Video games get a bum rap in the media. It’s very rare that you will ever see a mainstream media outlet praising video games for anything. Minecraft is used by schools and homeschoolers across the world as an educational tool but you won’t see anything about that in the media, because as any gamer worth their salt knows; video games are evil. When I wrote an editorial some time ago about the imagined link between video games and violence (no really, it’s imagined, I cited studies to prove it) under our old comment system we were inundated with people saying that we were wrong, that video games obviously caused violence because the media told them so. And we all know the media doesn’t lie. Back in the day before video games were as widespread as they are now, crimes were blamed on Mein Kampf and the Marquis de Sade. Seriously, you read any book on serial killers written before the 90s and more often than not you will see mention that the killer owned copies of writings by Hitler and/or de Sade, that’s how you know they were evil. These days video games are our scapegoat, so join us in a look at ten of the most ridiculous events blamed on video games. Not people doing crazy and mostly tragic things. No no. Video games are the cause. Fuck video games. Fuck them right off.
Teens accused of emulating a game they hadn't played
Grand Theft Auto was always going to make this list, rest assured this is not the only entry for them. GTA is after all the boogeyman of all video games. Whenever someone who owns a games console commits a crime you can bet that dollar you got back from killing a hooker the media will blame GTA.
In 2004 a Thai student stabbed a taxi driver to death and tried to steal the cab in an attempt, according to the authorities, to recreate a scene from the game. Seems reasonable you might think, GTA is after all the number one media advocate for violence against cabbies. Except the teen hadn't actually played the game, in fact his motivation for the crime was less to fulfil his life-long, vidya fuelled ambition of stealing a taxi and more to take the man's money to buy the game in the first place. So unless the kid had some pretty amazing powers of precognition we can safely assume that the crime was not to recreate a scene from a game he'd not yet played. The authorities were aware that he hadn't bought the game, "He wanted money to play the game. His parents, who work as civil servants, did not have enough money to give him." But that didn't stop them blaming the game for the crime in the first place. In fact as a result of the crime the Culture Ministry banned the title fearing a spate of crime that could follow the game's release.
This would not be the last time GTA would be pre-emtively blamed for a crime. In 2013 three teenagers stabbed a man leaving a supermarket after a midnight release of GTAV and made off with his copy of the game. Despite being apprehended before they could play the game, scenes from the game were cited as inspiration for the crime spree. In this instance no one had played the game, not even the poor sod who bought the bloody thing, hell it was probably still in the cellophane when the police picked the boys up. But that didn't stop it directly influencing a bloody crime that resulted in its acquisition.
Teens commit crime. May also have played video games at some point.
In 2012 Australia apparently saw a spate of violent crimes caused by young teenagers. The said teens would get wasted, go out into the streets, get into fights, get taken in by the cops and would then be ignored by their parents. According to the authorities, upon being told that their kids were in prison their parents showed complete disinterest and wouldn't come down to pick them up. Sounds like a recipe for disaster; young teens without boundaries, discipline or parental supervision and a buttload of alcohol is never going to end well. The problem would seem to be obvious.
Unless you're police commissioner Andrew Scipione who placed the blame on video games. Which video games? Any of them. All of them. Coz why not. They're all a violent mess that prompt kids to go out and stab each other. Referring to games that reward players for raping women Scipione claimed that these kids (all of whom probably had played a video game at some point) were being negatively influenced and more likely to take the leap from merely carrying a knife to actually using it. Bless their cotton socks.
Now the fact that there is no game in which a casual gameplay mechanic rewards you for raping a woman is surely irrelevant. The fact that if there was such a game it certainly wouldn't be available in Australia (the country that banned Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure because you play as a graffiti artist) equally irrelevant. Games like this are polluting the Australian youth and leading them astray and who cares if they are available in the country or even exist? They're surely the reason the crime rate rose during 2012. Oh wait. It didn't. It was dropping. Another fact that's probably irrelevant.
Rioters more concerned with emulating video game than police brutality
In 2011 Mark Duggan was shot and killed by armed police during a British investigation into gun crime in black communities. Duggan was shot in the back to the point where a bullet passed through his body and lodged itself in the radio of another officer. In an attempt to justify the murder the police claimed, in their media statement, that the bullet in the radio came from Duggan's gun and it was he who opened fire first. Of course Duggan had no gun and the police later recanted their story. Unsurprisingly the Tottenham community came out in force for peaceful protests but these protests were quickly co-opted in favour of widespread looting and rioting across the country.
What started out as a reaction to a heavy handed policeman's trigger finger quickly became a rather violent series of crimes across England fuelled by widespread austerity, unemployment and other social factors. At least that's what the economists and sociologists said.
The police took a different tact, blaming the whole thing on Grand Theft Auto. Claiming absolutely no responsibility for the widespread effects of the actions of a fellow officer, a (probably sensibly) un-named officer announced that the problem was not a cold blooded murder in broad daylight in a country where police don't even carry guns, but the result of too many teens playing Grand Theft Auto. The series didn't have a title released that year, or the year before but that meant nothing to the thousands of teens who spontaneously decided to riot for apparently no reason other than their mutual love of flatscreen televisions and GTA. The fact that civil disturbance plays no part in GTA whatsoever is surely irrelevant, it was just a matter of time before all that car jacking and gun crime on the streets of San Andreas overflowed onto the streets of rough, tough downtown Battersea.
Boy takes gun to school. Father blames Minecraft.
When father-who-cannot-be-named-for legal-reasons-so-shall-be-hereafter-known-as-Steve got the call from the police to tell him that his son (hereafter known as Steve Jr) had been removed from his school and was facing some rather serious weapons charges, he “almost had a heart attack.” Steve Jr had gone to school that morning carrying a steak knife, sledgehammer and a gun complete with extra ammunition. After showing his friends his loot he was promptly taken in by police and then charged in court with possession of a firearm on school grounds, possession of a concealed weapon and possession of a firearm by a minor.
Steve couldn't believe that it was actually going to court, after all nobody was harmed, Steve Jr probably didn't intend to hurt anyone and besides the gun had been disabled. He admitted it was his gun, easily reachable in a household drawer but surely that doesn't matter given that the gun can't actually fire a bullet? Surely? Besides it's all Minecraft's fault. After expressing his absolute disbelief that his son was actually being charged with these felonies that he had actually committed Steve went on to place the blame solely on Minecraft, a game his son was known to play. After all, he claimed, Minecraft is known for arming the player with guns and sledgehammers to take down the zombie hordes and definitely not for it's family friendly gameplay, massive education benefits and allowing children to build anything they want limited only by their imagination. The whole building element of Minecraft is lost in the violent, bloody and gun fuelled conflict with the Creepers anyway.
Boy kills parents after playing Halo 3 – to retreive his unopened copy of Halo 3
In 2009 Daniel Petric, 17, appeared in court after he shot both of his parents; killing his mother and injuring his father. The defence argued that the fault was not with the boy, but with Halo 3, a video game that had rendered him insane through the sheer amount of playtime he invested in it. Petric's defence was always going to have a hard time defending a guy of whom there was absolutely no question committed the crime. But that didn't stop them giving it the old college try and blaming a game in a series of contradictory statements that even the most amateur Phoenix Wright player would object too.
Initially the defence argued that Petric had invested up to eighteen hours a day on the game for months after an accident left him housebound. The prosecution pointed out both that Petric's father, a pastor, had banned violent video games from the house and for him to have played it for that long would have had him owning the game before it was released. The defence changed their argument to claim the housebound teen had played the game at a friend's house. Their entire argument rested on the idea that he had been playing Halo 3 for so long and with such intensity that his idea of reality had been blurred and the game had left him very actually insane. So it was a bit of a downer when it transpired that not only had he not played the game he hadn't actually played any violent games. He had bought Halo 3 after being expressly forbidden to do so, so his parents confiscated it. They kept it locked away in the same place as his father's gun which Petric used to shoot his parents, presumably as a way to stop them noticing that he had the game back.
The jury rejected the plea of insanity as a result of incessant gaming and sentenced him to over twenty years in prison.
In 2001 Shawn Woolley tragically shot himself. He was found by his mother in his house sitting before a computer upon which Everquest was running. According to his mother it was his addiction to Everquest which drove him to suicide. She claimed Shawn had a number of mental problems and learning disabilities which caused the game to affect him more than most, eventually causing him to shoot himself. Her description of events however have fluctuated considerably over the years. Liz Woolley has given numerous interviews on the subject of her son's suicide (to raise awareness of the dangers of video games), she runs what she claims is a halfway house for hardcore gamers recovering from addiction issues and appeared on the documentary Second Skin. Through all of these acts she recounts the story of Shawn's suicide, but the events in the lead up to the suicide vary each time until we get to almost fifteen years later and the story has changed dramatically.
The original story: Shawn, a happy go lucky kind of guy with ADHD and epilepsy does really well in school despite his learning difficulties and gets a job. Sometime during this period he starts playing Everquest and loses his job. He got so engrossed in the game he started stealing his mother's money to pay his subscription and would go to extreme lengths to play the game at the expense of his IRL relationships. Eventually Liz kicked him out of the house which forced the county to assign him a case worker. He found a place in a group home, attended therapy, took medication for his epilepsy and got a job. However when he had enough money he left the home, bought a computer, isolated himself and played Everquest until he shot himself.
The current story: Shawn, a student with no medical problems whatsoever lost his job around the time he was playing Everquest. Without a job and no way to pay for an apartment Because he was playing too much Everquest he moved back in with his mother. Liz took him to a therapist to discuss his gaming addiction. After talking with Shawn the therapist determined that he was suffering with no such problem, but he was concerned with the preoccupation Liz had with demonising the game. Liz stopped taking him to therapy and found him a place in a “voluntary” home which diagnosed him with a number of mental problems typical she says of a “computer nerd” and they medicated him for schizoid behaviour. He had a group of online friends with whom he gamed, but his mother assured him that online friends weren't real and banned him from using a computer. After he was released from the home Shawn isolated himself from his family and stopped taking the medication, though in the lead up to Thanksgiving Liz went to his house every day knocking on the windows, doors and shouting through the letterbox. She had hoped that Shawn would join them for a Thanksgiving dinner, however on the third day when she went to his house she found that he had shot himself in front of the computer, because the game made him do it.
“He may have had other problems,” she claimed, but Everquest was the deciding factor.
Many parents who lose a child set up a charity to honour them and try and prevent deaths in the same way. In Liz's case she set up Online Gamer's Anonymous to help people who are addicted to online games. She bought the house next door as part of the tax deductable organisation to house recovering addicts, and then promptly rented the rooms out to students. She preaches against the unreality of online relationships along with the other admin of Online Gamer's Anonymous; Tommi, Silvertabby, Polga, Gamersm and Solei. And she accepts tax deductable donations to fight the good fight.
We've all seen enough cop shows to know the score, “anything you do say may be used against you in court.” It isn't often that the things the arrested says get blown up into a court case of their own. For example when David Berkowitz was taken in he blamed a neighbourhood dog claiming; “A ‘possessed’ dog in the neighborhood won’t let me stop killing until he gets his fill of blood” needless to say nobody called for a cull of dogs within suburban America. John Wayne Gacy said, “a clown can get away with murder” but there were no widespread laws against clowns. When Richard Ramirez announced, “Death comes with the territory, see you in Disneyland,” the theme park suffered no rammefications. But when Devin Moore said upon his arrest, “life is a video game, y'all gotta die sometime,” the media lost its ever loving shit.
Devin Moore was arrested on suspicion of stealing a car in 2003. Although he initially cooperated with officers, while at the station he seized an officer's gun and escaped in a police cruiser, after shooting and killing three officers. After his “life is a video game” comments, the prosecution case was taken up by Jack Thompson, an attorney who considered himself a long time crusader against video game violence. After Moore was arrested, a student contacted Thompson to say that killing cops appears in Grand Theft Auto. Thompson in turn decided the prosecution case would rely less on Moore's actions and more on actually prosecuting GTA's creators (Sony and Take Two Interactive) as accomplices to the murder. He actually announced his intentions to prosecute Sony and Take Two for murder, of course first he had to prove that GTA had any effect on Moore's actions at all, but why let that stop such grandiose statements? After claiming that Sony's sale of GTA was comparable to the actions of the Japanese at Pearl Harbour, Thompson claimed that as a child Moore had been trained to kill by the “murder simulator” GTA. There was also something about years of abuse but who needs relevant psychology when we're comparing a video game to a war crime that resulted in the death of over a thousand people? Needless to say three days after his statement, the presiding judge insisted he leave the prosecution, stating that his bias was a tad on the obvious side. Shortly afterwards the judge went as far as to revoke Thompson's right to practice in Alabama.
Meanwhile in the actual courtroom other evidence was presented as a motivation, you know, actual evidence. Childhood abuse was cited, as was Moore's post traumatic stress disorder as was the plaintiff's own statement that he killed the officers and ran because he just didn't want to go to jail. When the prosecution tried to argue that if Moore had never played GTA he would never have killed the cops, the jury dismissed the argument and refused to admit any more claims that involved video games. Regardless of the role of GTA, Moore was found guilty and sentenced to death by lethal injection, a sentence which has been upheld though not yet carried out. In the meantime, Thompson filed a lawsuit against Sony on behalf of the victims' families arguing that they “programmed” Moore to kill the officers. The families also took out law suits against the stores Wal-Mart and GameStop because one of them may have sold Moore a copy of GTA.
Nathon Brooks, a fourteen year old from Washington, had been planning to kill his parents from as young as eight years old, the age that his parents asked him to help with chores. Apparently suffering from mental illness which caused him to hear voices in his head, Nathon stopped playing video games when he noticed they were having a negative effect on his moods. At the age of fourteen Nathon found himself in detention at school, in trouble at home over non completion of chores and because he was apparently playing video games 24/7. (Nathon's conflicting statements over his gaming habits can't be resolved, but we can at least see that he's a boy of extremes). After an argument with his parents in which they grounded him, called him insane and possibly took away his consoles, Nathon sat in his room listening to music for over an hour until he decided to listen to the rather loud voice in his head telling him to kill his parents.
He made a poor job of it, firing at them both while they were in bed yet managing to miss them both. In the confusion his parents didn't actually know it was him that had fired on them, thinking it was some unknown intruder. The truth was revealed when the police checked the surveillance cameras inside the house. Cameras that had been set up with the intention of ensuring Nathon completed his chores (this seems to be a recurring theme) captured images of the boy walking through the house with the gun. As Nathon himself had mentioned video games it wasn't long before the media jumped on the idea that video games had driven the boy to the crime in the first place.
Nathon also said that he thought if his parents were dead he could do what he wanted, like not do chores. Or play video games. Endless video games. Presumably.
Teen suicides blamed on Call of Duty. Presence of Call of Duty irrelevant.
Unfortunately teen suicides are not uncommon and happen for a variety of reasons. Coroner John Pollard however noted a recurring theme in a number of teenage suicides he had investigated. Over a two year period he noted that three or four of the teens had at some point played Call of Duty. Well with evidence like that it's a wonder we're not all topping ourselves after a quick bout of Nazi Zombies. His comments came during an inquest into the suicide of a sixteen year old. The boy was found suffocated and ultimately the coroner ruled that he may have been experimenting with asphyxia, which is not the main gameplay feature of a war simulator. In fact there was nothing about his death which pointed in any way to Call of Duty. However the coroner pointed out that in this instance the kid killed himself in his bedroom, which is where his Xbox was. The very same Xbox upon which he would play Call of Duty.
That's probably a lot to take in. I'll give you a minute to come to terms with the horror of the world in which we live.
This kid apparently looked at his Xbox and was reminded of a time he shot another player prompting him to tie his hands together and asphyxiate himself. Some kind of tragic experiment gone wrong or a manifestation of the PTSD he suffered after spending 950 points on the mystery box only to just miss the alien blaster?
Pollard referred to another teen who had killed himself on the same day that he had played Call of Duty with his stepfather. Other things might have happened that day, week, month, even year, but let's not let pesky facts get in the way of wild and completely unprovable theories. As for the others, Pollard did not have specific numbers though he claimed he had seen three possibly four cases like this, over a number of years, though he could not recall specifics. In fact he went as far as to say that, “It has figured in a number of deaths which I'm investigating. I suspect, but I don't know because I don't have enough evidence” yet that didn't stop him telling a teen's parents that the reason their son had killed himself was because they had let him play a game despite it's 18 certificate.
Katana Killer kills with katanas a la...Squall?
Picture the scene: you're a parent. You have a 16 year old son. Your son starts playing Final Fantasy VIII. He starts identifying with the main character. In fact he starts to think he is the main character. He refers to himself as Squall and wants more than anything Squall's signature weapon the gunblade. But a gunblade replica is too expensive. So what do you do? Obviously you'd give the obsessive nutjob a whole load of katanas. Obviously.
Unfortunately said 16 year old, Jose Rabadan, went on to kill his parents and his younger sister with his katanas before sitting outside on the lawn, waiting for the police. When the police came he continued to profess that he was in fact; Squall Leonhart. What followed was a media backlash trying to place the blame for the crime squarely on Final Fantasy VIII rather than the boy's obvious mental problems. Except there's not all that much in FFVIII that could be seen in the crime, in fact the only link was that Jose claimed that he was Squall. He hadn't even completed disc one. That didn't stop the Spanish media making some pretty impressive claims.
Antena 3 claimed that Jose was mimicking Squall's violent behaviour; Squall being the main character of the game that killed his victims with a katana. The same network claimed that he was enacting a part of the game where Squall must kill a sorceress and Jose had obviously confused the sorceress for his sister.
La 1 suggested that Jose identified too strongly with Squall as they had similar natures. In FFVIII Squall uses a katana to take down dictatorial and oppressive governments which Jose took to mean he should kill his parents.
El Mundo wrote that Jose thought he was on a mission, much like Squall's, where he must avenge himself against his parents.
It goes on. Needless to say anyone who has played Final Fantasy VIII will know that this is not the case and the most prominent thing Squall kills in the game is the mood.
When approached for comment Jose Rabadan said, “...whatever.”