Don’t Blame Games For Norway Shootings

The target's in the wrong place.

After the recent tragic events in Norway, of course various media outlets and officials looked to find a connection between the shootings by Anders Behring Breivik and computer games. (After the same groups had sought to find a connection between the shootings and Islamic groups, as well.) It’s normal practise, as what was once a confusion over new media has now reached the far more insidious position of being a received opinion: that videogames cause people to become violent, and in extreme cases, inspire them to go on murder sprees. It’s important to realise, this has never been demonstrated, let alone proven. Studies come and go that suggest links between extensive sessions of playing violent games and minor changes in the brain, but none has ever shown any demonstrable causal link to real-world violence, and many have suggested no such link exists. In the end such attempts to create links between a tragedy and the perpetrator’s having played games end up becoming tasteless attempts to score aimless political points. Sadly, in reaction to the news in Norway, a number of Norwegian shops are no longer selling a range of first-person shooters. I want to explore this, and argue why this is actually a very dangerous response.

I think it’s important to state that I recognise how easily I could be perceived as – or indeed actually trying to – scoring points for my own side of an argument, equally distastefully exploiting a tragedy. So I want to be clear that if there were demonstrable evidence that playing games that involve shooting has a direct link to causing someone to go on a killing spree, then I would want a serious response to this. I would want to protect others from the same danger. The point of this editorial is not to say, “People who think they cause violence are stupid, games are great!” It is to say, “What are the facts? What danger is there in misrepresenting them?” My aim isn’t to defend games – were they guilty I would want that to be recognised. My aim is to argue that blaming games is a dangerous thing to do.

Of course, finding that the gunman in a shooting had played videogames in 2011 is rather like finding he’d eaten carrots. Gaming is so ubiquitous at this point that the chances of a male 20-40 not having played at least one variant of Call Of Duty at some point in their life is pretty slim. Blaming games without any specific evidence, in this light, becomes a farce. Although certainly this does not put off the regular media and political culprits from, if not outright stating, certainly insinuating links between the hobby and the event.

Individual anecdotal evidence is of little use in such a discussion, but when that anecdote is shared by the population of the world it becomes a little more significant. And the reality is there has not been a epidemic of shootings by those who play FPS games. In fact, there has been no evidence of it ever happening. Which is an enormously important factor in this discussion. But sadly a complete lack of evidence of something ever happening is no match for received opinion.

Let me slightly trivialise this for a moment with an example. The banned use of mobile phones/cellphones from petrol station forecourts. No mobile phone has ever been demonstrated to pose any danger at a filling station. They don’t generate sparks, their transmissions can’t interfere with… petrol, and no phone has ever, anywhere in the world, caused a fire at a petrol station. It has simply never, ever happened. But phones are banned from petrol stations across the world, with astonishing amounts of money spent on printing warning signs saying not to do it. Why? Because of a hoax email written in 1999. Apocryphal stories have appeared over the years to defend the claim no one made, but none has survived scrutiny. But it doesn’t matter – phones and filling your car are banned.

And this is contributing to the motivation for Norwegian shops like Coop to pull the recent Calls of Duty, Sniper: Ghost Warrior, and Counter-Strike: Source, in amongst 51 games in total. That some are also taking World Of Warcraft off their shelves, seemingly because it appears to be have been Breivik’s favourite game, takes this to a whole other level.

However, the reason for gaming to be brought up at various points in the press reaction to this particular case is that Breivik mentioned games in his 800,000 word manifesto, sent to friends before the attack. He mentions a number by name, from Dragon Age to BioShock 2. But he also mentions Modern Warfare 2, great stretches of the press claiming he was using the game as a “military simulator”. But oh my goodness, this needs to be put in context.

The manifesto is an enormous piece of work created by a deeply disturbed individual, driven by astonishing hatred toward Muslims. And it contains discussion on a great many subjects. Amongst them, in a very minor part, is games. And these comments, when put in context, offer a rather different impression. For instance, in writing about January 2010 he says,

“A usual day for me involves email farming, writing, sharing “moderate” resources from my book on debate groups to coach fellow cultural conservatives, smoking, eating chocolate lol, taking a daily 1 hour walk/motivational meditation and doing some occasional battlegrounds in WoW on my badass Horde resto druid. I just completed Dragon Age Origins not long ago. A brilliant game!:D It’s important to have fun a few hours every day. I regret to admit that I’ve become a notorious downloader of pirated movies, series and games etc. but have noticed that an increasing number of sites have been closed down lately. Stealing is bad, I admit, but then again, when you have devoted your entire life to a good cause you can allow yourself some naughtiness especially if it can contribute to conserve your funds, cough;). Yes, yes, no ones perfect:P”

Dragon Age: Origins and WoW aren’t games frequently associated with murder sprees. One might equally conclude that piracy encourages murder. Or indeed smoking. Or meditation. His summary of February 2010 then includes,

“I just bought Modern Warfare 2, the game. It is probably the best military simulator out there and it’s one of the hottest games this year. I played MW1 as well but I didn’t really like it as I’m generally more the fantasy RPG kind of person – Dragon Age Origins etc .and not so much into first person shooters. I see MW2 more as a part of my training-simulation than anything else. I’ve still learned to love it though and especially the multiplayer part is amazing. You can more or less completely simulate actual operations.”

It’s clearly very chilling to read his describing MW2 as part of his “training”. You can see why people would leap at this, ignoring his previous statement that he doesn’t usually enjoy playing such games. And his description of being able to use the game to “simulate actual operations” also gives the impression that they are somehow directly linked to his attack. But again, context. This entry is accompanied by his concluding that he was toward the end of writing his manifesto, before he moved on to what he called his “research phase” and “acquiring phase”. His terrible plan was created long, long before he’d played Modern Warfare 2, and indeed – as he explains – formed before he even discovered he liked playing FPS games at all. That’s significant. It’s a heck of a thing for every media outlet to ignore.

But outlet after outlet has stated as fact that Breivik used Call Of Duty to train for his attack. Here the Telegraph explains how games like “the Call of Duty” and “the World of Warcraft” were implicated, and explains that he “used Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 to prepare for the attacks.” A fiction.

Here Forbes goes with the headline, “Norway Suspect Used Call Of Duty To Train For Massacre”, where they go on to claim, “writes in detail about how he used Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 game and Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft game to help him prepare for the attack.” A statement that is absolutely false – there’s no detail whatsoever, only that which is quoted above, and he certainly doesn’t mention WoW in any such context. In fact, he suggests to others wishing repeat his actions that telling friends and relatives that you’ve developed an addiction to WoW can cover up the time you’re spending on other matters. He was in fact using the gullible nonsense spread by the media to his advantage.

The Mirror explains that in “Call Of Duty” players can “shoot people on an island”.

And on and on and on it goes, so many papers and news channels, almost none seeming to have read the document from which they’re quoting.

As I said, my primary motivation isn’t to defend games. It’s to argue that when blaming something like games, or television, or whatever it might be, it ignores the larger issues that could usefully be addressed.

Within his manifesto, Breivik tells a tale of trying to buy guns in Prague. He has concluded that if he seeks out the criminal underbelly of an Eastern European city he should be able to find the weapons he wants for his attack. During his time there he fails to get anywhere, embarrassing himself in brothels and so forth, before eventually concluding,

“Prague may be a transit point but finding the actual couriers or sellers has proven to be a hard task. Also, I guess I wasn’t motivated enough, considering the fact that I could have just purchased a legal semi automatic rifle and a glock in Norway. I have approached several shady looking individuals but I would have tried a lot harder if it weren’t for the fact that I could buy guns legally.”

Then the next day,

“I have now decided to abort this sub-mission and rather focus on acquiring the weapons I need legally, back in Norway.”

He goes on to lay out how simple it should be to buy the guns he needs in Norway, especially since he’s owned a shotgun and rifle for years without incident. A semi-automatic rifle and glock, he concludes, shouldn’t be a problem. He then moves onto seeking to buy the chemicals he’ll need to inject into the bullets.

Later Breivik discusses that he is on “another steroid cycle”. Later still he explains that he’s been watching Dexter – the US Showtime programme about a murderer. At the same time he’s playing Fallout 3: New Vegas. Then a month later he goes on another “steroid cycle”. During which he conducted the pistol training required by the government to own a Glock 17, and his rifle training to use his semi-automatic. He also legally purchased a scope, laser sight, bayonet, and hollow point ammunition.

He was also in the Freemasons. And, it seems he believes, in the Knights Templar.

And so it goes on. To pick videogames – something he explicitly explains throughout he uses alongside meditation to relax in his spare time – out of this terrifying and disturbing document requires a wilful agenda. An agenda, I would argue, that conveniently distracts from the rather larger issues of how it was possible for him to legally obtain such an extraordinary arsenal of weapons and chemicals. I have not seen stories explaining that Norwegian weapons stores are taking certain guns off their shelves in reaction to the shooting.

And that’s my agenda. It’s my agenda that access to such extraordinary weapons is a serious issue. But my agenda almost equally misses the point. Yes, without the guns he could not have fired the bullets. And were games somehow implicated to be involved (despite the lack of evidence I can find), they too would have been a factor. Hell, you could get some way making this a discussion of the danger of steroid abuse. But none is the reason for the attack.

Breivik believed in a grotesque form of nationalism that was rooted in a pathological loathing of Muslims. A conspiracist, racist and ultra-extremist, his hateful beliefs were the reason for his attack. The guns were the tools he used. The games were something he did in his spare time to unwind. The steroids were how he bulked up for what he saw as a martyrdom.

Why did he hold those beliefs? Where did they come from? Who taught them to him? How did his mind come to be so hideously occupied by this terrible act? Those are really tough questions. They’re questions that don’t have easy answers, that can’t be easily blamed on the current scapegoat or easiest target. They’re questions that challenge people, society, us. They’re frightening, horrible questions.

Coop, the Norwegian chain that has come to most attention for removing shooters from their shelves have since issued a statement saying they don’t believe that the games were a factor in the attacks, and that their removal is a matter of respect for the victims. In an ambiguous statement they explain,

“We have not alleged that the game is the background for the event, or is harmful to the matter.”

But the fact remains that it’s games that have been removed, while books and films about the same subject matter remain on sale. So no matter the protest in hindsight, there’s no doubt that it is a direct stigmatism of gaming, as if this one form of media is the offensive one, the one that has to go at such times. And it’s worth noting that the same company said last week that they would “think twice” before stocking such games again. Their statements certainly aren’t adding up.

We cannot pick and choose our way through the past of an individual to find the thing we want to be at fault, because it’s the easiest option. Or the option that fits our agenda. In blaming games, or whatever it will be next, just as it was “video nasties” previously, we pick the convenient, lazy route, that prevents our asking the questions that might lead to change.


  1. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    You are wrong, me and my CSS Clan mates regularly meet up to go ‘Peasant Shooting’ or ‘Hobo Hunting’ we have yet to reach the ‘Mallway Mop’ level of competition though.

    • Out Reach says:

      great when I try and link this article to someone who doesn’t play games, this idiotic comment is the first thing they’ll read after the article. Good Job. *sigh*

    • Orija says:

      It did manage to get a laugh out of me though.

    • Angry Engy says:

      If they’re stupid enough to believe him, then that’s their own problem.

    • pepper says:

      Its the internet, a minimum dose of humour is required before access will be granted.

    • Valvarexart says:

      Yes, indeed. After I played Super Meat Boy I spent a whole month throwing slabs of meat at various saws, fires and horrible instruments. You don’t want to know the things I did after playing some Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row titles.

    • LionsPhil says:

      After playing the Plants vs Zombies demo, I was driven into a horticultural frenzy, compelled to rearrange my garden plants to maximize their mutual protection and damage output against streams of the undead. My trowel repeatedly stabbed into the ground as I dug and replanted in a furious haze.

      It was horrifying. Lying there splattered in mud with the realization of what I’d done dawning upon me, I swore never to play it again and demanded that my local supermarket boycot Popcap’s zombie remurder simulator. Then they told me that they didn’t stock it anyway because it’s sold online, so I just queued quietly, bought some milk, and went home again, just like in Postal 2.

    • Ian says:

      @Out Reach: Perhaps you should link them to an article about how jokes work, first.

    • Mitchk says:

      I enjoyed playing Tetris as a child. I’m now a bricklayer by trade.


      • JackShandy says:

        I enjoyed playing games as a child. Now I make games.

        Are you going to deny the correlation here, RPS!? The evidence is getting stronger by the second.

    • LionsPhil says:

      The worst part is that Mitchk is compelled to leave gaps in each row, else he knows all his hard work will blink and vanish.

    • ynamite says:

      It’s about taste really. Imagine someone who lost a family member or a friend in the/a shooting was to read this. I’m all for sarcasm, irony, dark humour etc. but in this case I find it a little early to be making jokes about it, especially considering the seriousness of this article and what it could mean to people who are not gamers.

      What Breivik wrote doesn’t seem much different from what you wrote, tonewise. I don’t expect people not accustomed to forums, comment threads and the internets at large to be able to tell the difference between sarcasm and sincerety. They read it and miss the humour and what we have is another someone pointing their finger at this comment saying “see, they’re all heartless, tasteless and twisted bastards, these gamers.”

      You’re essentially doing the exact same thing as those journalists, generalizing and assuming way too much without forethought.

      Ben Harper comes to mind: “… excuse me mister, but I’m a mister too and it’s a mister like you who puts the rest of us to shame …”.

      Joke or not, I think it wasn’t the smartest move to post this extremely useful comment, especially it being the first comment.

    • Tatourmi says:

      To be fair, dark humour is doomed to be tagged “offensive” by some people. As is everything, really. Don’t you ever make a joke about X and someone ends up saying: “My X is dead” and sheds a tear, silently, getting everyone to frown at you and try to sheer up the person. Should you then apologise? Well, social conventions say so, but is it logical?

      If you want to censor offensive content, well, so be it, but do realize that what offends differs from person to person, and that pretty much everything and anything is offensive to a certain degree. Even your comment was, slightly offensive for me, as an “anti censorship activist”, more offensive to the person that you shot your quote at. Then what? Censorship should apply to everything in order to preserve people’s wellbeing, and that would be quite absurd.

      We need to accept the possibility to be offended in some extend by language, because if we refuse to, then we refuse communication itself.

    • ffifofu says:

      I’ve learnt parallel parking playing Carmageddon.

  2. sexyresults says:

    I was hoping you’d pick up on this John. I had very similar thoughts upon reading the games had been banned. However I’m afraid your preaching to the choir here.

    • John Walker says:

      Regarding this claim that such articles posted here are “preaching to the choir” as is often said, that’s simply not how the internet works.

      Certainly regular readers of RPS are unlikely to disagree, but the site can be linked to and read by everyone. It’s as good a place as any to post it.

    • sexyresults says:

      I meant more personally, that after reading it I already had the same opinion, not the wider internet :).

    • Avenger says:

      In order to achieve that, I invite everybody to share and tweet this article wherever you see people stupid enough to believe whatever the news tell them.

    • Cunzy1 1 says:

      Also, it is so easy to look at tragedies like the Norwegian Shootings and the “Death by Xbox” affair and become totally apathetic to the ensuing media coverage because you know exactly how it is going to roll out. This post is a good reminder that shoddy media coverage needs to be pointed out and that general apathy is pretty much how they get away with it.

      EDIT: Worth sending this to press complaints?

    • Lambchops says:

      @ Cunzys

      Nope. One of the things the whole News of the World malarkey helped ram home is that the press complaints commission is a toothless waste of time. Referring anything to them is pissing in the wind. By all means make your feelings known but don’t expect any real action. Even when the PCC does actually call someone out it just results in buried apologies. Self regulation can work, but when it’s run by a hypocritical arse like paul Dacre of the Daily Mail, well . . . it’s just not going to.

    • SoupDuJour says:

      John, are you actually expecting the media to give a damn about “the truth”? Ratings, hits, etc. are their priority, truth is not even a consideration. Truth doesn’t make money, drama does.

      The media thrives on these stories, and the nutbags who commit the shootings know that – it’s the same every time, whether it’s island shootings or school shootings or who knows what else. Guaranteed publicity. I think it’s the media’s own behavior, to milk out any drama at nauseam, that gives the biggest incentive to commit these type of atrocities.

      After all, Breivik’s goal clearly was to get as much publicity for his way of thinking as possible… and he knew that all he needed to do to get that publicity was to do something truly dramatic. Well, it worked.

      He got everything he wanted, and the media got everything they wanted. But 77 people are dead.

      And somehow games get the blame.


  3. Bedeage says:

    By the Co-Op’s logic, no one should go paintballing or watch 24! I don’t think this is a major issue though, something incredibly tragic happened in Norway and peoples’ reactions are always OTT in such cases.

  4. pakoito says:

    Everyone over 18 in Norway has to go to Obligatory Military Formation or whatever it is called. Isn’t it more probable that the guy knew how to use a weapon because the government taught him?

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      Yes quite a lot of those euro governments still have Compulsory conscription I believe. I think it’s not the full term of 4 years or whatever, and I don’t know how they are placed though.

    • pakoito says:

      6-9 months IIRC.

    • jellydonut says:

      An excellent line of thought, however Breivik dodged his military service for years until the point where they gave up. (they don’t have the funds to take everyone in any more.. They stopped doing that in the 80s/90s)
      If you read his manifesto, specifically the parts on tactics and training, you’ll see the guy was a complete buffoon and had no clue about military terminology, tactics, procedures or training. The only reason he succeeded was because no resistance was offered to him.
      So he pretty much didn’t ‘learn how to use a weapon’ anywhere. Any monkey can use a weapon to shoot innocent, non-resisting targets, it’s not rocket science.

    • henben says:

      He didn’t do military service – he claims in his manifesto that he deliberately avoided it, but the Norwegian defence department says he was found unfit.

      But obviously he was able to learn how to use a rifle anyway, and he didn’t learn that from a game. Since he owned it legally, he could have just paid for lessons.

    • mrpier says:

      Everyone over 18 in Norway has to attend a one day examination for eligibility of service in the armed forces, this includes medical checks and some written tests, a short interview about your attitudes and so forth. Only men so far can be called upon to do actual compulsory service (women can volunteer). Service is one year for most and six months for some (national guard training). Fewer and fewer men get called in to do compulsory service though, and it isn’t hard to dodge if you want.

    • Reapy says:

      Security through ignorance is a poor idea though. You can’t stop people from learning to do things, they will figure it out eventually. If for example (and this is unrealistic really) but if someone on that island had a gun, and/or military training, they might have been able to put a stop to this guy before it got as out of hand as it did.

      But the idea is really that most of us are sane individuals, and that not many people out there would utilize their weapons in a manner that this crazy person did. But if everyone is knowledgeable, when someone like this asshole does get out of hand, hopefully the base majority of the world can quickly put a stop to them.

      Back on topic, I can’t wait till we get a new form of entertainment and games can get thrown into the book/movie/music category while we focus on the evils of whatever the new kid on the block is.

    • Jhoosier says:

      “If for example (and this is unrealistic really) but if someone on that island had a gun, and/or military training, they might have been able to put a stop to this guy before it got as out of hand as it did.”

      Please, for the love of everything sacred, don’t say that. That’s the response from every right-winger in America after some shooting or another happens.

  5. Chuck84 says:

    Hear hear.

  6. Teddy Leach says:

    Oh, HONESTLY… One day games will be accepted in the same way as other forms of media. Could someone please wake me up when it happens? I’m aware that this is just a phase, the same as music and films were once scapegoats. But I’m so tired of it.

    • Stupoider says:

      I dunno. It took films less than 10 years to be respected, and everyone watched them. Games just aren’t going anywhere.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      That’s partly what I mean – it’s taking far too long. History’s full of things that haven’t been quickly accepted for what they are. A big one for me is photography. I suppose the interactivity of games has a big impact on these “think of the children” types.

      I don’t mean to be outwardly dismissive of them, but it’s hard to feel otherwise at the moment.

    • Stupoider says:

      In all honestly I’ve had trouble understanding the “interactivity is a benefit” point anyway, especially when the outcome is already determined nevertheless. I mean, games in their simplest form are a set of rules, you play to win and have fun along the way. I guess I’m just skeptical about its supposed artistic merit.

      As for the newspapers, tabloids always sensationalise news stories, nothing new there. I haven’t seen any interviews or what have you about the “video game menace” on the BBC or what have you.

    • LionsPhil says:

      When games grow up, and you can no longer point to pubescent crap like “military wank fantasy” and “women with oversized tits in undersized armour” as highly prevalent aspects of the most popular ones.

    • Xercies says:

      The problem is, all these technologies had something else to go with the “Think of the children mentality” Books had movies to distract people, movies had rock music, rock music had horror films, and horror films had games…whats Games technology that people are going to jump on saying this causes violence…I can’t think of any.

    • dadioflex says:

      Films, right up until recently were blamed for all sorts. The last big furore was for Natural Born Killers – that I remember but I’m sure there were others.

      But it certainly took more than ten years for films to become respected.

      link to

    • LionsPhil says:

      Direct neural interfacing is teaching our children how to kill!

    • steviesteveo says:

      You know, direct neural interfacing might actually be teaching our children how to kill.

  7. TheFatDM says:

    Sober, rational and factual (as usual). Good job.

  8. Metonymy says:

    -It’s video games that send otherwise rational well-adjusted people over the edge. Nationalism and nutty racism don’t affect crazies that much. These quick, simplistic responses were the real solution to violence all along.
    -This is a problem that can be solved by telling people what they can’t do anymore.
    -Parents are not responsible for what their children do or experience. The only way to protect our children is to make sure that all media is safe for toddlers.
    -And I’m surprised I’m the first one to say this, but mass murderers all breathe oxygen, so it’s about time that we outlaw breathing.

  9. johnpeat says:

    If a company decides to remove games from sale because of any offense they may cause – I think that’s fine.

    If they choose to PUBLICISE that they’re doing it – they’re not only subverting the concept of ‘not causing offence’, they’re making it clear that it’s nothing more than a publicity stunt intended to make them look ‘good’ but really making them look like the cheap shills they are…

  10. Monchberter says:

    Odds on Infinity Ward either put Brevik’s comments on MW2 on the box or include him in the next game as an NPC as some form of ‘commentary’.

    • Cinek says:

      My bet goes to Brevik getting his own level in one of next releases of MW, probably after he will end up in jail, so that he could play…re-play the same once again.

    • 4026 says:

      Oh god. I just had a vision of a “No Norwegian” level in MW3, set on an island…

    • YohnTheViking says:

      @4026: And then Activision can retake its place as most hated company in gaming again.

    • Stochastic says:

      “Retake”? You mean they don’t already occupy it?

    • YohnTheViking says:

      They apperantly lost it to Capcom in a poll done a couple of months back.

  11. PunisherPlummer says:

    Actually, mobile phones are dangerous at petrol stations because people will pivot, grab the ringing phone, and slide themselves back out of their car without grounding. The static buildup obviously isn’t because of the mobile, but its not an action you would likely do without a phone (because with wallets etc, you aren’t holding your hand to your head, and incidentally touch stuff getting out. (Source: Santos employee recounting training video where girl lost her arms.)

    Otherwise , i agree with this article. It is interesting that games are stigmatised so much by the medium. I would suggest comparing cod:blops and half-life 1 is like comparing a comic book with macbeth.

    • Simon Hawthorne says:

      Which is precisely why shellsuits and nylon socks are banned at petrol stations.

    • skorpeyon says:

      This argument would make any kind of sense if, instead of saying “no phones at the pump” the signs they posted at the pump explained “don’t climb into your car and back out without touching a metal part of the door, so as not to cause a static charge that could result in an explosion”.

      In fact, your explanation is PRECISELY why the phones at a pump vs. games cause violence analogy is a very good one. It’s not the phones, it’s something else, but rather than point at the actual cause, they point at the phones. Educating people properly about the cause and effect of what they do, and why it causes a problem, is the only real way to end the problem.

      See, if I grill hamburgers, and then burn myself by laying my hand on the grill while not paying attention and then I’m told not to make hamburgers anymore, that doesn’t teach me that I shouldn’t go near a grill because I’m obviously too stupid to operate one. I’ll likely go out and make hot dogs, or chicken, or any number of other things that can ALSO go on a grill and end up with me being burned again. Telling me not to go near a grill because I’m obviously too stupid to operate one? That is what will keep me from being burned again.

    • sqparadox says:

      I honestly haven’t seen a “no phones at the pump” in years. I saw them start disappearing after Mythbusters couldn’t get a phone to cause an explosion no matter what they tried. However, I’m pretty sure that static buildup was already known to be the cause, Mythbusters just got that fact out to a wider audience. And I’m not trying to claim Mythbusters is real science either; the timing could be entirely coincidental. It’s perfectly legal to fill your car and be on your phone in at least my State and I think the entire US, but I’m not sure on that.

      However, I see “Do not leave pump unattended” (or similar) signs everywhere. Which is rather vague, as individuals might interpret that leaning into their cars is not leaving the pump unattended. I’ve seen some signs about static discharge but moistly in regards to not filling a container that is in the vehicle. Having “no phones at the pump” signs are actually more dangerous when compared to signs telling you not to get back in your vehicle. Phones themselves are not the issue, as you said it’s the static buildup and lack of grounding. Your argument only holds water if someone left their cell phone in the car when they got out to at the pump. But there are a multitude of reasons someone would get back his/her car : wallet, change, purse, fussy children, it’s cold, etc. IIRC the numbers on these incidents skew toward females as the culprit was more often leaving their purse in the car than directly related to the cell phone; but I may be wrong on that.

      Warning people of only the danger of cell phones gives them a false sense of security because it implies that the phones are the issue, not the static buildup from entering and exiting the vehicle. This leaves people worried about their cell phones, but not worried about entering and exiting the vehicle (or even grounding themselves), which is the real danger. Static buildup also has many factors: climate, materials of the seats, etc. To blame cell phones is a dangerous oversimplification.

  12. DSR says:

    Hitler’s favorite meal was sliced bread.

    I suggest to ban it worldwide!
    We will *not* allow our children to engulf the filthy product no more!!!

    • Savage Henry says:

      Wow! I shall never use the phrase ‘The best thing sinced Sliced Bread’ ever again for fear of being lumped in with the Third Reich.

  13. FakeAssName says:

    I have no problem with them pulling the titles in respect for the events, video games have a stigma and in this case games like COD tend to glorify shooting rampages … that’s kinda their whole point.

    yes there are plenty of other mediums which contain equally violent subject matter, but video games are hands down the most expressive medium for delivering any kind of content, so naturally people would react more strongly the -concept- of what a game -may- contain.

    ya know, pulling these games is probably for the best: lots of people are looking for a scapegoat right now, a scapegoat that isn’t in solitary confinement, and especially one that they can beat on repeatedly without dying too quickly.

    pulling those games removes them from the direct line of fire of being made into that scapegoat.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      Your logic escapes me. I’m pretty sure it’s escaped you, too.

      These games being scapegoated (which is what blaming them and refusing to sell them is doing) “pulls them out of the line of fire from being scapegoated”. Right.

      Aside from the obvious contradiction in that thought, do you honestly believe people will stop blaming video games because a store in Scandinavia stopped selling it? C’mon, man.

    • FakeAssName says:

      no I don’t believe that at all, but I’m not talking about the god damned media taking turns ramming their heads up each other’s asses.

      I’m talking about the real life, honest to god normal everyday kinda person with a little kid in a pine box.

      THOSE people don’t really need to be confronted by the “killing is cool” kind of game right now because (A) visions of Mr. commando dude (be he good guy or bad; remember that their bad guy was dressed as a good guy) probably haunts their waking hours for being helplessly separated from their loved ones while they were killed, and (B) they really aren’t all that rational ATM so I would count the ability to separate combat oriented video games violence is not equatable to real life violence.

      fuck the mass media, fuck them in the ass with a splintery 2×4 for exploiting the trauma these people are dealing with by (de)glorifying the non-existent effect of violent video games, but at the same time I do feel for these people and think that pulling these titles from the shelves is the right thing to do … if for no other reason than to isolate the games from being inappropriately associated with this event when they had no involvement in it.

      the retailer in question said they were gonna put them back on the shelf latter on anyway, it’s just for now until things settle down.

    • sqparadox says:

      “video games are hands down the most expressive medium for delivering any kind of content, so naturally people would react more strongly the -concept- of what a game -may- contain.”

      Really? I always thought the most expressive way to deliver content was to see the real thing live.

      How many people have actually been killed by video games, I mean direct causal link (there are some)? But compare that to how many people are killed in traditional sports. We have multiple sports where the entire object is to cause brain damage to the other person (boxing). People have died playing Football, American Football, Rugby; gymnastics was eliminated from high school athletic programs in the States because it was causing too many injuries and deaths.

      I want to see studies that try to determine if there is a causal link between violent sports and violent behavior, because actually beating someone to a pulp is far better practice than it will ever be using a controller.

      I own an HK .45 Compact, shooting that is NOTHING LIKE shooting any weapon in any game I have ever played. If you really want to make the comparison make sure you’ve at least shot a gun in your life.

    • FakeAssName says:

      “video games are hands down the most expressive medium for delivering any kind of CONTENT, so naturally people would react more strongly the -concept- of what a game -may- contain.”

      playing a sport is not content, it’s reality …

      watching a sport being played is “content” because you’re not doing it, playing a video game is however an even more powerful presentation of that content.

      … and I spent 4 years in the marine corp firing a m198 howitzer; I also have fired m16s, an M203 grenade launcher, a mk19 automatic grenade launcher, a 50cal machine gun, thrown hand grenades, and an M249 SAW. all of it generally sucked ass, especially the parts where we had to carry the shit across death valley for weeks and the resulting shit-carnival of cleaning the motherfuckers up afterwords … do you have any fucking idea how hard it is to clean two weeks worth of carbon residue out of a 20ft long 155mm wide barrel?

    • sqparadox says:

      “playing a sport is not content, it’s reality …”

      So your argument is that content has more effect on behavior than reality? I can see no rational reasoning for that; so if that is what you’re saying, I can’t argue against it, as I can’t argue against something I can’t rationalize.

      If that’s not what you are trying to say than you seem to be proving my point: an individual’s reality has a greater impact on behavior than any “content” ever could. And if you agree with that, shouldn’t we be looking at those things? Not just sports, but all of of the things that make up an individual’s reality. Shouldn’t we look at how those effect behavior before we even turn to looking at the effects of any “content?” That’s my argument; you are perfectly free to disagree.

      Since you’ve spent so much time around weapons, can you actually say they are anything like the way guns are portrayed and behave in games? It’s a genuine question; you clearly have more experience in this area than me. I wasn’t trying to accuse you of not knowing what you are talking about. I made an assumption based on the fact this is a UK site (IIRC they have very strict gun control laws) and that you had made no mention of your service. I apologize if I offended you.

      And I do know “how hard it is how hard it is to clean two weeks worth of carbon residue out of a 20ft long 155mm wide barrel.” Admittedly not from personal experience; so not to the same level by any means, but I do know what you are talking about. One of my best friends served in Iraq working on artillery, so I’ve heard many stories. I would give you MOS and more detail, but I honestly can’t remember them and though that friend has returned from Iraq he is now married and stationed out of state so we rarely talk.

    • StormTec says:

      I think it’s quite obvious that the games are being pulled because retailers like Coop are trying to cover their asses in reaction to the (predictable) response by the media of latching onto a mere mention of videogames in this man’s life. They pulled the titles because they fear public backlash at them, not necessarily because they believe games are at fault but more likely because they know more people will believe what the media’s spinning (because it’s far easier than researching yourself).

      The statement that they’re doing it out of respect for the victims’ families is a good cover for this, because you come off as having strongly good moral conviction (after all, who can argue against something like that right now and not come off like some cold-hearted douche?). Whether that is actually true or not doesn’t matter, it’s ironclad.

      Basically, it’s a knee-jerk reaction to media bullshit, and the thing about doing it out of respect is merely to make it seem like they didn’t totally freak the hell out over what the tabloids are spouting – corporate wankery.

    • FakeAssName says:

      probably 0811.

      and WTF are you on about?

      I’m talking about emotional impact; actually doing something yourself is a physical experience, consuming entertainment media is an emotional reaction to a stimulus.

      of all entertainment media, Video games are the most powerful because they are literally a combination of all other forms of media into an interactive package.

      to make all this simpler: Violent video games that center on realistic, modern weapons make people who just had their child/spouse violently murdered (by a psychotic, gun happy, shit stain on the asshole of humanity) -FEEL- bad.

      It upsets them because they are grieving.
      Grieving people do not make rational judgments (like not associating the casual connection of these video games with a psychotic, gun happy, shit stain on the asshole of humanity simply because the media is pitching it because they want to milk every angle) and do stupid things like permanently banning Ozzy, any weapon more complex than a muzzle-loader, and all Modern Day Military Shooters (MDMS, I think I’m gonna coin that) just because they are upsetting them at the moment.

      Get these games the fuck away from them before they start commissioning biased “studies” on their pre-assumed violent effects of video games, that in turn every jack ass wanna be Lieberman will point to as scientific evidence.

    • sqparadox says:

      I find it funny that you don’t actually answer my questions; no really, it amuses me.

      “I’m talking about emotional impact; actually doing something yourself is a physical experience, consuming entertainment media is an emotional reaction to a stimulus.”

      You seem to be suggesting that the “emotional reaction” to a “stimulus” is stronger than the “emotional reaction” caused by “physical experience.” But I’m not even sure of what your trying to say, as your statement actually appears to be implying that “physical experience” doesn’t cause any “emotional reaction” at all, but I assume that’s simply down to how you expressed it.

      My argument is that “physical experience” will always engender a greater “emotional reaction” than any equivalent media, and that those factors should be looked at, from every possible angle, before ever looking at media’s effect. Of course if you compare media that causes a strong “emotional reaction” with a physical experience that is in no way equivalent (such as a great movie creating a stronger “emotional reaction” than your morning commute to work) then the entire argument breaks down. I’m saying actually playing Football (soccer) will create a stronger “emotional reaction” than playing FIFA 11.

      I’m sorry if violent video games make people that have lost loved ones feel bad, but censorship is never the answer. I would agree with your argument that games create a stronger “emotional reaction” when compared to similar media of different forms; but that “emotional reaction” is created by playing the game.

      This is where your argument breaks down. These families are not playing these games. If they are then either it doesn’t bother them, or they are extremely masochistic. Since they are not playing them, these games cannot create that “emotional reaction.” There will be some “emotional reaction” created by advertising and media attention but this “emotional reaction” is no different than if the product in question were a movie or even a book as the medium through which such information is delivered is identical. This “emotional reaction” is not caused by games being a “combination of all other forms of media [in] an interactive package,” because these people aren’t “interacting” with the medium.

      Taking these games off the shelves only makes the problem worse because it makes it look like there is a causal link in spite of the fact that none have been proven. As you said in your original post “video games have a stigma” attached to them, censorship only reinforces that stigma. These people need education, counseling, help and time to grieve. A scapegoat might seem like a good idea at the time, but it’s always going to come back to bite you on the ass.

    • steviesteveo says:

      To summarise your own statements: we should pull entirely legal products from shops because they may make irrational people feel bad if they see them.

  14. Archonsod says:

    Have they discovered a link between games and cell phone hacking yet, or have they proven it’s only linked to newspapers?

  15. McDan says:

    Yes, well said. This kind of thing infuriates me: when the media jumps to lay the blame on whatever is easiest. Most of the time on games, it’s not fiar really that they’re used as such a scapegoat. But I suppose most other forms of media have been through this, where they were blamed for the atrocities of the day, but then people realised it wasn’t their fault, it was other things. It’ll happen with games (hopefully). Otherwise, this is just ridiculous.

  16. Will Tomas says:

    I salute you, John. Best journalist in games journalism, by far. This is very cogent, well-argued, brilliant stuff.

  17. jellydonut says:

    Thank you very much, not just for writing this article, but from abstaining from blaming some *other* inanimate object for the acts of a lunatic.

    I had my fears when you moved onto guns, but you didn’t disappoint, thank goodness.

    • Mattressi says:

      It was nice that he acknowledged that his ‘agenda’ missed the point (the point being the motivation, beliefs, etc), but I couldn’t help but be a little irritated that he still said that without the guns, Breivik could not have committed this tragedy. Certainly, without any guns he could not, but Breivik already noted that if it wasn’t easy enough to buy the guns legally, he’d have just bought them illegally. Another important thing to note is that if one or two of the hundreds of people on that island (well, at least the adults) had a gun, Breivik’s spree might have been a simply murder.

      I really should stay away from this topic though, lest I get too fired up about it and banned. I’ll just say that libertarians and most responsible gun owners have the exact same feelings about how the media portrays their method of self defence, sport and hobby as gamers do about their hobby. Both groups have good arguments for why the media’s wrong. It’d be nice if both groups would stop wondering why no one else listens to their reasoning, then goes and points the finger at the other saying how bad they are.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      No, see, he tried to get guns illegally in the first place. Then, after failing, realized, “Oh, duh, I can just go buy some at the shop!”

      Had there been no shop selling them, he’d not have had any. (Or, at worst, would have continued bumbling around looking for the black market. Increasing the odds the authorities would’ve noticed him.)

    • Mattressi says:

      Yeah, he tried briefly and realised he could get them easier legally. However, he still would have been able to get them illegally, he’d just have to have put in a little more effort. The difference isn’t immediately apparent, but it would be quite apparent if the citizens there were allowed to carry guns for self defence (and chose to) – as I said, the spree likely wouldn’t have even been a spree.

      I’ve just always seen it this way: you can’t stop bad people getting guns, but you can stop law abiding citizens getting guns. Why make it impossible for the good people to protect themselves?

    • CMaster says:

      While in general there are some good points there, and I don’t think that this incident should necessarily lead to the tightening of gun laws, I would comment on a few things.
      1. It’s not possible to stop criminals from getting guns. only law-abiders. This is obviously true to an extent, but if it wasn’t for the USA making guns readily available to its citizens, it would be an awful lot harder to get them anywhere. Too late to turn back the clock of course, and where there is demand there will always be some supply.

      2. If the victims had been armed, this wouldn’t have been as bad. This is again true, but most of these sprees happen in environments where people shouldn’t really have guns anyway. This one was a group of young people (13-17 I think), camping in close proximity to each other. Even if you say the supervising adults could have been armed, they probably wouldn’t be actively carrying. In the time taken to retrieve the weapons and then get to the shooter, the killer would already have racked up a lot of kills and may have shot said armed person. I recall coverage of a shooting in the US, where a party was attacked. Again, people commented had they been armed, they could have defended themselves. However, I’m given to understand that firearms and alcohol are probably a bad combination.

      3. The stats are really hard to get, and there are lots of intangibles involved (such as escalation of otherwise minor situations into lethal shootouts). But while arming individuals does seem to reduce at least some crimes, it also seems to lead to an increase in people getting shot – by accident, by police, by hunters, by criminals who don’t want to risk you reaching for your gun.

      I sure as hell don’t know what the right stance on all this. But it’s not as simple as both “sides” often like to make out.

    • Iucounu says:

      I often hear arguments like ‘if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.’ This pretty accurately describes the situation here in the UK, but I’d point out that I have never seen a gun in the UK, never known anyone who has, and never known anyone who has been shot or threatened with one.

      Back in 2006-7 there were 59 firearms-related homicides in the UK, which represented a big jump on the previous year. That’s, what, one gun murder per million people? At that rate the US would expect about 300 gun murders a year. The actual figure was over 25,000 – one per every 12,000 people.

    • Ajh says:

      Iucounu, if guns are outlawed, people will find another way to kill each other. That’s really all outlawing guns means to me.

    • CMaster says:

      Not quite.
      If guns are unavailable (not the same as outlawed), premeditated murderers will find another way to carry out their murders.

      It’s the common fallacy everybody makes in discussing gun regulation – that murders are the only times that guns kill people and that deaths are the only outcome from being shot. There are an awful lot of other gun-related deaths that certainly aren’t pre-planned murders. Lots of them would play out differently without guns involved – sometimes still lethally, but often not. Although the non-lethal outcome isn’t always what people would normally regard as the “good” outcome.

    • Ajh says:


      A gun is a tool. If you use a tool incorrectly you can get hurt. Sometimes using a gun incorrectly kills people. The people that do mass shootings like this don’t care about gun regulation anyway, and would find a way to kill people without a gun if they couldn’t get ahold of one. Bombs for example. Poisons.

      Things that aren’t pre-meditated mass murder aren’t what’s really being discussed here, because these arguments on games and such are about pre-meditated mass murder, so should the argument about guns be in this case.

      This man was not shooting people by accident.

    • sinister agent says:

      Iucounu, if guns are outlawed, people will find another way to kill each other. That’s really all outlawing guns means to me.

      There is some truth in this, but not in all cases. Probably not even in most, for the simple reason that anyone can pull a trigger (yes, I know using a gun properly is not as easy as it looks, but even a complete newbie could point a pistol and shoot someone standing ten feet away), whereas other ways to kill people are far more difficult physically and often psychologically. Stabbing someone means getting very close, feeling their body and getting blood all over yourself. Strangling them involves overpowering them and struggling for possibly a long time. Neither is an easy option.

      Two people having an argument that escalates are much less likely to strangle or stab or bludgeon each other to death than they are to simply pull a trigger if the option is available.

      Incidentally, I’m not trying to argue that guns should be banned or anything of the sort – my stance on this is actually quite complicated, and boils down to something like “different systems work in different places”, so directly comparing the USA and UK (for example) on gun matters is a fairly futile endeavour.

      Bottom line:

      I sure as hell don’t know what the right stance on all this. But it’s not as simple as both “sides” often like to make out.

      I think this is the most important thing to remember here. Even the article acknowledges that blaming guns, even if it’s logically a more viable scapegoat than games, is the easy way out, and misses the point.

    • Iucounu says:

      It is of course true that someone with the desire to kill can as easily stab as shoot their victim. But they sure as hell can’t stab dozens of victims. The availability of guns multiplies the harm caused by someone as deranged as Breivik many times over.

    • steviesteveo says:

      I do think that sickeningly huge massacre of children is a bad reason to say “See? We should all have a gun”.

  18. Anjiro says:

    Well written article, blaming games for atrocities like this is just plain retarded. Why can’t the media grasp the simple concept of some people just being messed up in the head.

    • Ajh says:

      Because what he did was so horrible it’s a human reaction to try to figure out WHY he did it, in an attempts to keep it from happening, or to rationalize that he was an anomaly. People want to be able to say “no one I know would do such a thing!”

    • ankh says:

      I think just calling him “crazy” and thats the end of that is as wrong as blaming something not related at all like games. Nobody learns.

    • sinister agent says:

      The worst thing is dismissing them as ‘evil’ or ‘monsters’. Completely self-serving, as it’s all just an attempt to distance ourselves from such acts, when what we should be doing is looking into what could drive ourselves to do something like this. The guy was no less human than any of us, however terrible his actions were, and pretending otherwise means we waste a chance to understand this sort of thing and therefore perhaps prevent it happening again.

      This isn’t an expression of sympathy for him, mind. It’s more like the difference between examining the body, hoping to discover a cause, or simply listing “evil spirits” as the cause of death and tipping the body into a ravine.

  19. Alexander Norris says:

    Well, he thought MW2 was both good and realistic. That’s as clear an indicator that he was absolutely bat-shit insane as we’ll ever get.

    (This was a 900-word post about the kind of people who think video games are a bigger evil than far-Right political ideologies and religious extremism. I cut it down because it wasn’t going to be saying anything new.)

    • torchedEARTH says:

      Agreed. Operation Flashpoint – mmm, maybe. But most modern shooters are so far removed from real life that no-one who has played them and has a reasonable sense of reality would give his statement any credence.

  20. Vague-rant says:

    I thought they were going for the “sensitivity” angle, rather than the causative. They’ve stated the removals will NOT be permanent and they’ve not come out and said “Games did this”, but I can kind of see the angle “This game is repeated/specifically cited in this guys manifesto and it’s not something we want to be marketting in light of this tragic event.”.

    Of course 51 games is quite a lot and it seems a case of really going over the top, but I can’t completely condemn it.

    Edit; If you were a gun afficiannado (or whatever the term is) and a gun shop decided not to sell that particular model for a while, would you still write this article?

    • John Walker says:

      Indeed they have said this, as I included. However, it remains the case that only games were removed (and some nerf guns, apparently), and no other media. Which is why it’s still such a serious issue. Let alone the press reaction which is quite independent.

    • Deano2099 says:

      The press reaction isn’t an independent thing though. The Co-op issue is a result of the press. DVDs remained on sale because that’s not what the press were blaming. We may know better than to blame gaming, but if the press is doing so, a lot of people, including friends and relatives of the victims, may start to believe.

      And when that happens, shops have a choice to either stand against it and stock them anyway (except they lack a huge publishing empire with which to put across their point of view – that the press is wrong). Or remove them out of sensitivity. The latter choice is valid, because people are especially sensitive over the gaming angle. That that angle was entirely constructed by the press isn’t really relevant.

    • Vague-rant says:

      Ah, sorry for not reading the whole of the article. I was about 2/3s of the way through and it read like you were proposing they’d specifically blamed the games, rather than simply other people reading it that way.

      If the issue is that it’s just games being removed, and presumably Co-op doesn’t sell too many other items directly involved in the incident, could it not be construed as others simply being inconsiderate, rather than Co-op being overly sensitive?

    • YohnTheViking says:

      This is as good a place as any to put the this, and it might have been said before, but this comment thread is getting long.

      Please note that Coop is pretty much the same thing as the Coop the Brits, at the very least, will recognize. It’s chain of small to medium sized grocery stores that in some of their biggest stores stock games/movies/books, but there is very, very little of these. I would in fact be surprised if any physical product was ever removed from a shelf, and assume that most of this was simply a paper trail. Anyway, the important bit is that next to no one in Norway considers Coop to be a force in sales of games.
      Spaceworld, one of the major retailers of games in Norway, was asked if they were also going to pull titles from the shelves. To which they responded; Why?

      This is mostly utterly unimportant, the damage lies not in who pulled what off their shelves, but the underlying understanding media seems to have of games. I still thought it would be of interest to some here to know a bit more on the special case here.

  21. oceanclub says:

    Melanie Phillips: “It Wasn’t Islamophobic Hate Speech That Made Breivik Kill; It Was the Stress of Trying to Level Up His Cooking Skill”.


  22. bogeymanuk says:

    Well said, another spot-on Walker article, thank you.

  23. Sicram says:

    Wee, more scapegoating and tunnel vision by the media.

    One thing that certainly doesn’t help are all those people who play games respond violently to the whole “games make murderers”. It’s like they are sort of confirming the point.

    A good and thorough article.

    • skorpeyon says:

      Agreed. The people who have the attitude of “shut up, games don’t make you violent, keep saying that and I’ll kill you!” are complete and utter morons. There is no way to react in that way, and it only serves to make these people believe they are right.

      Unfortunately, too many of the people who play these games are too immature to realize the effect of what they’re saying. Even telling them to stop doesn’t help in my personal experience.

    • PFlute says:

      Rrright. The response of the average gamer does tick me off. Yes, obviously, playing games doesn’t make you go out and shoot anybody in the face. The link between violent games and certain behaviors may be tenuous at best.

      But then I’m firmly of the belief that nothing is that simple, and find that thinking that a ten year old can play MW2 for hours a night with no psychological effects is just about equally as clueless as thinking it would cause him to buy a guy and go on a killing spree.

  24. The Sentinel says:

    It’s astonishing how the media doesn’t ever see personal responsibility as the cause of anything – there’s ALWAYS got to be some factor that “made him do it”, like they can never accept that in this world people do horrible things to each with – what that person sees – as very good reasons, despite reporting instances of just that very thing 365 days a year. It’s like the media fundamentally believes that all people are mindless drones who respond to anything you tell the….ohhhhhh, I see where we might be getting stuck.

    The only proper and conclusive argument against this type of blatant fear-mongering is that hundreds of millions of people play computer games; if they were actually harmful then there’d be a lot more violence occurring, with much much clearer indications of the cause. That so far every violent nutter that has been linked to games has also, in fact, been a bit of a nutter in the first place, frustratingly doesn’t seem to factor into any media thinking.

    • skorpeyon says:

      That’s typically my argument when people try to link violence and video games. “Do you know how many hundreds/thousands/millions of people play that game regularly? If that game CAUSED people to go on shooting sprees, every single person on the planet would be dead by this point.”

    • ankh says:

      I believe that there must be incentive for someone to do something otherwise they will not do anything. “Just accepting” that people do horrible things is most certainly not the answer. Did anyone read the article? The most important part of it to me was that by blaming something you are running away from really getting to the facts or asking the right questions.

    • PFlute says:

      You tripped my “libertarian” alarm with the phrase “personal responsibility”.

      Which usually entails some kind of theory that instead of being complex and intelligent animals with varied psychological functions, people are special snowflakes and choice-robots, whom get to magically stop time and make choices based on all available facts, and all of their experiences and subconscious thought processes have no effect on that decision making process.

      Which is equally as much bullshit as what some of these people assume — that playing video games just flips some poor, impressionable people’s murder-switch.

      I’m sorry to say, things are complex. This man chose to do what he did. He was also influenced to do so by outside circumstances. His actions were a product of both his life experiences and his choices. To say otherwise ignores pretty much the entire field of modern psychology as a science.

      …Not that there aren’t people out there who are eager to do just that because they find the reality of these things entirely unpalatable.

      Note: If you are not a libertarian and do not believe in an unreasonable, nigh supernatural level of personal choice/”personal responsibility” please feel free to disregard this statement.

  25. Orija says:

    “A conspiracist, racist and ultra-extremist, his hateful beliefs were the reason for his attack.”
    That is false, he actually is anti-racism and anti-extremism. He doesn’t hate Muslims or Islam as such but is against Muslim immigrants flooding European countries, which I think is justifiable in a way.

    • John Walker says:

      While I find your comment alone extremely disturbing, your claims are not born out by what he writes in the manifesto.

      Plus, I would question exactly what it would take for you to consider someone an extremist.

    • Harlander says:

      Once you set out to kill innocent people in an attempt to promote your ideology, you lose all right to describe yourself as anti-extremist.

    • berjalan says:

      Yeah, that’s still racist. And terrifying.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      Hey, we’d love to have you guys flood our country in return. Sure, the economy’s shit, but the weather’s great!

    • Orija says:

      I think I have made a bad choice of words. I am not saying that he was not an extremist or a racist, only that he described himself to be anti-racist.
      Also, by ‘justifiable’ I mean to say that the act was not the work of someone who was mentally deranged but a man who had a reason, no matter how misguided, to do so.

    • Crimsoneer says:

      He’s not racist, he’s just really, really angry at all those foreigners, coming over here, taking our jobs. Especially the brown ones.

    • rasssmus says:

      I don’t think your analysis is way off, at least this part would be correct out of the manifesto: “He doesn’t hate Muslims or Islam as such but is against Muslim immigrants flooding European countries”

      Now, how this is anti-racism and anti-extremism I’d like to see an elaboration of.

      I think it’s important not to dissmiss everything touching these issues as disturbing, how are we supposed to have a dialogue if we’re not willing to listen to each other?

    • Hanban says:


      Working on my reading skills. Will be back when I’ve learned to read.

    • Orija says:

      I hate to be the devil’s advocate but, no, for him it was about Muslim immigrants settling in European countries and increasing the crime rate, promoting the Sharia, yadda yadda; these people just happen to be brown.

      rassmus, again, I’m not saying that he was not racist, only that he perceived himself to be against it.

    • rasssmus says:

      @Orija: I think I agree with you, I further think that (at least part of) the reason why he went as far as he did was that you can’t discuss these issues in Norway without instantly being labelled as “racist”, “right-wing extremist” or “stupid”. Now, I am not sceptical towards immigration, but I think we need to take the ones who are seriously, if only to correct their reasoning.

    • I LIKE FOOD says:

      I agree with Orija.

    • bleeters says:

      I think what disturbs me, truly disturbs me, is not so much the level of contempt people have for one another, but how quickly people seem willing and able to dismiss their own ignorance as rational and justified.

      “I’m not a racist, but…” or words to that effect make my skin crawl with disgust. Yes, yes you are.

    • Crimsoneer says:

      But anybody who discusses those issues generally USa bigoted racist. as much as the media may hate to admit it, of you think people born on your patch of dirt should have more rights than people born elsewhere, sorry, but you’re racist

    • Oozo says:

      Ah, ignore me. I’m a bit too sensitive these days.

    • Orija says:

      “anybody who discusses those issues generally USa (IS a?) bigoted racist”

      @Crimsoneer, that depends on the person’s motives. If, like you said, someone puts forward these issues because he believes that people deserve rights based on their ethnicity, then, yes, he is racist.

      But there are people who feel this issue must be discussed without their opinions being biased. I live in a South Asian country, may parents are Muslim, many people from my family have emigrated to European countries, yet, I am against the current immigration policies of west European country and believe that these policies will be harmful for Europe in the long run.

    • bleeters says:

      European immigration policy really isn’t anywhere near as “open borders” as people seem to think it is, or that the shitrag newspapers are hellbent on portraying it as.

    • Orija says:

      True, but those policies still have a lot of shortcomings. Also, they vary considerably country to country, Holland’s, for one, are quite strict.

    • Cryo says:

      Oh good, now we have Breivik’s supporters posting right here.

  26. thebaboonking says:

    A thoughtful, well written article that respectfully and intelligently addresses a tough issue. The research puts other journalists to shame.

  27. rasssmus says:

    Very good! Thank you.

  28. Maralinga says:

    Though probably a bit long for some, another article worth reading on the same viewpoint is over here.

  29. Ravenholme says:

    Please e-mail this to the BBC or something (Bonus points for a collective effort of the readers here), it’s about time something rational about this issue was brought to the attention of major news companies. It might do shit-all, in fact it’s likely to, but it might be worth trying

    • mandrill says:

      It wouldn’t work, they wouldn’t listen. In fact they are totally incapable of listening to any reasonable argument with regards to this issue. Old media is terrified of new media and is completely incapable of rational thought with regards to it. They’re paralysed by terror and cannot comprehend a universe in which games are an acceptable thing.

  30. Deano2099 says:

    I’m not entirely convinced. There’s two issues here: why he did it and how he was able to do it. The first has nothing to do with gaming.

    The second… “I see MW2 more as a part of my training-simulation than anything else” – gaming was an aspect here. It either helped teach him how to aim and handle a gun, or gave him the confidence to think that he could. It’s an issue that sits alongside steroids and the availability of weaponry, as a minor factor, and one that isn’t as big as the news are making it out to be.

    But I can’t get behind the idea that videogames have nothing to do with this. They played a part, along with a lot of other things. I don’t think games should be banned because of it, but they were a factor and think denying that doesn’t help.

    • John Walker says:

      If you read the article, I make it extremely clear that he only discovered MW2 late into his plans, and says he previously didn’t enjoy playing FPS games. He learned to hold and fire weapons by having owned weapons for many years prior to ever playing MW2.

    • Pete says:

      MW2 teaches him how to aim and handle a _mouse_ (or a controller), not an actual gun which has mass, recoil, moving parts etc.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      Not to mention bullet drop and wind factor.

    • Shazbut says:

      I just made the same point. I’m not entirely convinced either. Surely it doesn’t matter whether he discovered it late or whether he doesn’t normally enjoy FPS games, but it does matter whether it helped him aim and handle a gun. You say “He learned to hold and fire weapons by having owned weapons for many years prior to ever playing MW2”, which is important, but did he brush up on his skills playing MW2? Considering he says “You can more or less completely simulate actual operations” and that “I see MW2 more as a part of my training-simulation than anything else.”, it would seem so!

    • Deano2099 says:

      He might well have done it anyway for sure. Or maybe without MW2 he’d have decided he didn’t have the necessary skill and put it off, or tried to acquire those skills some other way.

      And while I doubt MW2 actually helped him physically handle the gun, it might have given him the psychological belief that he could have.

      He felt that playing MW2 got him ready for what he did. It doesn’t matter that it didn’t really, or that it wasn’t part of his initial plan – things come along and change plans all the time. I’m sure it was never in the original plan for Quinns to come and join RPS but that doesn’t mean he didn’t play a part in its success.

      The part of games is being talked up and overstated but it was there.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      Seeing as how the “you can simulate operations” part is false (have you ever played MW?) it throws doubt on the accuracy of his second sentence.

      That he was likely fantasizing in his sick little head while he was playing, I don’t doubt one bit, but the idea that it actually helped him train debatable.

      At what point during the massacre was his skill at lining up a mouse cursor with a pixel tested? Or maybe there was a bit where he had to use a perk?

      Play a shooter, and tell me how the atmosphere is at all like shooting screaming innocents in real life. Even the infamous airport level wouldn’t come close.

      He was able to do this because he was deranged. He was planning it before ever playing MW. Do you really think he wouldn’t have done it if he’d never played? That’s the only way it would bear even a shred of responsibility.

    • ynamite says:


      If you seriously believe pointing your mouse and clicking will in any way prepare him to hold a real semi-automatic rifle and shoot children with it, then you haven’t got a clue, I’m sorry to say.

      It might have helped him strategically, but even with that, trained police and special forces are not to be compared with a bunch of people playing multiplayer CoD.

      What exactly was he going to learn from the game (which isn’t very realistic at all)? That a gun goes boom when you click the trigger? Uhm …

    • Deano2099 says:

      I agree, you’d have to be batshit insane to think that MW2 prepared you for actually going out and massacring people.

      But then, you have to be batshit insane to go massacre people. It doesn’t matter that the game didn’t teach him to handle a gun better, it made him think he did. It gave him the confidence to go and do it.

      That’s not gaming’s fault but it is a factor.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      Now you’re just making an unfounded assertion.

  31. Maxheadroom says:

    Interesting article but i fear you’re preaching to the choir a bit here. Its a shame few, if any, non-gamers will read it

    • John Walker says:

      Please see my response to the second comment.

    • The Sentinel says:

      Max, I see it as a good opportunity to spread it in places where non-gamers WILL read it. Also, googling the words “norway shootings games” now brings this article up as my second link on the first page so people who are interested should find this to help form, or change, their opinions – why wouldn’t john post his piece on the premiere PC gaming website, bringing us news and talking points about the platform that invented the FPS?

    • mandrill says:

      The danger I think is that the link between gaming and violence being put forward by Old Media is going to be read by people who don’t understand, care about, or have even a passing familiarity with the internet

      Astounding as it may seem there are still people out there (my parents among them) who haven’t a clue when it comes to the internet and think it’s just shopping and porn. The only news they consume is old media and they’ll never even think of going online to read their news.

      This is the army that old media is relying on to fight this war (see my comment later in the thread) and they’re a dying breed.

  32. CMaster says:

    “A conspiracist, racist and ultra-extremist, his hateful beliefs were the reason for his attack”

    Lots of people keep saying this.
    And I, as a pretty commited liberal and sometimes leftist (depending on mood) am going to disagree. I haven’t read the full manifesto. I haven’t followed this in great depth, But everything I have heard from him and his rather exasperated lawyers makes me think that his political beliefs were nothing to do with it. I think he just wanted to kill people. Lots of people. He wanted that power. And the politics was just an excuse, a chance to make it “martyrdom” rather than self-fulfilment. After all, he claims he had no other options to “save Norway” – yet as far as I can see, other than preaching to the choir on the internet he never even tried anything other than shooting children.

    • Ravenholme says:

      I, as a similarly committed liberal, would sincerely beg to differ with you on this point.

      I agree that he wanted to kill people, but the desire to “get across his viewpoint” was equally uppermost in his mind. The man was not sane, and he was a fervent believer in fanatic conservatism, equally wrapped up in a hatred for liberal ideals and islam, and was obsessed with “islamic infiltration of european culture” or whatever.

      In his quite-obviously-unhinged mental state, he felt that the best way to enforce his political ideals and “wake up” the West to threat hanging over them was to cause an atrocity. Not logical, but again, the man was somewhat insane – in a perfect world he’d have been committed into the hands of a psychological institute long before he reached the point where he was actually able to kill people.

      Trying to divorce these killings from his political “justifications” is somewhat unrealistic, simply because he devoted so much time to penning them and leaving them as a justification for his actions. It doesn’t read as post-coital justification, something to make himself feel better about waking up in someone’s bed after one hell of a drunken night, his manifesto is definitely the work of someone who fanatically believes in the truth of his ideals and deluded world-view he holds. I am, sadly, related to a paranoid schizophrenic and whilst his ideals and world view are different, I am struck by the similarities between the ferverence in which they hold and preach their ideals (and the same lack of any particular sense or coherence in doing so)

    • Johnny Lizard says:

      To me he appears no more insane than any other terrorist who rationalises that killing innocent people will help to bring about stated political goals.

    • CMaster says:

      Believing violence (including terrorism) will help you achieve political goals is completely rational.
      Just ask Gerry Adams.

      The difference is that the people who get what they want from violence use fear and limited applications to gain leverage, control and tend to do little (although not necessarily nothing) personally. This guy just massacred children then allowed himself to be captured, while working seemingly completely alone.

    • mejoff says:

      Agree with Johnny Lizard here. You only have to get into a conversation with a racist or similar far-right type on the internet to see how quickly they turn to rage and threats when faced with a left/liberal opinion. He killed people who he saw as the next generation of opponents to his views because he thought that this would make it more likely that future governments would take a less tolerant view of islam.

      Constant removal of his political motivation from discussion is unhelpful, and constant specualtion and misinformed pronouncements about his mental health do nothing but add the stain of his crime to the already enormous stigma associated with mental health issues, which is actively harmful.

    • skurmedel says:

      I think people should read his “A European Declaration of Independence”. He wanted to bring on a modern crusade. He wrote a eulogy of Vlad the Impaler.

      And the other day he produced his demands to his lawyer, which included the government resigning.

      His extreme political ideas were surely a big part of the problem, but he’s clearly not sane. He doesn’t seem to understand how society works.

      We have lots of right-wing nutters in Scandinavia, some quite extreme. Every year hundreds of them assemble in a small suburb close to where I live and celebrate a long dead king. They are not nice people by any measure, but this man has popped a fuse in his brain.

    • mejoff says:

      Is anyone here a qualified psyhiactric practicioner who has had an opportunity to analyse the man?


      Then nobody is in a position to assess his mental health,

      Evil, hateful opinions and actions are not synonyms for mental illness, and mental illness is not a synonym for evil, hateful opinions and actions.

      Ablism (and the automatic equation of mental illness and unconscionable behaviour is ablism) is actually just another form of bigotry, in case nobody mentioned this to you.

    • ankh says:

      Just wanted to add to this thread that my country’s first democratic president, Nelson Mandela, used violence to push his political agenda. He himself planted bombs in public areas. He is renowned world wide as being a great leader and even won the nobel peace prize.

    • skurmedel says:

      mejoff no but when his lawyer says he thinks he is insane, I would be heavily inclined to believe that. I don’t understand in what way it matters anyhow. His political opinions were horrid, insane or not. I don’t see anyone here arguing the opposite. It does matter for his conviction though.

    • mejoff says:


      Skurmedel, I’ve explained exactly why it matters, read the whole of my post.

      Also, I’ve yet to see the psychiactric qualifications of the lawyer whose job it is to defend him (insanity being a defence in many legal systems).

    • steviesteveo says:

      Insanity is a legal concept, not a medical one, so the lawyer’s the best person to ask. Frankly, the fact we’re talking in terms of “sane” and “insane” at all in itself shows that we’re not qualified to make a medical opinion about his state of mind.

  33. berjalan says:

    Very thoughtful and measured article. Needs sending to all the editors of those fear-mongering newspapers. It just goes to show how some parts of society haven’t evolved their intellects at all over the last few hundred years. Blaming videogames for this atrocity is basically the same as saying a goblin told him to do it, or the devil, or a witch put a spell on him. Just so depressing. Grow up, world.

  34. Johnny Lizard says:

    I haven’t played Modern Warfare 2, but if I do, when I get to the part where you shoot at unarmed civilians in an airport, I might be reminded that Breivik quite enjoyed this game (even though he didn’t usually like first-person shooters).

  35. testman3 says:

    If something like Modern Warfare 2 would seriously have influenced him, he would’ve used a grenade launcher…

    But seriously, this is an issue with the media as it is now, and I hope that someday people will realise they can’t go and blame games just because they are violent (or have bad influences or whatever). I mean, really, why are they not blaming violent films then? Maybe there were books that gave him his ideas, but I don’t see anyone going mad about that. Oh well.

    • ShadyGuy says:

      @testman: during his expedition to Prague where he wanted to buy weapons illegally his goal was to get an assault rifle, a pistol and a RPG. For him the RPG would’ve been the icing on the cake, so to speak.

  36. Avenger says:

    I have received my training on shooting people on an island by watching 6 seasons of LOST. By god, it was boring. But it was a necessary training exercise.

  37. FCA says:

    link to

    Does anyone else sense that he’s at his most human when mentioning gaming?

  38. AbyssUK says:

    Counterpoint: – You haven’t mentioned about how video games may desensitise people from real world violence. WoW for instance has you killing anything that moves and MW2 shooting people who don’t think like you. Video games have more submergence than films/tv or books. So there is a valid argument to say that the fact that Brevik has performed much virtual violence gave Brevik the idea that he would be able to go through with it in the real world. MW2 is no military simulator but I believe it can desensitise simpletons to the act of doing things like shooting sprees. Movies etc yes can also do this also.. but not to the extent of games because you have some control over a game and you choose your options (sometimes).
    As games look/feel more real it’ll only get worse, as a form of media we need to realise this and regulate MORE TARGETEDLY than the film/tv industries with a different level of analysis; because as we all know games are not movies they are different so require different regulations.
    EDIT: dear all i made an error i missed out a whole word ‘targetly’ sorry, I probably missed it out because i don’t even think it’s even a word.
    EDIT2: found the right word targetedly is what i wanted

    • pepper says:

      The link that you state in your post has never been proven! Please show us the evidence that that what you say is true before calling for regulation!

    • Rinox says:

      I would say that fictional violence is fictional violence – whether it is in books, fairytales, films, music or games. Or in our heads, even. I think that the loss of distinction between real-world violence and fictional violence is so important and empathic that it has little to do with how ‘real’ or immersive the fictional violence was.

      In short, they were always gonna come out batshit insane, even without games or other media. Peer/social pressure, now there is a real source of turning ‘normal’ people bad.

    • The Sentinel says:

      Oh my word, where to start…???

      “videogames may desensitise”

      The keyword there is MAY. it is not proven, either way.

      “so there is a valid argument to say that the fact that Brevik has performed much virtual violence gave Brevik the idea that he would be able to go through with it in the real world”

      No, this is pure assumption. There is also the hypothesis that states Brevik had the impulse to kill and was drawn to video games as a result, perhaps as a means of rehearsal or acting out the impulses, but you haven’t even mentioned this. You’ve simply jumped to the conclusion you want to support your argument.

      “Movies etc yes can also do this also.. but not to the extent of games because you have some control over a game and you choose your options (sometimes).”

      The violent movie theory hasn’t been conclusively proven either, given that violent movies are still being made. To extrapolate on top of that non-conclusion is wrong-headed.

      “As games look/feel more real it’ll only get worse”

      WHAT will only get worse? If you’ll allow me to quote form personal experience, I’ve been playing video games since 1983 and have watched graphical fidelity and game capability increase in tandem, to the point where games are much more realistic, but still a long long way away from appearing real. I’ve been playing violent games since that date and, do you know, still find it hard to harm insects let alone human beings. If games were causing violence, do you not think that due to the sheer number of people who play games we’d be seeing vastly more reports of violence by gamers; Instead of the just the odd one or two a year who also happen to be deeply psychologically disturbed anyway? Or are you going to treat that as pure coincidence, like the media does?

      “we need to realise this and regulate MORE than the film/tv industries with a different level of analysis; because as we all know games are not movies they are different so require different regulations”

      …and this is where you move from harmless to harmful! Calling for regulation on something you clearly don’t understand and have no evidence to support is so dangerous it makes me want to weep. Please please please think again.

    • John Walker says:

      Please provide evidence for your claims. Ta.

    • AbyssUK says:

      There has been a few small crapply done studies by universities that can’t really be used for anything. But it doesn’t take a degree in psych to realise that more life like violence that is instigated by the user will result in a greater psychological response that if a user is just watching said violence.

      Of course 99% of people will not get a great enough additional effect to make any discoverable difference, but its the 1% left over which when added to a cooking pot of hatred and insanity may be pushed over the edge. Can we honestly say computer games played zero part ?

      link to one such small psych review (link to sorry can’t find the original paper link is broken.

    • The Sentinel says:

      Abyss, you’re even stretching it to say that it’s one out of a hundred.

      IF there is an effect, – and let’s assume for the sake of argument that there is one – the reported results (each of them unclear enough to engender fierce debate over the probable causes) would be MUCH higher than we see. HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of gamers, with tens of millions of those playing supposedly ‘violent’ content. Surely we should see hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands reacting badly to this flood? But there isn’t. There are one or two high-profile cases (made so by the media) that many strongly disagree have anything whatsoever to do with gaming as a cause, So your statistically probability is reduced to much much lower than 1%, possibly 0.0000001% or even lower, right into the territory of ‘negligible’. As in, so little as to be irrelevant.

      When you add to that the fact that it only affects people who are already violently predisposed/insane it therefore seems logically absurd that games should be targeted as a blame factor in any way, shape or form.

      I say, ignore the studies: use your brain on this one. If games are so harmful then why aren’t we seeing thousands of violent cases every year? Could it be…because there is no effect? And the people who commit acts of shocking violent are pre-disposed before they even get near a game?

    • thebigJ_A says:

      Actually, it DOES take a degree in psych to make pronouncements about human psychology that are worth listening to.

      There have been plenty of studies. It’s just that very few support you view, so you can’t seem to find many. Funny, that.

    • AbyssUK says:

      Look I am playing devils advocate here, yes your all right science currently cannot prove that violent computer games cause desensitisation in people, it would be impossible to accurately test the entire population of the planet.
      Let me get myself straight, I don’t think games are fully to blame, not at all and John is 100% right saying that they shouldn’t be targeted as the ultimate fix to all the problems; but how many times does a link to violent games and mass shootings need to turn up before its a trend, yes the people involved are crazy, stupid, insane but it also cannot be proven that the games didn’t give them that tiny little push… am sorry but in my opinion violent games are not totally blameless and we shouldn’t act like they are. True the ability to just buy a automatic rifle over the counter seems to carry much more of the blame…but I bet there is hundreds of right wing anti muslim Norwegians that own automatic rifles (this is a guess, sadly no published numbers :p ) why did just Brevik go and do this ?

      Gamers shouldn’t be so black and white defensive we should be more accepting and start asking what we can be doing to help remove this stigma from our hobby.

    • The Sentinel says:

      “but it also cannot be proven that the games didn’t give them that tiny little push… am sorry but in my opinion violent games are not totally blameless”

      1) No, it has not been proven 100% conclusively that games are blameless but the sheer weight of evidence currently is that they are harmless, considering we’re not reading about game-created murderers in the papers every week, or even month.

      2) Until you can prove anything against games, then they ARE blameless. Innocent until proven guilty! Your opinion is entirely subjective, and has been proven, by this conversation, to be almost entirely fear-based rather than grounded in any rationale you can defend.

      “…But I bet there is hundreds of right wing anti muslim Norwegians that own automatic rifles (this is a guess, sadly no published numbers :p ) why did just Brevik go and do this?”

      That’s a good question, but shrieking about games being a possible causal factor – and suggesting we should be legislating against them – are unscientific, unfounded, indefensible and flat-out ignores all the other possible factors.

      “Gamers shouldn’t be so black and white defensive…”

      We aren’t – look around these pages for our arguments.

      “…we should be more accepting…”

      Of lies and half-truths? Give us PROOF…

      “…and start asking what we can be doing to help remove this stigma from our hobby.”

      THIS I agree with. Widespread, popular acceptance of gaming as a harmless and legitimate form of entertainment cannot come soon enough. These witch-hunts against our hobby need to stop. NOW.

  39. Jockie says:

    It’s quite shocking that it takes a games journalist to actually go to the trouble of reading the manifesto before putting forth his position, while the mainstream media seemingly just hunts down snippets they can rob of context to back up some ill considered agenda.

    I’m not belittling games journos, for whom I have a great deal of respect, but surely we’re living in a pretty backwards world when that’s the case.

  40. Wozzle says:

    Maybe it’s because I’m a big ol’ history loser, but these sorts of arguments and accusations are ridiculous to me.

    Every type of new media was feared as the end of civilisation by past generations, be it television, rock music, the radio, or, I’m sure, printing press.

  41. ucfalumknight says:

    In the U.S., violent crime is at its lowest since the numbers were being tracked. It is the media and their sensationalism, coupled with the information age that has hyper-sensitized us to violent action by clearly mentally disturbed individuals. All of these massacres have been perpetuated by individuals or groups of individuals who were clearly not mentally competent. Anyone that pens an 800,000 word manifesto is clearly not stable. We should be more concerned about identifying and helping these individuals (which is extremely difficult) and less about the perceived notion that video games cause psychotic violent tendencies (which is easy). Interestingly enough, the largest incidents of genocide occurred in the absence of Video Games. Nazi Germany, The Congo, Darfur, Iraq…

    • Ravenholme says:

      And that, gentlemen, is a bloody good point. Well done.

    • Johnny Lizard says:

      Mental stability is correlated to word count?

    • Ravenholme says:

      Well, I was referring to the point about the majority of the genocides carried out in recent history.

      However, somebody who needs to write 800, 000 words to state the same thing over and over does have something wrong with them. Lack of writing ability for one.

    • sinister agent says:

      I was just thinking about the sheer volume and ramblingness of his twatifesto myself, and crossing it with the point someone made earlier about this actually being about his desire to kill, and how the political blathering was just a cover story to protect his ego.

      It’s interesting. I’m inclined to suspect that it was indeed just about him wanting to feel big, but if he’d admitted that to himself, then ironically he’d only feel small, so he concocted this elaborate, absurdly over the top ‘manifesto’ to make his acts sound intelligent or complex or significant.

      I’m reminded of that episode of Cracker (if you haven’t watched it, do so. They’re on youtube and the box set – 23 hours – is about £20 online. It’s worth at least five times that), where a killer starts his spree with someone who simply pissed him off, and later he chooses victims and tries to piece together some kind of rationale and political platform to justify them. Fitz exposes his ideology as insincere bullshit and openly mocks him for being such a hypocritical coward that he can’t admit he just wanted to kill people.

  42. obvioustroll says:

    I much prefer this cause than the insane ramblings about sexism.

    eta, the mobile phone rule does have good points, for instance, concentrating while using petrol and pumps is probably a good thing, plus it removes any temptation for a customer to continue the conversation whilst driving, which the police are pretty forceful against these days.

    • mejoff says:

      Both are valid and useful, and I can only think of one reason not to like people complaining about sexism.

    • obvioustroll says:

      To keep women down so us men can be overlords of the world?

      Curses! Our evil plan has been foiled!

  43. ChainsawCharlie says:

    Good article. Btw no one in Norway buys their games from COOP. I certainly didn’t when I lived in Oslo.
    COOP would be something like Tesco here, but smaller of course.

  44. Shazbut says:


    To me, what this appears to hinge around is whether playing Modern Warfare was beneficial to his carrying out the massacre and you don’t quite confront that. He says himself he used it for training, as you note, but even if we look past that, there is still the issue of whether it would have helped him carry out the massacre even if that wasn’t his intention for playing.

    The issue is not whether games were responsible for his mindset, so I don’t see the relevance in the fact that he “doesn’t usually enjoy playing such games”. (If you think this is relevant then what do you make of the Columbine killers and their supposed love of Doom?) It’s also not relevant that he also enjoys meditation or smoking or that he believed in a grotesque form of nationalism that was rooted in a pathological loathing of Muslims. The question is “Did playing the game help him kill?” And I feel the need to make myself excessively clear to diminish the emotional backlash I expect to receive from some people – I’m not talking about the psychological aspect of pulling the trigger, I expect the influence there was negligible; I mean the physical aspect of shooting and hitting targets, and avoiding danger.

    • Ravenholme says:

      Somehow, I don’t see how twiddling sticks and triggers on controllers, or moving a mouse, equate to the physical act of balancing a gun into your shoulder, adjusting for your breath, firing, and actually adjusting for physical recoil. But that could be me. I think that would more be the fact that he had learned how to shoot and owned guns prior to this, by a large amount.

      It’s not even as if the shooting in MW2 is particularly realistic as is, so I really do not see your point.

    • pepper says:

      Fair point I suppose, but it isnt very different in him speaking out about guns enabling him to kill people, or cars learning him to drive and park bombs near buildings. I am not sure how much we should read into his words.

    • Ravenholme says:

      “and avoiding danger.” What danger? He was shooting unarmed and terrified teenagers (for the most part. I am aware that there were some people older than that present and among the list of victims.)

    • John Walker says:

      I would need to see some evidence to suggest that one can help with the other. To make such claims one must provide evidence to support them.

      And he doesn’t say that he trains with MW2 – he makes a throwaway remark about how it could be considered that way.

    • Shazbut says:

      @Ravenholme – It’s by no means the same, of course, but do you really deny that it’s even a little similar? If you look at the killer’s quote about it, it would seem he disagrees with you, no? He learned how to shoot from owning guns, sure, but could it have helped him to play “the best military simulator out there”? I doubt it would hurt. Also, while I can’t remember the full details about the massacre, if you start shooting a load of people, you are going to be in danger pretty quickly. Maybe you’re the only one with a gun but everyone everywhere is going to want to stop you.
      @pepper – I agree. That’s why I think the general outlook around here is a little defensive. Maybe it did have a part to play, so it would be good if we could stop worrying about what other people think of our hobby and whether the government will be silly and take it away from us, and really look at this with as clear a head as possible.
      @John – I’m not really making any claims, apart from the claim that it’s an important question that should be addressed. I would love to know of any research into this exact question and any findings. Also, I don’t agree with what you say about his “training” comment.

    • Avish says:

      As someone who had decent army training, I can clearly tell you that playing MW2 is not even remotely close to training with real weapons and ammunition. No weight, No recoil, you are not running, your gun is always perfectly calibrated etc…

      If it was considered to be decent training, armies around the world would have used it as such.
      Much cheaper ans safer than real bullets…

    • Ravenholme says:

      I actually do deny that it is in any way similar. Having actually used firearms, about the only thing they have in common is that you use your index finger to pull triggers.

    • sinister agent says:

      Everything I’ve read by people who’ve significant experience with guns suggests that videogames really can’t train you to shoot at all. They might give you a vague idea about some basic gun use (like, say, how to reload a specific rifle), but spending an hour being trained by someone who knows what they’re doing would render that completely redundant. Hell, even using an air rifle felt like trying something completely new after years of FPS games, and those are vastly more simple to handle and operate than your average assault rifle.

      And as for tactics/operations, well, of all games, the only FPSeses I can imagine being less helpful than MW2 are doom-style bullet-absorbers.

      If you were to take something like Arma, maybe, then sure, I can imagine that having some practical applications (I believe the US army has been known to use games like that to aid with communication and teamwork skills, for example). But even then, that’s at most going to be peripherally useful to carry out the acts that this guy did.

  45. LennyLeonardo says:

    I’ve typed about 5 different posts before abandoning them. Unfortunately I think the problem of games as scapegoats is far too complex for me to handle, so I just want to say well done, John, on another tactful and balanced piece of proper games journalism.

    It would be nice to read some more on your opinion of the media’s relationship with games in a non-topical context, though.

  46. Owain_Glyndwr says:

    His manifesto has been used to prove over the past few weeks that the following groups were responsible for his actions-
    1) Conservative Christianity.
    2) Freemasonry.
    3) The Tea Party.
    4) The Right Wing. All of it.
    5) Multiculturalism proponents, in a kind of reverse pyschology thing.
    6) Islam for not being innocous enough.
    And so on and so on. The guy was clearly a nutjob, and it’s ridiculous to tie him to any specific cause, especially games.
    Still though, it’s a little disturbing that he described COD as a kind of training simulator, especially with that one level where the player is invited to fire a machine gun into a large crowd of people. Games certainly didn’t cause his actions, and neither did multicultural critics or right wing rhetoric, but I think it’s quite difficult to say that they had nothing to do with how he was able to carry out his actions. The latter encouraged him while the former may have mentally prepared him. Any thoughts?

    • Shinryoma says:

      And yet if he was Muslim, people would of insisted that Islam was the problem instead of him being a nutjob.

    • The Colonel says:

      The media will no doubt have forgotten the games thing by next week when they’ll probably be attributing it to subliminal Libyan broadcasts into the guys telly or something.

      The fact that there is a parallel between a scene in COD and the shootings is surely disturbing, but hardly grounds to outlaw provocative or morally complex fictional situations in any medium. At most the argument is that the man’s moral compass led him to view the killing of innocents in an airport (is it?) in a morally positive light rather than (the intended?) morally-difficult quandry of an undercover (?) agent risking exposure by not participating in a reprehensible act. Any normally operating human would realise that they were supposed to be identifying with the decisions of a character, not indulging in the glory of murdering innocents.

      If he’d claimed that watching, say, Triumph of the Will had prepared him for what he did, it would be a different kettle of fish entirely. Anyone who takes an entertainment product that seriously is capable of taking anything else, however it is intentioned, to the point of influencing a terrible event.

  47. Danny says:

    A fascinating, extremely well-written article John. Bravo.

    I’m now trying to force it (the article) on my friends.

  48. mejoff says:

    It says really sad things about this country that the press can’t seem to get a decent moral panic going about being a fucking racist shit, so being a gamer will have to do.

  49. zeroskill says:

    I live in Prague and I take it as an personal offence that its seen as a city of brothels and black market weapons dealers. Thats just unbelievably stupid.

    • Rinox says:

      Yeah, I rarely saw any black market weapons dealers when I lived there. ;-)

    • Johnny Lizard says:

      I live in Manchester and I agree. If it’s whores and guns you want, come here.

    • The Sentinel says:

      Professor Brian Cox agrees with you, Johnny:

    • John Walker says:

      Yes, the section in which he realises how lovely Prague is in the manifesto is – if you’ll forgive me – quite funny. He realises his imagined version of seedy crime and danger is nonsense after a week there.

    • JB says:

      Take heart zero, I’ve only ever heard good things about Prague from people I know who’ve been there.

    • Rinox says:

      During more than a year in Prague, every incident of street brawling or being annoying drunken assholes I witnessed invariably involved Brits. Often in the shape of ape-like, all-male stag party groups.

    • sinister agent says:

      He realises his imagined version of seedy crime and danger is nonsense after a week there.

      Cancelling my flight immediately.

  50. BunnyPuncher says:

    The choir is listening.