let’s take a look at the root causes of violence. It isn’t easy, but it is the right thing to do if we want to get real answers.