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If we’re going to have a witch-hunt, can’t we just ban idiots instead?

20 May, 2007

A month after the Virginia Tech shootings, the witch-hunt is getting underway in earnest. The target, of course, is video games. I mean, what else could possibly have contributed to Cho’s actions? Certainly not mental illness or ready access to firearms. Nope. Had to be the games.

Those of us in the gaming community have grown pretty used to this. Whenever some kind of atrocity like this occurs, morons and pundits are quick to pin the blame on games. Their arguments and proof are absurdly, pathetically weak. The individual played games. The individual killed people. Therefore, the games made him kill.

The trouble with this argument is that millions of people play games. It would be extremely difficult to find a male between the age of 10 and 25 who has never played a video game. To then finger something so nearly universal as the cause of something as extremely rare and aberrant as a mass shooting is ridiculous.

However, the Virginia Tech shootings are an interesting twist. Extremists like Jack Thompson were already claiming that games were to blame, even before the blood was dry, or the killer’s identity was known. As gamers, we were braced for the inevitable revelation that the killer played games, and the causal correlations that would then be drawn from that. But then something amazing happened.  The police searched Cho’s room and seized his belongings… and found no games whatsoever. His roommate in residence reported that he had never seen Cho play a game. Here, against all probability, was a shooting performed by a young man who DID NOT PLAY GAMES.

That should have been a godsend. That should have been the end of the blame right there, at least for this incident. But it hasn’t been. Even in the face of a complete lack of evidence that Cho was a gamer, games are still being blamed for his actions, and the calls for censorship are piling up.

The arguments put forward simply make my jaw drop. “Cho shot people multiple times. In games, enemies sometimes won’t die unless you shoot them multiple times. Therefore, games must have inspired his actions.” Or “Cho shot at locked doors. In some games, you can shoot at doors. Therefore, games must have inspired his actions.” On top of such weak arguments are piled lies and misinformation galore (starting with the claim that Cho was a gamer, when the evidence clearly refutes that, and it just gets more bizarre and elaborate from there).

I’ll be frank – it makes me fucking sick. Sick to see people with a vendetta employ these kinds of tactics when they’re either extraordinarily ignorant of the facts, or intentionally being dishonest to further their goals. And sick to see idiots believe them. ‘Nuff said.

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