In direct response to last month’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the following has happened:
- Senator Jay Rockefeller introduced a bill calling for the U.S. National Academy of Sciences to study how video games and other media affect children.
- Three separate events were organized to collect and destroy violent video games.
- The Massachusetts Department of Transportation removed nine violent arcade games from four public rest stops.
- Vice-President Joe Biden asked representatives from the video game industry to meet with him and others to discuss how to prevent future school shootings.
- President Obama called on Congress to “fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds.”
- In discussing how to protect children from gun violence, the White House said, “The entertainment and video game industries have a responsibility to give parents tools and choices about the movies and programs their children watch and the games their children play."
- Representative Diane Franklin put forth a bill proposing a 1% tax on violent video games to pay for mental health programs and law enforcement efforts related to the prevention of mass shootings.
- Representative Jim Matheson introduced a bill to “prohibit the sale of adult-rated video games to children.”
- In propping up a new bit of gun legislation, Senator Christopher Murphy said, "I think there’s a question as to whether [the shooter] would have driven in his mother’s car in the first place if he didn’t have access to a weapon that he saw in video games that gave him a false sense of courage about what he could do that day."
- Countless opeds have been written calling for the regulation or outright ban of violent video games.
Gracious, the shooter must have been positively obsessed with violent video games for this much hoopla to be made over them. Right?
Well, no. Here’s the thing: there is very little evidence that the shooter even played games, let alone was fixated on the violent ones. Did he play games? Yeah, he probably did. Most of us do. Like wearing shoes or eating cereal, it’s a very normal thing to do. But where are we getting the idea that he was big into violent games? Do you really want to know?
From the UK tabloids.
Yeah, I’m not kidding. Every specific piece of evidence I’ve seen can be traced back to the following two tabloid articles. You’ve probably heard two titles mentioned in connection with the shooter: Call of Duty and Dynasty Warriors.
The Call of Duty bit comes from The Sun which interviewed a plumber who’d done some work at the shooter’s home.
Yes. A plumber. This is what he said:
“It was a beautiful house but he lived in the basement. I always thought that was strange. But he had a proper set up down there — computers, a bathroom, bed and desk and a TV. There were no windows.”
“[The shooter] moved down there [after his brother had moved out]. The boys were fans of the military. They had posters all over the wall in the basement. They had one poster of every piece of military equipment the US ever made. It was a huge poster with every tank every made. The kids could tell you about guns they had never seen from the 40s, 50s and 60s. The kids who play these games know all about them. I’m not blaming the games for what happened. But they see a picture of a historical gun and say ‘I’ve used that on Call Of Duty’.”
Yeah. That’s it. Somehow this got twisted into “[he] spent hours playing bloodthirsty computer games such as Call Of Duty.”
Okay, now what about Dynasty Warriors? You know, that T-rated series of games that feature no guns? (The games take place in ancient China so all the weapons are swords, staffs, spears and the like.)
Well, that comes from Express which said that the shooter had an “unhealthy obsession for violent computer games” and that “Chillingly, his favourite video game was said to be a shockingly violent fantasy war game called Dynasty Warriors which is thought to have given him inspiration to act on his darkest thoughts.”
Where did Express get this information? Who knows? It’s not sourced. At all. For all we know, the author just made it up.
Read that list at the top of this blog again. All that’s happened in the last month. All that fear. All that hysteria. All that handwringing. All of that stemming from the assumptions of a plumber and the unsourced claims of a UK tabloid writer.
Credit: Image of Dynasty Warriors 5 from IGN
-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Contributing Editor Andrew Eisen