Video games provide unique opportunities and methods to escape the toils of daily life. There are no 9-to-5 gigs, no bills due at the end of the month, and certainly no drama. The stories, characters, and gameplay are time sinks. Pretty harmless, too. And yet, each month, someone new tries to claim violent video games are the cause for violent crimes, including killing people. Countless research studies have concluded that violent video games, in fact, do not breed criminals. These individuals are already wired wrong. Something inside their brain has come loose. Video games are simply their favorite hobby. Like most of us these days.
These crimes, albeit inspired or caused by video games, are on the people who committed them. No one else. Not the game developers, publishers, or advertisements. These people actively chose to ignore real-life consequences in the pursuit of the next level or achievement. It’s disheartening to see the industry under such scrutiny.
Whether it’s Grand Theft Auto or Manhunt, in-game depictions are just that, in-game. They’re not real-life learning tools. This isn’t an online course in how to slaughter the masses. They’re meant to be entertainment… escapism. Nothing more than that. If you’ve ever thought about trying to steal a car because Franklin does it on a whim, think again. Think long and hard about it. The results are often life-changing for all those involved.
In 2008, during the height of Halo’s popularity, many teenagers were addicted to the competitive multiplayer modes. Daniel Petric was one such teen. His parents, however, weren’t too keen on their young son enjoying violent video games, such as Halo 3. Daniel took things to the extreme. Upon being barred from the game, he shot both his parents–killing his mother.
Petric, 17, was arrested on charges of killing and attempted killing. He was tried without a jury in Lorain County. Prosecutors were not seeking the death sentence, though, stating his youthful age as cause to avoid the death penalty.
On October 20, 2007, Daniel stole his father’s safe key, opening the lock box that held both the gun and his new game. He took both, using the firearm to shoot his parents before running from the house.
According to video game’s toughest critics, we, as players, are rewarded extensively for mercilessly slaughtering innocents, committing a virtual crime, running rampant. Again, this is all virtual. Countless studies have proven a lack of correlation between video games and violent behavior. The behaviorism often ingrained before the video games.
In 2012, throughout New South Wales, a group of teens took to the streets to commit a crime. Countless reports of killing, theft, and even assault was widespread. According to the state, these crimes were deemed acceptable by the country’s youth. The reason? Video games. The police commissioner entirely blamed video games for the rampant crime spree. Not a single perpetrator admitted that violent video games caused their criminal activity, though. This could be another case of mistaken blame.
In 2008, six teens spent a day in court after their all-night crime spree, which lasted into the early morning hours of the next day. The six perpetrators are said to have committed muggings, armed robbery, vandalism, and assault. Each one was equipped with a weapon of their own choosing–baseball bats and crowbars. According to Detective Sergeant Anthony Repalone, a Nassau police spokesman, the teens all but admitted to recreating Grand Theft Auto. Police treated the crime as a recreation of the violent video game.
Of course, this is not the first time Grand Theft Auto is often accused of promoting violence and crime. The game, which centers around criminal activities, has a long-standing history of defending itself from the eyes of the law. It’ll be tough to claim GTA caused these incidents, and more so for future crime sprees, too.
In March of 2013, Nathon Brooks was found guilty of shooting both his parents. Brooks received more than 15 years in prison for the crime. At the time, he was 16-years-old and hailed from Moses Lake. Both parents requested lesser charges, to which Deputy Prosecutor Kevin McCrae agreed. He declined their further request to remain in juvenile court, however. As such, Brooks pleaded guilty in Grant County Superior Court to two counts of first-degree assault.
The reason? Brooks was upset over his parents’ recent decision to ground him from all electronic devices. They even took his video games. Earlier that week, he had received detention for being late to school. He then opened the gun safe, grabbed the nearest pistol, waiting in his room for 90 minutes, then shot both.
Adam Lanza is, perhaps, the most well-known of recent real-life crimes inspired by violent video games. Lanza, on December 14, 2012, walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. He then shot and killed 20 first-graders and six adults. He is believed to have killed his mother that very morning. On the same day, he would take his own life by gunshot.
Violent video games are said to have inspired Lanza's crime spree. He was a frequent first-person shooter fan, known for enjoying Call of Duty for hours on end. While he did not own a firearm license, he had extensive training using one due to range time. The boy was said to be mentally disturbed, suffering from a variety of mental health issues.
Call of Duty is one of the most popular video game franchises in the entire world. Not just in the first-person shooter genre. The entire industry. It is a violent, graphic, gun-filled entry, but a popular one amongst teens seeking an after-school romp. For Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian extremist, the game was a training camp.
In 2011, Breivik was convicted of killing 77 people in a bomb and firearm rampage. His attacks are considered the most violent outrage since World War II. Despite the massive number of bodies left in his wake, Breivik received 21 years in prison. He was convicted of terrorism in 2012. During the trial, Breivik discussed his “training” using holographic sights in Call of Duty. The 33-year-old would practice his shots using an aimed sight in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
On December 1, 1997, fourteen-year-old Michael Carneal opened fire on a group of praying students at Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky. During his spree, he killed three and injured another five. Armed with a shotgun and a rifle, and multiple loaded pistols in his backpack. Upon arrival, Carneal inserted ear plugs, stood still, and opened fire. After dropping his gun, Carneal begged for someone to kill him, saying “I can’t believe I did that.”
The parents of three victims, represented by Jack Thompson, filed a $33 million lawsuit against internet pornography websites, computer game developers and publishers, the film Natural Born Killers, and The Basketball Diaries. They claimed these forms of media helped inspire Carneal to violence. It is said that Carneal fired each shot carefully, hoping not to waste bullets during the incident.
“I didn’t realize they would die.” These are the words uttered by Evan Ramsey after his carnage at Bethel, Alaska. On February 19, 1997, with a 12-gauge shotgun braced against his shoulder, Evan Ramsey, 16, opened fire on his classmates. When it was over, one student and the school principal lay dead.
Speaking with ABC News, Ramsey said ‘I honestly believed that if you shoot somebody, that they would get back up.’ He is now serving a 210-year sentence for his crimes. Apparently, Ramsey adored the Doom franchise. He would play it after school regularly. The boy was frequently picked on by classmates, who would call him “Screech.” He was also abused as a young boy. Doom, one of the originators of first-person shooters, was his escape.
World of Warcraft remains the most prominent massively-multiplayer online role-playing games. More players have become obsessed with the game than any other title in the industry. One couple, Lester Louis and Petra Huffmire, both 41, took their addiction too far.
The Huffmires, who were parents to 5-year-old and 10-year-old daughters, respectively, would play World of Warcraft for hours each day between May 2010 and May 2013. The two girls were not allowed to leave the house, which was torn apart and strewed with molding debris. The environment included mold, cobwebs, stacks of trash, debris, and inoperable toilets. Neither girl went to school. While conducting a welfare check, Anaheim Police discovered the two girls malnourished, both with damaged teeth and dirt caking their skin. All so the parents could level their characters.
Cody Eugene Wygant, 24, was charged with third-degree killing and willful child neglect after confessing to suffocating his young son. The child, who was crying during Wygant’s gaming session, prevented the man from enjoying his Xbox. He was then thrown into a playpen and smothered by blankets for five hours.
When emergency services arrived at the home, the sixteen-month-old, Daymeon Wygant, wasn’t breathing. The child was pronounced dead at the local hospital, according to investigators. Wygant claims he was frustrated due to the child refusing to stop crying, preventing him from enjoying his games. He covered the young child’s mouth for three to four minutes, then became lethargic. He put him in the playpen, covered him in blankets, which were wrapped around the boy’s head, then returned to his game.
What began as a simple argument between two brothers turned medieval. Apparently, the two were fighting over equal gaming time. Anyone who has shared a console with their sibling understands the need for such an argument. Few of us turn violent, however.
19-year-old Luke Marshall scooped up a double-bladed medieval axe (where did he get that from?) and attacked his older brother, who was 21 at the time. Luke allegedly struck the older boy in the foot and wrist, incurring minor wounds. Ultimately, the Luke was charged with second-degree assault, the use of a weapon to commit a felony, and terroristic threats. What should have begun and ended as a mere argument between brothers turned into a crime with police involvement.
In 2010, South Korean police responded to a neglect case. The arriving officers arrested a young couple who were accused of starving their three-month-old daughter to death. The two “parents” in question chose to raise a virtual character instead while playing their online games. The 41-year-old man and 25-year-old woman, who met through an online chat website, reportedly left the child unattended while they visited nearby internet cafes. They would occasionally return home to give the girl powdered milk, but nothing else.
The game? Prius Online. The title is similar to that of Second Life. Players could create an alternate reality, with their own personas, jobs, and families. These families were, apparently, quite lifelike in appearance and behavior. According to police, the couple simply lost their will to live an actual life, instead choosing that of an easier virtual world.
On August 20, 2014, police were called to detain two individuals who were witnessed brandishing a firearm in the streets of Lansdale, Pennsylvania. A nearby witnessed, terrified for the neighborhood, called for emergency services shortly after seeing the two men. The firearm, which turned out to be a replica handgun, was used to recreate a particular scene from Grand Theft Auto. The two were apparently in love with the latest release and wanted a bit more entertainment from their new game.
The police promptly responded to the call, arriving at the scene to speak with the witness only moments later. The two perpetrators in question had already fled the scene, though a further investigation was already underway. The only witnessed described one of the men. The two were later detained, questioned, and charged with disorderly conduct. The firearm was, after all, only an airsoft pistol.
In September of 2004, one 17-year-old received a life sentence after abducting and beating his friend to death. The reason for the crime? He had been enjoying the game Manhunt, notorious for its violence, and was hoping to recreate the activities seen in-game. The boy’s parents claimed his obsession with violent video games, including Manhunt, were linked to the attacks. At the time, a lot of publicity surrounded the crime and the video game, which numerous countries have banned due to its graphic depictions of killing.
The defense claimed the boy acted out of fear from a gang he owed money to. It does not explain why he attacked and killed his friend so mercilessly, though. The victim endured 50 separate injuries to his body.
We’ve previously discussed how “dangerous” and “violent” Grand Theft Auto makes people. A few individuals, ones with previous mental instability, have decided to recreate their in-game crimes in real life. Auburn University’s Zachary Burgess was one such individual.
Burgess, who was hoping to see whether Grand Theft Auto “antics” were fun in real life, stole a parked truck while the passenger inside cried out for help. The female passenger was “forcibly held” in the vehicle. After taking the vehicle, Burgess struck nine other cars, driving off each time. He faced charges of auto theft and nine counts of hit and run. He was immediately arrested but managed to post bail shortly after. Burgess learned that video games are fun, but they’re not real life. There are consequences to every action.