Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in July of last year has talked about "training with Call of Duty" and being "obsessed with World of Warcraft" in his 1000+ page manifesto and during his ongoing trial in Oslo, Norway this week. Naturally the media is eating the whole obsessed gamer angle up and reporting on it as fact, but mental health professionals like Seena Fazel are saying that there's a real problem with connecting the dots.
"People want an answer for why these thing happen. That's completely understandable," said Seena Fazel, a consultant forensic psychiatrist at Britain's University of Oxford. "That's also why mental illness is often an attractive avenue, because it does seem to provide some sort of answer."
Even one of those in the line of fire finds the connection trying to be made to gaming ridiculous. Tore Sinding Bekkedal, one person who managed to escape unharmed from the island of Utoeya while Breivik carried out his killing, recently told Reuters that he found it "baffling" that some are trying to link computer games to the attack.
"I've played the same violent video games, and I don't go around shooting kids. Half the people on Utoeya played that same game ... It's an established part of youth culture," he said.
Fazel also points to a 2008 paper in the journal Criminal Justice and Behaviour, which he says is one of the most cited studies in this research field. The research describes two experiments designed to test whether violent games encourage real-world violence. The results of that study showed that, while males were more aggressive than females, the video game violence didn't cause any differences in aggression. Researchers ultimately came to the conclusion that "trait aggression, family violence, and male gender were predictive of violent crime, but exposure to violent games was not".
Christopher Chambers, a senior research fellow at Cardiff University's School of Psychology, points out that correlation is often confused with causation.
"If a person plays violent video games and then commits acts of violence, it doesn't prove that the video games caused the violence," Chambers said. "There could be no link whatsoever, or it might even be the other way round: that the person's violent tendencies drew them to violent video games in the first place."
Henrietta Bowden-Jones, consultant psychiatrist in addictions at Imperial College London, says that World of Warcraft is notorious for being highly addictive, it cannot be blamed for Breivik's killing spree either.
"World of Warcraft is not necessarily creating but attracting people who may be finding it difficult to fit in with their peer groups," she told Reuters.
Thomas Hylland Eriksen, a professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo, said Breivik's testimony brings home the fact that Breivik needed to invent his own alternative reality where he was pure and part of something important.
"He likes order, he doesn't like impurity and chaos and he's obsessed with boundaries," Eriksen said. "When he puts on his uniform, he's no longer the lone, slightly unsuccessful young man from the west end of Oslo who never completed an education, never did really well in real life; he becomes a knight, a defender of civilization, of Europe against the invading Muslims."
Forbes has an interesting article on the media's fascination with video games and Breivik worth reading as well...
Source: The Star