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Do Some Violent Video Games Actually Inspire Real World Killing?

Were parents and busybodies right to oppose Mortal Kombat, Doom, and Grand Theft Auto? Or are the hobbies of spree killers just irrelevant scapegoats for the real origins of their carnage?

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PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

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June 5, 2014 - 2:56 pm

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. This week we’re talking about video games. See Monday’s question:  ”What Are the Top 10 Classic Nintendo Games?,”  Tuesday’s: “What Are the Most Overrated Video Game Franchises?,” Wednesday’s: “Which Generation of Nintendo Game Consoles Gave You the Most Joy?”

Also check out from last week’s discussion about adaptations: Monday’s question “Which Science Fiction Novels Should Be Made into Films and TV Miniseries?,” Tuesday’s question “Lord of the Rings Vs. Harry Potter: Which Film Series Better Captured their Books’ Spirit?,”  Wednesday’s question “What Are the 10 Most Disastrous Comic Book Adaptations?“, Thursday’s question “Is It Better To Adapt Books as Netflix Shows and TV Mini-Series Instead of Films?,” Friday “Which Video Games Should Be Adapted Into Films or TV Shows?“ 

See the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

Are video games inherently different from books, films and TV when it comes to shaping behavior?

Fox News in 2013: “Training simulation:’ Mass killers often share obsession with violent video games“:

A decade after Evan Ramsey sneaked a 12-gauge shotgun into his Alaska high school, where he gunned down a fellow student and the principal and wounded two others, he described how playing video games had warped his sense of reality.

“I did not understand that if I…pull out a gun and shoot you, there’s a good chance you’re not getting back up,” Ramsey said in a 2007 interview from Spring Creek Correctional Center, in Seward, Alaska. “You shoot a guy in ‘Doom’ and he gets back up. You have got to shoot the things in ‘Doom’ eight or nine times before it dies.”

Since Ramsey’s 1997 rampage, several other mass killers, including Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, have been linked to violent video games. And some experts worry that as the games get more violent and more realistic, so does their power to blur the line between fantasy and reality in alienated gamers.

Walter Hudson: This Ain’t Your Daddy’s Grand Theft Auto

Walter Hudson: 5 Ways Grand Theft Auto V Makes You Feel Like a Criminal

The Guardian in 2012: “Anders Breivik ‘trained’ for shooting attacks by playing Call of Duty“:

Anders Behring Breivik has described how he “trained” for the attacks he carried out in Norway last summer using the computer game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

The 33-year-old said he practised his shot using a “holographic aiming device” on the war simulation game, which he said is used by armies around the world for training.

“You develop target acquisition,” he said. He used a similar device during the shooting attacks that left 69 dead at a political youth camp on the island of Utøya on 22 July.

Describing the game, he said: “It consists of many hundreds of different tasks and some of these tasks can be compared with an attack, for real. That’s why it’s used by many armies throughout the world. It’s very good for acquiring experience related to sights systems.”

He added: “If you are familiar with a holographic sight, it’s built up in such a way that you could have given it to your grandmother and she would have been a super marksman. It’s designed to be used by anyone. In reality it requires very little training to use it in an optimal way. But of course it does help if you’ve practised using a simulator.”

PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates Features a new prompt each weekday to weigh the good, the bad, the overrated, the unbelievable, and the amazing throughout the worlds of books, film, and TV. We can't figure out how to build a greater pop culture until we dissect the mess we already have. Want to contribute your perspective to the debate? Email PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle with your take: DaveSwindlePJM [@] gmail.com Image via shutterstock/ DarkGeometryStudios

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Top Rated Comments   
Stupid way to put the question, and very much the mindset of the totalitarian. Better question: are some lunatics who are enthralled to violent fantasies drawn to video games before they commit their crimes in reality? Yes -- and so what?

Lunatics have cited religion, economics, soap, talking dogs, Twinkies, the stars, an probably the Flintstones as their inspiration. But they're lunatics -- by definition disconnected from reality. If we limit the liberty of the sane because of the actions of their insane, shouldn't we get rid of all art, religion, rhetoric?
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (11)
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I think the Honest Trailers guy summarized this whole debate perfectly:

"From Rockstar Games, the company that glorifies bullying... murder... and ping pong comes the game old people claim is turning us into violent sociopaths... WHICH IS NOT TRUE, AND I'll F***ING KILL YOU IF YOU SAY ANY DIFFERENT!!!"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnGc3mPkZ38
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
When considering any media for the purpose of this discussion, that media is not the source or cause of social pathology. Rather the media acts as a repeater station, ensuring the pathology is boosted and transmitted to a larger population who would otherwise be unaware of the examples being set.

This is especially dangerous with those who may not have the smarts to plan out their own atrocity. Instead they get enough of a "How-To Guide" to be able to wing it from there.

I see no obvious solution. Perhaps this is how sophisticated cultures die. There is a published story (name escapes me) which had a terror group who launched a spaceship that would turn around and hit Earth at a major fraction of light speed. Once such technologies become available, SOMEBODY will use it.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
I believe you're thinking of John Varley's "Red Lightning." (Although that was a "glancing hit" - since a full strike of that much mass at that speed would have been the absolute end, not even a chance of eco-recovery.)
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Stupid way to put the question, and very much the mindset of the totalitarian. Better question: are some lunatics who are enthralled to violent fantasies drawn to video games before they commit their crimes in reality? Yes -- and so what?

Lunatics have cited religion, economics, soap, talking dogs, Twinkies, the stars, an probably the Flintstones as their inspiration. But they're lunatics -- by definition disconnected from reality. If we limit the liberty of the sane because of the actions of their insane, shouldn't we get rid of all art, religion, rhetoric?
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't give them ideas...

/yeah, they probably already have those ideas
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Uhmmm. "The video game doesn't show you that one shot will kill someone."

That says something about the nutcase, not the game - what they really want is to shoot someone and then watch them writhe in pain.

If they are really being "triggered" by the video game (instead of some other thing, which the real nutcase would be in the absence of the game) - it is probably a GOOD thing. Say they have a "standard" ammo load - they will waste at least 2/3 of their load on people already dead, instead of moving on to the next target.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah. Besides, in some of the older games, one shot DID kill most enemies. Sometimes, it even killed several of them. Nintendo's old Contra games come to mind.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Asteroids, Man, it makes me want to terminate you all. ;) Pew! Pew! Pew!!!
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Perhaps Pac man is to blame for rave culture?
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Inspire the killing, probably not. Encourage a weak mind probably so.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
"And some experts worry that as the games get more violent and more realistic, so does their power to blur the line between fantasy and reality in alienated gamers."

Seems to me that if video games were more realistic, Ramsey wouldn't be able to claim--not that believe him--that he didn't know one shot can kill.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
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