On July 22nd, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik, a “cultural conservationist” and self-proclaimed Knight of the Templar Order in Norway and Europe, allegedly murdered 77 people in a pre-emptive strike against “Imperialist Islam”. In the wake of Brieviks’ five day trial in Oslo, the media have discovered that the 33 year-old apparently played video games such as Call Of Duty and World Of Warcraft in preparation for his attack, and have thus reopened the mundane can of worms that is the “debate” on whether virtual violence contributes to real violence, which has left gamers across the world face-palming in their millions.
For years, controversy has been linked to games such as the Grand Theft Auto series and other adult titles because of the freedom they grant players, controversy usually conceived in ignorance of what video games actually are. Video games are a means of communicating an idea, a vision, to a wider audience through technology, in much the same way as film-making. They are not a mass-murderer’s B.F.F.; nor are video games a means of training the “impressionable youth” of today to commit atrocities. Since before Columbine, the media have perpetuated the myth that video games are solely responsible for the atrocities committed by those who happen to be gamers. However, witch-hunts of this nature are not uncommon. In the early 20th century, TV was the devil; in the mid-20th century, rock music was the devil; meanwhile, in the present, video games are the devil. Video games are the latest in a long, long list of scary new creative media outlets, that paralyze the over-reactionary with fear.
Getting back onto the topic of Breivik, the real issue is with his political views rather than his hobbies, as you can read in his manifesto, Breivik admits to using World of Warcraft in his plot, not as a means of training, but rather as a decoy to avoid arousing suspicion from family members and friends. He described his social life as ‘non-existent’ while using video games as a ploy to distract attention away from his true intentions. In his own words:
“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.”
To put it bluntly, the above quote pretty much clears the video game industry of responsibility in Breivik’s case. The video game industry has over the past 20 years received copious amounts of stress from pressure groups to regulate or censor video games, and it comes as no shock that there is a backlash against these claims. Statistics show that as video games become more realistic and engrossing, and of greater availability, there is a similar, correlative decline in crime in western nations; one might infer that people with psychotic urges find they are able to suppress or relieve said urges by killing virtual characters rather than real, live people. The fact of the matter is, video games don’t create the Breiviks of this world – chemical imbalances do.