John Walker points out how many headline writers and reporters seem to be gleefully eager to pin Breivik’s horrific crimes on computer games:
It’s pretty relevant to note much of what the killer said in his opening statements, in which he described secret societies, battles for purity, global conspiracy, and refused to recognise the jurisdiction of the courts. Very few press outlets took his comments at face value nor reported them as fact, strangely enough, but rather pointed out that he was either mad, or trying to appear mad. Now he has told the courts that he played World Of Warcraft for apparently 16 hours a day for a year, and saw Modern Warfare 2 as a police-shooting simulator, and not only is the press at large taking it as fact, but most are twisting Breivik’s words to their own interests. Something has gone very wrong when the horror of his actions is being used to fuel irrelevant agenda.
Yesterday Britain’s Daily Telegraph spoke to Oslo University professor of sociology, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, who believes that one factor that “hasn’t sufficiently been taken into account” was Breivik’s so-called “fascination” with World Of Warcraft. Because Breivik likes order and doesn’t like chaos, erm, something something, it’s gaming’s fault.
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Then comes Modern Warfare. This he told the courts he played between November 2010 and February 2011, and described it as “a simple war simulator”. He explained that it was helpful for learning about “aiming systems”, and then described in some detail how he had used the game to practice killing policemen.
So, well, an immediate thought. That’s not what Modern Warfare is, or lets you do. The scripted corridors, nor the multiplayer, offer no useful practice for any such actions, and don’t allow you to simulate practising killing policemen in the manner Breivik describes. There is of course the infamous No Russian airport level, in which you play as an undercover agent with terrorists, and are able to shoot (or not shoot) civilians and policemen, but I think it’s unreasonable to suggest that it offers what Breivik claims. Of course there are many other shooters out that that would let you create your own specific scenarios, attempt to rehearse escaping from armed forces, and so on. But Breivik, in keeping with much else of his rhetoric, doesn’t make much sense here. It is very unfortunate that while a sceptical press has been enjoying picking over his comments about being a member of the Knights Templar, and disproving them, they see no need to question his remarks on using Call Of Duty as a simulator for combating armed police in real life. Instead here it’s assumed he’s being honest and clear-headed. It’s also important to note that Breivik’s memoir makes it clear that he only played MW2 after he had entirely planned the attacks, and it was in no way influential on his decision to kill anyone.