Columbine Book Downplays Videogame Link

Dave Cullen’s comprehensive recounting of the April 20, 1999 school shooting in Littleton, Colorado is built upon innumerable interviews, police files and media reports, along with videotapes and writings made by the killers— Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris—themselves.

The shootings, which played out on live television over the better part of a day, impacted Americans and other people around the world intensely, as was the attackers intent. It also caused society to scramble to look for reasons why this tragedy happened, and some were quick to point the finger at various elements of culture, including violent videogames.

While it’s true that both Harris and Klebold were fans of the game DOOM, Cullen’s reconstruction absolves games, and violent movies and music as well, of any direct blame. The book cites data from research done by both the FBI, 2000’s The School Shooter:  A Threat Assessment Perspective (PDF), and the Secret Service’s 2002 study, The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Imitative (PDF), to assist in dispelling popular myths about school shooters.

The Secret Service’s document studied every school attack between December 1974 and May 2000, covering 41 attackers across 37 incidents. 59 percent of the attackers expressed “some interest” in violence, whether it be games, book, movies or other media. Only one-eighth exhibited an express interest in violent videogames.

The Secret Service document also helped to dispel the myth that such shooters are loners. Only one-third of the attackers were characterized by others as loners.

In Columbine’s case it boiled down to Harris being termed a psychopath by FBI Agent Dwayne Fuselier (whose son was a Columbine student at the time of the shooting), while Klebold was labeled a depressive. The combination of the two personalities, explained Cullen, helped to form a murderous dyad, similar to Leopold and Loeb, Bonnie and Clyde and the Beltway snipers of 2002.

All in all the book is a fascinating story of not only the shooters, the victims and the aftermath for both the survivors and the community, but also a look into how the shuffling feet (corruption is probably too strong a word) of bureaucracy delayed the release of information after the shooting, while also burying data on and complaints against Klebold and Harris that could have put them in jail before the tragedy.

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  1. 0
    olstar18 says:

    When your talking about something like this semantics are important. What you say can and will be used against everyone by those agaisnt video games. Remember these are politicians and lawyers that we are dealing with so we must consider the correct terminology or provide them with ammunition.

  2. 0
    mdo7 says:

    Nice to see the book will help refute and downplay the video game link.  But it’s not going to stop the "video game cause school shooting" trend.



  3. 0
    Thad says:

    BTW, OT, but…I know I kvetched the other week about off-topic stories on GP, and I don’t want to be one of those guys who just gripes and never praises.  You guys are really kicking ass right now; you’ve posted something like twenty great stories just these past two days.

    You’re doing a great job, and your efforts are appreciated.

  4. 0
    E. Zachary Knight says:

    I thunbed through anotehr Columbine book a couple of years ago looking for references to video games. The book was 500+ pages long and mentions video games twice. Both in a list of other interests of the shooters. Neither time put any emphasis on the game play.

    It really is only people with agendas who emphasize the gameplay.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  5. 0
    Thad says:

    I think "downplays" is the wrong word; it implies that there WAS a video game link and it’s being swept under the rug.  I think "refutes" is a better word.

  6. 0
    Chaplain99 says:

    This book has been out for quite awhile.  No offense, but I expected this story a few months ago.

    By pointing this out, I kinda set myself up for the "Then why didn’t YOU run this story?" speech, don’t I?  ^^;

    "HEY! LISTEN!"

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