It seems like every time there’s a mass shooting somewhere, it’s blamed on—of all things—video games.
What is it about human nature that always demands a scapegoat? Well, okay, maybe that’s an easy question to answer when it comes to violence and video games. The media has always been swift to target violent video games as the root of violent real-life crimes. It’s a lot easier to point the finger at video game violence and try to censor that than it is to actually tackle the concrete regulatory concerns which spur gun violence.
Anyway, enough about the politics. Here are four violent crimes which the media blamed on video games.
In 2003, Devin Moore was being detained for car theft at a police station. He stole a .45 caliber pistol from one of the officers, shot two of them along with a dispatcher, and then stole a police cruiser and fled. After he was caught, he was sentenced to death.
The crime was blamed on Grand Theft Auto by attorney Jack Thompson, who filed a lawsuit against Sony. Devin Moore had no criminal history prior to 2003, but he did have a history of playing GTA. Thankfully, a law firm called Blank Rome submitted a motion to have Thompson removed. In the motion they stated that if Thompson were permitted to proceed, he would “turn the courtroom into a circus.” Thompson then withdrew a week later. This was a case where most people seemed to see the absurdity of blaming a video game for an act of violence, but it just goes to show the bizarre conclusions some people will leap to.
2. Columbine Massacre: Doom
There has probably been no mass shooting in the USA more famous than Columbine High School. Back in 1999, school shootings were a rare event—not horrifically common like they are today. On April 20th, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold charged into school and killed 12 students and one teacher, injuring an additional 21 people, after which in typical fashion they shot themselves. Their complex plan involved a fire bomb to draw away emergency responders and 99 different explosive devices.
The motives driving the shooting have never really become clear. In an attempt to find an easy target for blame, the media went after everything from the gothic subculture to the music of Rammstein and KMFDM to, of course, video games.
Klebold and Harris were big fans of ID games like Doom, Duke Nukem, and Wolfenstein. Harris actually created a series of levels for Doom, which are still available online. Rumors went around that some of these levels were based on Columbine High School and used for practice. These rumors aren’t true, though Harris did apparently create a Doom mod called “Tier,” which he declared to be his “life’s work.” Many believe that Tier was patterned on the school, but it was lost and never recovered by investigators.
Parents of children who were shot during the massacre actually went as far as to file lawsuits against not just ID Software, but 25 different video game companies. Some of the other companies named in the lawsuit included Virgin Interactive Media, Activision, Atari, and Sony America. The lawsuit was unsuccessful.