Critical Intel

Critical Intel
Grand Theft Auto IV Didn't Drive an 8 Year-Old to Murder

Robert Rath | 28 Aug 2013 12:05
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After that it was open season. CNN ran an article repeating a months old quote from Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper suggesting that mass-shooters think they're living in a video game. Not only did Governor Hickenlooper give no supporting evidence for this claim, but the quote specifically related to the Sandy Hook shootings, an event that had absolutely no connection or resemblance to the current case except that Adam Lanza was known to play videogames (like most young men his age).

Of all the major outlets, only MSNBC seemed to give a voice for both sides, calling in two psychological experts who said that playing violent games could be a "risk factor" for violent behavior, but that access to guns, domestic problems, substance abuse, drinking alcohol and even being male were also risk factors, and cautioned trying to draw a causal link between violent media and shooting deaths. However, the article then went on to drag up the game-playing habits of past shooters, as if the Sandy Hook and Aurora shootings had any bearing on a small boy in Louisiana.

Cable news got wind of it shortly thereafter. Pundits lined up like carnival barkers as they always do, trying to have the most outrageous - and therefore memorable - opinion. A pundit on Fox & Friends claimed videogames are "worse than heroin," and claimed that games "literally" drag players "into a place where people aren't people, where you can shoot them and get points." He also suggested that players having virtual pets would make a their flesh-and-blood pets seem less real. CNN had Criminologist and Attorney Casey Jordan, who suggested a direct correlation between playing the game and violence "cannot be overlooked," but added that she couldn't conclusively say that the game caused the boy to shoot. No major outlet contacted someone from the games press or a university to offer a counterpoint, and none felt obligated to wait for more evidence. There was little suggestion that having loaded guns lying around was the main problem.

The only press outlet interested on how the shooting affected Ms. Smothers's family and community was the local paper, The Advocate, which handled the issue with more humanity than all the national outlets combined.

Mystery Solved

On August 27th, a judge released the boy to his parents without charging him with any crime. He wasn't a psychopath trained to kill via virtual reality. He didn't hate his grandmother and never meant to kill her. In fact, he thought the gun was a toy.

"He doesn't know that if you point a gun at somebody, it kills them and they're gone forever," said District Attorney Samuel D'Aquilla. "It's not because he is a cold-blooded killer and he did this to kill his grandmother." In fact, D'Aquilla added, the kid is "really shaken up."

"Whether you can link it back to Grand Theft Auto, I don't know," D'Aquilla continued. "In my mind, I would say it's something the kids don't need to be seeing because it distorts reality."

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