Debate about the ethics of violent videogames has kicked off again, following claims that the man responsible for the slaughter of school children in Connecticut was a fan of Call of Duty and the Dynasty Warriors series.
On 14th December, 20 year old Adam Lanza walked into an elementary school in the town of Sandy Hook and embarked on a murderous shooting spree, leaving 20 pupils and six adults for dead. It was later discovered that Lanza had already killed his own mother, and that the firearms in his possession were her legal property. The killing was mistakenly attributed at first to Lanza's brother Ryan, who describes himself as a fan of Mass Effect on his Facebook page.
In the wake of the tragedy, a Fox News source claimed that the shooting reflected a general loss of "empathy" in American society brought about by the desensitising effects of reality TV, Facebook and computer games. Roundabouts the same time, a number of outraged users began posting on the Mass Effect Facebook page, blaming BioWare's game for the carnage. "Ban this game and the people who created such sickness," wrote one user, Melanie Bowers.
UK media subsequently elaborated on this alleged connection. In an article titled "Killer Adam Lanza obsessed with violent videogames", the Express observes 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."
The paper also reports that "Lanza's mother was a 'survivalist' who thought the world was on the verge of collapse because of the financial crisis" and that Lanza himself "is said to have suffered from antisocial disorder Asperger's syndrome and was known for being unable to empathise with others". The ordering of these claims suggests, however, that violent videogames are more to blame for Lanza's actions than the presence of a dubious parental role model or any unconfirmed autistic tendencies.
The Sun, meanwhile, writes that "Lanza, 20, spent hours playing bloodthirsty computer games such as Call Of Duty and obsessivly [sic] studying weapons in the basement at mum Nancy's home." It also carries a comment from local plumber Peter Wlasuk. "I'm not blaming the games for what happened," he said. "But they see a picture of a historical gun and say 'I've used that on Call Of Duty'."
US lobby group the Entertainment Consumers Association has released a statement, rebutting alleged or insinuated connections between violent videogames and the massacre. "Regarding media requests for a statement about what role violent media (movies, music, games, etc.) has played, I'd simply and respectfully point to the lack of evidence to support any causal link," it reads.
"As our local law enforcement - involving most of the surrounding towns - work in concert with state and federal authorities, we will likely learn more about all involved and perhaps even more clarity about the murderer, his health and family. But until there are any details that point to media-related blame, it's premature to make any such assumptions."
The Washington Post also has an article on the subject. "It's true that Americans spend billions of dollars on video games every year and that the United States has the highest firearm murder rate in the developed world.
"But other countries where video games are popular have much lower firearm-related murder rates. In fact, countries where video game consumption is highest tend to be some of the safest countries in the world, likely a product of the fact that developed or rich countries, where consumers can afford expensive games, have on average much less violent crime."
Thanks to VG247 for circulating certain of the above reports.