Norway Attacks: Killers May Play Video Games, but Video Games Don’t Make Killers

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Gamers have grown accustomed to waiting for the other shoe to drop when a grisly crime–especially one involving guns or murder–happens. Sooner or later, some media outlet somewhere is going to try to find a link between video games and the horror that one person visits upon another.

Usually, dubious connections are made via so-called experts in two-minute intervals on 24-hour news outlets. Studies get cited, politicians get quoted and blame gets placed. This time was different, though. Anders Behring Breivik–the man accused in the shocking attacks in Norway that left as many as 93 dead–made the links himself, mentioning MMO World of Warcraft and first-person shooter Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in his rambling, 1,516-page manifesto, titled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence.”

(PHOTOS: Norway Reels After Horrific Shooting, Bombing)

The related passages talk about using Activision’s Modern Warfare 2 as a training simulator for shooting and World of Warcraft as a blind for abnormal behavior:

Present a ”credible project/alibi” to your friends, co-workers and family. Announce to your closest friends, co-workers and family that you are pursuing a ”project” that can at least partly justify your ”new pattern of activities” (isolation/travel) while in the planning phase.

[For] example, tell them that you have started to play World of Warcraft or any other online MMO game and that you wish to focus on this for the next months/year. This ”new project” can justify isolation and people will understand somewhat why you are not answering your phone over long periods. Tell them that you are completely hooked on the game (raiding dungeons etc). Emphasise to them that this is a dream you have had since you were a kid. If they stress you, insist and ask them to respect your decision. You will be amazed on how much you can do undetected while blaming this game. If your planning requires you to travel, say that you are visiting one of your WoW friends, or better yet, a girl from your ”guild” (who lives in another country). No further questions will be raised if you present these arguments.

Target practise is likely going to be a problem for many people in certain countries (urban Europeans like us, ouch:). Consider taking a vacation to a country where you are able to train in marksmanship or join a gun club. Simulation by playing Call of Duty, Modern Warfare is a good alternative as well but you should try to get some practise with a real assault rifle (with red point optic) if possible.

Breivik invokes those titles, not in terms of causalities–which would be to suggest these games were why he decided that people should die–but as tools for a darker purpose. In reality, they’re pop culture phenomena of the fantasy and action-movie varieties. The games, which are made by Activision and Blizzard respectively, are among the most popular ever created. World of Warcraft captivates a user base of about 12 million people worldwide, people who create avatars and undertake Tolkien-esque adventures together in a realm dubbed Azeroth. When it debuted in November 2009, Modern Warfare 2 quickly became one of the best-selling games of all time, tallying more than 6 million units sold in less than three weeks. Lots of people play these games as escapist entertainment, with no ulterior motive in mind.

And yet, for all the data that says otherwise, people passionate about video games are often stereotyped as cultural outliers. The argument’s made that the interactive nature of video game entertainment lends itself to darker addictions or obsessions and the more you’re into, say, The Sims, the more likely it is that something’s wrong with you. The scare tactic logic is a vestige of the marketing history of video games, which started off being sold as disposable toys and fad novelties. Even though the medium’s storytelling and experiential capabilities have grown exponentially since the late ’70s, the attitude that video games are socially irresponsible junk culture persists.

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