in this article from The Jeffersonian. Callers phoning the line
apparently reported that in Grand Theft Auto 3 you could use a sniper
rifle to shoot whomever youd like. So in the interest of thoroughly
investigating the case, several police officers from the Montgomery
County Police Department have purchased GTA3 from a Circuit City over
the past couple weeks. Are these guys doing a bunch of hard work, or are
they simply catching up on their games?
According to Walt Bader, the President of the Montgomery County
Fraternal Order of Police, there are "a thousand" things cops do to
profile criminals, and playing the videogames they may have played is
just one tactic an investigator might use. Sure, I can buy that. Of
course, its generally considered more useful to profile the criminal
before you catch him, but perhaps a better understanding of John
Allen Muhammed and Lee Malvo could be useful to prosecutors and those
seriously affected by what is certainly a ruthless murdering rampage.
Given that Malvo is 17 years old, and using the ever-suspect
"conventional wisdom" of gaming demographics, there is a good chance
that he was exposed to the most popular PlayStation 2 game ever, and the
highest grossing game in videogame history, GTA3.
But heres where things get sticky. GTA3 has been reviled by
religious and moral groups since its release over a year ago. It was
cited by Senators Lieberman and Kohl in the annual Video Game Violence
Report as earning a "dishonorable mention." Do you know what this means?
Thats right our congress apparently has nothing better to do in
"these trying times" than write reports about violent videogames. Or, at
the very least, our leaders believe it is worth their time to spend
valuable resources listing violent videogames. Dont you think there are
better things for our congresspeople to be briefed on than how many
kills you can rack up in GTA3? Do you think they flipped when Lieberman
told them you could kill a thousand people per level in Dynasty Warriors
3? Or is he even doing enough research to look at lesser-known games
like that? Does this have any bearing on our political or social lives?
Religious and moral groups think so. But remember, these people come
out of the same mode of thinking that led Fredric Wertham in 1954 to
write about how Batman and Robin were indoctrinating our young men into
homosexuality. In short, religious and moral groups are nuts today
they take away your videogames, tomorrow theyll take away your cable
porn and soon you wont be able to dance in your own home without
offending the great being. And you know what? Somebody will still shoot
somebody else, and it will be blamed on that infernal dancing habit they
had, but not the fact that many of these right-wing religious fanatics
are also big gun nuts.
Bringing this back to the sniper investigation, David Walsh, the head
of the National Institute on Media and the Family, cites the infamous
tarot card clue. The sniper left a tarot card with a note written on it
that said, "I am God," at one of the crime scenes. Walsh claims, "Gamers
will often say I am God," proving how few gamers he has been around.
I have never claimed to be a god in a videogame, except in a game
like Black and White, where you really do play a god. But in Black and
White there are no sniper rifles, and usually, when describing a "god
game" we use phrases more like, "you are a god," or, "the gamer takes on
the role of a god." Do people really play videogames for some kind of
god-like power trip? Probably, but they also probably dont think of it
in exactly those terms. Even in a game as violent and derogatory as
Unreal Tournament 2003, where taunts include "I own!", "You whore!" and
"Die bitch!" there is no "I am God" taunt. Wanna talk about misogyny in
games? We might have an easy discussion. Wanna talk about this god
complex? Then we need to do some serious research.
Lets face facts, too: That 1990 Chevy Caprice probably didnt even
have a bumping stereo, let alone the PlayStation 2 hookup. People who
think they are gods and murder other people are serial killers or
paranoid schizophrenics, not gamers theres a significant difference
there, and we need to recognize that. In a lot of ways its the
difference between Charles Manson and Marilyn Manson one is truly
dangerous and reprehensible, while the other is playful and fantastic.
And heres my last argument against how GTA3 could have influenced
the sniper shootings if they had been playing a videogame they
probably wouldnt have committed the real act. This is a new breed of
"conventional wisdom," just as unreliable as the original breed, but
more "common sense" to me. We play games to do things we cant do in the
real world driving big robots, scoring touchdowns, skating really
good, sniping innocent civilians. Playing the game allows you to indulge
the fantasy without the ramifications of the reality, and Im pretty
sure that whether youre afraid of jail time, or just banged up knee
joints, I believe most gamers will admit that they would rather have the
fantasy than the reality.
This editorial uses a a source Liz Blochs article for Capital News
Service, "Sniper probes look to games," available as of 11.06.02 at this