I’m sure by now that the recent shootings in Norway have become common knowledge, along with reports that the shooter’s manifesto detailed his second life in World of Warcraft and the “training” he received from Call of Duty. Of course, the shooter’s interest in gaming will inevitably lead the ignorant to point fingers at violent games being a contributing factor in Breivik’s despicable crimes and quite frankly, I can’t stomach the scapegoating anymore.
Every generation has some sort of media that is deemed evil or taboo in some way: rock & roll, Dungeons and Dragons, rap music, television, and video games are all examples. In modern times, video gaming is the favorite scapegoat for those lacking common sense.
I realize as I formulate this post that it is going to contain a certain degree of vitriol, but I simply cannot remain silent any longer while people look at my hobby and say it creates desensitized murder machines. I wish I could lift such finger-pointers out of the dense fog in which they live and show them the truth: video gaming is no worse than kicking a soccer ball, reading a book or going to see the new Harry Potter movie. Why is that?
Because video gaming, like the three listed activities above, is simply a hobby. Anyone who does something violent and absurd, like our friend Mr. Breivik, is probably predisposed into doing it anyway. I will readily admit that violent media, be it games, movies, TV shows and even books can contribute to someone’s depravity, but only as one factor in a huge pool of possible factors.
I’m 21, and I’ve been gaming since I could first wrap my tiny toddler hands around a Sega Genesis controller. I used to sit by and watch my father play 8-bit RPGs. After school, I’d come home and play whatever the latest game was. I think I played Doom at 9 and Grand Theft Auto soon after. I have never been arrested nor involved in any form of violence other than in self-defense.
Because I had parents that raised me.
I know, it’s so unfathomable that after both my parents worked all day they took the time to, well, parent me. They actually spoke to me and taught me the difference between right and wrong, reality and fiction, good and evil. I knew from when I turned on that game console, the world I was about to enter was one where the events that transpired were not real, and that I should not duplicate them. When I bored of Final Fantasy VII and said bye to Cloud and his crew for the day, I rejoined reality. I don’t want to hear any argument that kids have problems distinguishing between the two because it’s not their fault; the fault lies on the parents’ shoulders.
Teach your children the right values and no matter what factors influence them, they’ll be able to tell the difference between right and wrong. People who choose to go on crazy gun sprees aren’t doing it because of the games; they’re doing it because they’re unstable, and always were unstable, and always will be unstable. They’re doing it because they are not equipped to deal with the stresses of real life and events they cannot control, not because they saw a giant pixellated orc behead a friendly, peace-loving gnome.
I’ve delved off-topic a bit, but such ignorance tends to boil my blood. I’ve played nearly every major game released since I could first purchase games (or beg my parents to on my behalf), from the most cuddly carebear starry-filled sky games to games where I’m driving a chainsaw into my opponent’s chest, and I’ll still vomit at overdone gore.
Breivik claims he learned military tactics from Call of Duty; I claim he’s a moron. Perhaps the only thing learned from playing a shooter like CoD is to aim at what you want to hit. Let’s translate that into real life:
Breivik, in all of his revolutionary glory, decided to fire at children and young adults. Let me type that again. Breivik decided to fire at children and young adults. How many children in first-world countries do you know that have been trained to react to such situations? I know zero. If you know any, I’m sure the number is incredibly small, so allow me to continue. These children, untrained in any combat scenario involving a man shooting at them with a gun, were not the hardest of targets to shoot. You take the gun, point it in their direction, squeeze the trigger, and probably hit your target. Good eye, sniper.
Did CoD teach him to compensate for recoil? to fire under pressure? to take cover while picking priority targets? No. I’ve seen CoD played online, and I guarantee none of those players would be able to operate in any form of military combat without first being trained by professionals. CoD is a game. Does Monopoly teach you how to become rich?
Here’s what I propose to test the theory that Call of Duty trained Breivik to conduct his horrible shootings. Outfit Breivik in the latest military hardware and make sure he’s broadcasting his actions live to the world, then drop him into the most violent part of the world where he must fight for survival against those who want nothing more than to see him dead. If he manages to escape safely, I will admit that everything I claim in this post is wrong, and vote for every single piece of anti-video gaming legislation.
Place the blame where it belongs.