In 1999, the two responsible for the Columbine High School massacre were reportedly big fans of id Software's Wolfenstein and DOOM -- they supposedly "trained" using the FPS games. Rumors later claimed that some of their user-made levels for the latter title resembled the layout of the school, but that was eventually proved to be false. However the instant gaming/shooting marriage sparked a load of controversy that still echos in the halls of Washington to this day.
Now we seem to have another situation that's just as grim, if not worse. 33-year-old Anders Behring Breivik, the shooter behind Norway's July 2011 massacre, admitted to the court during the fourth day of his trial that he practiced his shot playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Even more, he used a "holographic aiming device" he purchased specifically for the game.
"It consists of many hundreds of different tasks and some of these tasks can be compared with an attack, for real," he said of Modern Warfare. "That's why it's used by many armies throughout the world. It's very good for acquiring experience related to sights systems."
"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," he added. "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 practiced using a simulator."
Additional reports have claimed that Breivik played World of Warcraft for sixteen hours a day in preparation of last summer's attacks which left 77 dead at a political youth camp on the island of Utøya on July 22, 2011. But Breivik testified that Blizzard's popular MMORPG had nothing to do with his "training," yet he admitted to spending those long hours each day in the "sabbatical" between the summers of 2006 and 2007.
"Some people like to play golf, some like to sail, I played WoW. It had nothing to do with July 22. It's not a world you are engulfed by. It's simply a hobby," he said. "WoW is only a fantasy game, which is not violent at all. It's just fantasy. It's a strategy game. You co-operate with a lot of others to overcome challenges. That's why you do it. It's a very social game. Half of the time you are connected in communication with others. It would be wrong to consider it an antisocial game."
Instead of using the MMORPG for training purposes, he used the "addiction" as a cover-up while living with his mother to save up money and write his compendium. "I couldn't tell her I was taking a sabbatical because I was going to blow myself up in five years' time," he testified. "I played on the idea that: 'Ooh, I've become addicted to games.' That was my primary cover."
The cover thus allowed him to isolate himself and work on the forthcoming "operation" that would shock the world beyond belief. Unfortunately, his actions have also given Jack Thompson and his game-bashing allies one more piece of evidence in their quest to prove that games are harmful, no matter the age. For all the families and friends who lost someone close in the massacre, Breivik does not represent the gaming community, and we are deeply sorry for your loss.
Additional coverage of Breivik's trial can be accessed here on The Guardian.