Testimony Ignored: Media Outlets Blame Video Games For Norwegian Mass Murderer


(Photo: Courtesy CBS)

July 22, 2011 was a tragedy for Norway. Anders Behring Breivik shot and killed 77 people in two attacks fueled by right-wing extremism. His criminal trial began April 16 and has already been a huge source of controversy in the country. One point a few major media outlets have hopped on is Breivik's own testimony regarding his habits playing video games.

Specifically, outlets like The Guardian are reporting "Anders Breivik 'trained' for shooting attacks by playing Call of Duty" while The Times published an article with the headline "Breivik played video games for a year to train for deadly attacks". The Guardian also released a video interview with a sociologist which, Rock Paper Shotgun is quick to point out, was rather lazily edited.

So where do these headlines come from? First, The Guardian's headline comes from Breivik's own testimony where he describes playing Modern Warfare 2 in order to train for using the holographic scope in real life. He stated, "You develop target acquisition… It consists of many hundreds of different tasks and some of these tasks can be compared with an attack, for real. That's why it's used by many armies throughout the world. It's very good for acquiring experience related to sight systems." That is a quote from the same testimony where he mentions conspiracy theories, secret societies, and all sorts of ideas worthy of a tin-foil hat.

Some of these reports from major media publications ignore another portion of his testimony where he explains his actual training at shooting ranges. According to Breivik's manifesto he spent a significant amount of time practicing with actual guns.

Another point harped on by the media is that Breivik spent an entire year on sabbatical and says he spent 16 hours a day playing World of Warcraft. His testimony also states the time he spent playing was a purely recreational hobby and had nothing to do with his rampage. Suffice his testimony only counts when it's damning of video games.

norway gamingCNN published an article earlier today by Andrew Keen posing the question "Does the internet breed killers?" The feature uses Breivik's statements in court but refuses to acknowledge his denial of World of Warcraft's influence on his actions. The opinion piece, which graces the front page of the website states "Most troubling of all is Breivik's obsession with the multiplayer role-playing World of Warcraft, a violent online game that he played 'full-time' between 2006 and 2007. Indeed, one of the few times that he smiled this week was when the image of his World of Warcraft character was displayed in court."

The author also proudly declares without offering much in the ways of proof that "Given his absolute absence of remorse over the murders, it's not hard to imagine that this obsession with violent online games has enabled him to somehow virtualize the killing of real people, transforming them from flesh and blood characters into abstractions." Fortunately, the actual links between the game and the events are just that: imaginary.

Similar news stories are undoubtedly going to appear in our feeds. We, as gamers, need to respond to these criticisms in a respectful, calm manner as we provide as much evidence as possible to show that video games do not cause violence. Indeed, as the sale of video games increases, the rate of violent crime continues to fall. It's on us to calmly state that gamers are not future criminals and our hobby is just that: a harmless use of our time.

About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends! Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.

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