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Issue Date: Vol. 52, No. 5, May 2012, Posted On: 5/8/2012

Mainstream Media Defend Videogames In Norway's Gun Massacre Case

Marcus Webb
video game, video game violence, Anders Breivik, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, World of Warcraft, Kate Kelland, Erik Kane, Columbine massacre, video games and crime

OSLO, Norway -- Anders Breivik, not the violent videogames he played, should be held responsible for his massacre of 77 people in July 2011, according to strong editorial pieces recently published by Reuters and Forbes.

In a court appearance here last month, Breivik testified that he used the popular consumer videogame "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare" to practice acquiring targets and aiming. | SEE STORY

Blaming the game for the shooter's crimes "is a dangerous simplification driven by our need to understand," said Reuters in an analysis piece written by reporter Kate Kelland.

The feature quoted one bystander who escaped Breivik's bullets as saying, "I've played the same violent videogames, and I don't go around shooting kids. Half the people [where the attack took place] played that same game ... It's an established part of youth culture."

Reuters quoted Seena Fazel, a consultant forensic psychiatrist at Britain's University of Oxford, who said a 2008 paper in the journal Criminal Justice and Behaviour, demonstrated that neither exposure to violent-videogame conditions in a laboratory, nor previous real-life exposure to violent videogames, caused any differences in aggression levels on the part of subjects.

The paper is one of the most cited studies in this research field, Fazel said.

Forbes columnist Erik Kane pointed out in a blog post that the explosive rise of the videogame industry to a $60 billion global phenomenon has coincided with a 30-year drop in violent crime in the U.S., which is now at record lows, according to FBI statistics.

"So far, no study has conclusively linked violent videogames to violent crime or youth violence, and a number have pointed to just the opposite," wrote Kane.

The high-profile defense of the videogame industry, particularly in the wake of a mass shooting by a fanatic who admitted he "trained" by playing games, stands in startling contrast to the media coverage that followed the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School near Denver.

In the days and weeks following that tragedy, numerous mainstream press outlets claimed that videogame playing by senior-year students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold was a decisive factor that helped cause them to murder of 11 students and one teacher before they committed suicide.

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