In the wake of another tragic school shooting, some eventualities happen: the hoopla over gun control, mental health funding, and the media memorializing the shooter by doing “in-depth articles”. One thing never forgotten by the media, though, is how a video game influenced his state of mind in some fashion.

I say ‘his’ because rarely do women commit these atrocities. The perpetrator is always a deeply disturbed man, usually depressed or suicidal, still living at home, who has a capacity for violence. And, inevitably, these people lash out through murder or other violent means.

But what male between 15-30 doesn’t play video games? Games don’t nurture the affinity for violence, because then massacres would be much more frequent. Because these perpetrators fit into one identifiable class and they all play video games, the media sees that as a common denominator and quickly demonize games as a trigger of violence.

And given the history of vilifying games, scapegoating them is easy. It’s common practice for media nowadays.

How the media portrayed Connecticut

British tabloid The Sun lead with this: “Lanza, 20, spent hours playing bloodthirsty computer games such as Call Of Duty and obsessivly [sic] studying weapons in the basement at mum Nancy’s home.”

Activision’s record-setting franchise often receives a brunt of the attention due to its popularity. The Sun characteristically cites Call of Duty as a common denominator, excusing them to link other shooters: Anders Breivik, who believed Europe was overrun by Islam; and Mohammed Merah, who the tabloid, without basis, said played Call of Duty even though in the previous sentence he’s labeled “an al-Qaeda fanatic”.

Adam Lanza shot his mother before shooting up a school; Breivik wrote a manifesto proclaiming himself a fighter against Islamic tyranny; and Merah believed in the ways of al-Qaeda. A stronger link between these three men is some form of mental illness, which the media should talk about responsibly.

Instead The Sun uses this tragedy to push an irresponsible agenda, lambasting games as a cause and never noting the presence of mental illness in all three shooters.

The Daily Mail, another hysteria-fueled paper, lead with the headline: “KILLER ADAM LANZA OBSESSED WITH VIDEO GAMES“. Converging on the point of ridiculousness, his obsession isn’t the base of the story, and the first sentence counters the headline. The article states Lanza “was driven to carry out the bloody killings after his parents split up and his friends alienated him”.

The very next sentence reads dishonestly:

“Chillingly, his favourite video game was said to be a shockingly violent fantasy war game called Dynasty Warriors which is thought to have given him inspiration to act on his darkest thoughts.”

Anyone who has played Dynasty Warriors knows it’s far from a “shockingly violent fantasy war game”. No blood, barely any violence (compared to Call of Duty at least), and it’s based on real events. Where the dishonesty comes in is when the media uses vague sentence fragments like “which is thought” when no credible link exists between Lanza’s obsessions and Koei’s game. It’s also the only time video games are mentioned in the 791-word article.

The aftermath

The media scapegoats games because it’s easy. People need to blame something, so why not isolate the thing played by millions? The outrage won’t be heard outside of the gaming world, so it must be perfectly fine.

Headlining with a video game as the culprit is disingenuous reporting. Not underneath The Daily Mail or The Sun apparently. Lanza’s mother was a paranoid gun fanatic who stockpiled weaponry and taught both her sons to shoot, even though Adam Lanza suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. Adam also spent almost all his time alone in their basement, isolating himself from society, and his mother allowed that to happen.

Blaming a game is the media’s way of drumming up false controversy. It distracts from many real arguments the United States must desperately have, or should have had before 20 innocent children and six fearless staff members lost their lives.

Those without mental issues can separate fantasy from reality. Video games are fantastical things. Not real life. If someone can’t divide the two, they shouldn’t have access to Call of Duty or other first-person shooters. And the media shouldn’t divert the attention otherwise.

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  • Matt

    I laughed where I saw Dynasty Warriors singled out. There’s not any death that even happens in the game. Enemy soldiers are merely “Knocked out,” and enemy leaders typically show up in cut scenes after they’ve been “knocked out.”

    It’s hardly shockingly violent.

    It’s grossly unfair to call The Sun “The Media,” though. Most professional journalists loathe tabloid journalism and we hate that we’re thrown in the same box as those unethical and immoral people that produce those reports.

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