Video games have long been blamed for the outbursts and crimes committed by troubled individuals but is there any credit to these claims? Can video games really influence someone to murder? For this weeks Critical Hit I take a look at some of the most horrific cases where gaming has been attributed as the major factor in the crime.
One case that I’ll never forget happened way back in 1994. Stefan Pakeerah, a young 14-year-old growing up in Leicester England, was stabbed to death by Warren Leblanc, a 17-year-old that was apparently addicted to the highly controversial title from Rockstar, Manhunt. The victims mother described the perpetrator as “inherently evil” while the victims father said “I don’t play these games but if they are influencing kids to go out and kill people then you don’t want them on the shelves”.
I played Manhunt and thoroughly enjoyed the game but I do agree that it contains a ridiculous amount of mindless violence, enough for it to be banned in New Zealand shortly after release. Manhunt was classified 18 by the British Board of Film Classification so legally the perpetrator shouldn’t have been able to access the game, but we’ve all seen parents queuing up with their young teenage children for titles such as Call of Duty.
The second case that comes to mind was in Winter Haven, Florida in April last year. 32-two-year-old Joshua Davis was hanging around with some friends consuming cannabis before gunning two of them down and injuring a third, all while his young daughter watched. After reading that part of the press release I assumed that the police would blame drugs for the crime but instead they turned their attention to the popular FPS franchise, Battlefield. Apparently the perpetrator spent a large amount of time in the interview talking about his love for the game and explaining the features to the officers. Personally I wouldn’t question the game he was talking about, I’d be more concerned how a father could openly kill 2 people and think so little of it that he starts chatting about entertainment.
Finally we come to the most recent incident, The Sandy Hook Shootings. When I watched the story on the news I was completely speechless, I had never witnessed such an emotional news broadcast and I probably won’t again. Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School with an AR-15 before killing 20 people. I don’t think anyone would deny the massive impact this tragedy had on the entire planet but was a cache of violent video games enough to brand this another video game shooting?
Personally, I’ve been exposed to every form of media violence available. I crept downstairs and managed to watch Freddy Krueger when I was 8 years old and I was hitting awesome fatalities on Mortal Kombat at the age of 6 but the 15 second transformation during the Thriller video was far more terrifying. I’ve never intentionally harmed an individual and even feel guilty when I hear the crushing of a snail underfoot. So why do video games attract all the heat? People do equally horrific things under the influence of drugs, alcohol and just plain human emotion, but they’re hardly in the headlines.
Opinions are wonderful things, everyone has one and they’re always convinced it’s the best one. However a topic such as this requires a little more than opinion. In December 2012 a study showed, complete with fancy tables, that gun-related crime has continued to drop over the last 5 years but in that time video game sales have greatly increased.
All of these cases do share something in common, but it’s not video games. They’re horrid tragedies that should never have taken place. You cannot deny the pain caused by the horrific crimes listed above, but that’s not an excuse to blame anything else but the individuals involved. What are your thoughts? Do you think retailers and publishers should do more to restrict sales to younger gamers? Do we need to remove violence from video games altogether or do you believe that these are crimes of troubled individuals influenced by far more than a simple video game? Leave a comment below.