Little Evidence Sandy Hook Shooter Was a Gamer

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

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  1. 0
    Craig R. says:

    Koei has been making games based on this book since the late 80's. I played the original Romance of the Three Kingdoms for the NES in 1989, and have been fascinated with the historical period ever since.

    And, yeah, it means I've played damn near every Dynasty Warriors game from Koei. No, I haven't picked up a sword to cut anybody down, much less pick up a gun as a result.

  2. 0
    ddrfr33k says:

    The irony in all this is that Dynasty Warriors is based off of a very popular Asian novel, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.  Hell, it's not even all that violent!  I could think of far worse violent fantasy games.

  3. 0
    Thomas Riordan says:

    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.

    Really? Because this knowledge could not be in any way related to a love of guns or gained from a book or anything. Had to know it because of video games.

    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’.”

    Actually, you are. Again using it on Call of Duty does not make one knowledgable on the subject. Further research would be needed. This information clearly cannot be obtained from a book or television. I mean it's not like there's a Millitary History Channel or anything.

    As far as the Express article. I think I just killed off about 9000 brain cells reading that.

    Shocked neighbours told how his murdered mother would never leave him alone in a room because he was so troubled.

    Yet would sleep in a house with him and assault rifles, which she was teaching him to shoot, easily accessable. Yeah, that makes sense. The mother herself sounds like a bit of a nutter and the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree.

    But this was all the fault of video games because clearly assault rifles and dum-dum bullets played no part in killing those kids. There were clearly killed with pixelated bullets and controllers.

  4. 0
    ecco6t9 says:



    Shooter may have bought coffee at Starbucks,shopped at Walmart and Target, and exclusive he may have had a mobile phone carried by at&t or Verizon!

  5. 0
    Waraila says:

    The sun has about as much credibility for news as Fox news does… (Not surprising though it is owned by the same guy)

    Unfortunately anything that the papers say is of course jumped on and used regardless of the accuracy of such.  

  6. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    Of course, there is a ton of news out there. Far more than I could ever read. If you know of some evidence I have missed, please bring it to my attention. I would love to understand why there's so much anxiety surrounding violent video games in relation to this shooting.


    Andrew Eisen

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