Okay, first things first: I want to be crystal-clear that, while ancillary issues of gaming, media, censorship etc., along with other things I plan to speak on in a moment are always extremely important - at this time they are a very, VERY small issue next to the immediate bigger picture of the moment: Yesterday, a Norwegian man named Anders Behring Breivik is alleged to have bombed the headquarters of Norway's Prime Minister, then disguised himself as a police officer and embarked on an hourlong shooting rampage at a Youth Camp containing the children of Norway's ruling Labour Party - ultimately taking close to 100 innocent lives before being taken into police custody. It is the worst act of domestic terrorism in Norway's modern history, and is being called the most devastating violence to occur in the nation since the Second World War. I know that there are Norwegian fans and readers of this and the other blog, plus others with friends/family in Norway, and I ask that everyone responding to this post keep their feelings in mind - ANY responses, comments, posts etc. of a hurtful, confrontational and/or insensitive nature directed at the victims of this terrible tragedy or the people of Norway will be summarily DELETED.
Also, if anyone reading this is in or near Oslo, I am told that Ullevaal Hospital - where some victims are being treated - is in need of TYPE O BLOOD DONATIONS. Thank you. The remainder of this post continues after the jump...
At this time, little is known (or has been officially confirmed) about Breivik. He is believed to be a Christian Fundamentalist with sympathies to Norway's right-wing political fringe (two of his online handles were "Conservative" and "Conservativism," allegedly) and gun-culture, who may be the author of a lengthy manifesto which calls for armed action against (among other "enemies") Islam, multiculturalism and "cultural Marxism" in his country.
According to Kotaku, video-gaming has an unfortunately promiment place in his life and his "plans" - specifically, he reccomends that those similarly inclined use a devotion to online gaming like "World of Warcraft" as cover for their activities; and cites "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" as part of his "training simulation." So... yeah, Christmas just came early for the "violent games are murder simulators" contingent.
Now, obviously, this is going to become a "thing" in the ongoing violent-games discussion once the dust settles on the much more important immediate issues of the tragedy itself; and it will be important for gamers to remain (respectfully) steadfast in pointing out the various logical fallacies of the "other-side's" argument: Namely, that even if one was to try and affix blame for Breivik's actions upon external stimuli; it would seem readily apparent that his political-philosophy and religious views were MUCH more influential than his gaming hobbies. Also, not to put too fine a point on it, but... madmen are generally NOT the most reliable source of information as to their own motivations.
Gamers should also NOT fall into the trap of declaring ANY implications of correlation (NOT the same thing as causality - a vital distinction) to be off the table - because that would be intellectual dishonesty, and helpful to no one. Just as (thoughtful) fans of horror movies and heavy metal are obliged to concede that, while those mediums do not CAUSE serial-killers, those with such tendencies are more likely to be fans of the material than not; I consider it to be encumbent on the serious-minded gamer to consider and/or ultimately concede that while games like CoD are not the "cause" of Breivik's actions... the fact that he is a fan of military-FPS games - and that he may have used them as fuel for his fantasies of violent insurrection - is completely unsurprising.
Let's not mince words: Here in the U.S., we've all seen and heard the same basic tripe Breivik is alleged to have spewed (anti-immigration, multiculturalism-is-evil, "Marxism"-is-out-to-get-us, coming-holy-war-with-Islam, etc.,) plastered across protest-signs and bellowed from radios; and I'm given to understand that it exists to one extent or another in much of Europe as well. And I don't think it to be a betrayal of either gaming, gamer-culture or free-speech advocacy to admit that it makes complete sense that "Modern Warfare" and it's ilk - with their fetishism of realistic weapons and gear combined with consequence-free use thereof and you-are-the-shooter first-person immersion - would find a lot of fans among the gun-hoarder/paramilitary subculture(s).
This does NOT make the games "responsible" or in need of "control" or "banning;" but I DO think that the THEMATIC appeal of much of the miltiary-FPS genre's material to what we might've previously called the "Timothy McVeigh's" or "Turner Diaries" mindset - and what, if anything, could be done about it - is part of a discussion that's LONG overdue among gamers, game designers and the whole gaming community.
UPDATE: Not thrilled that I need to clarify that last point for some, but I probably do: I don't want anyone's "takeaway" from this to be that I think FPS games or FPS gamers bear ANY kind of automatic kinship-with or responsibility-for Breivik. All I'm asking is for introspection and honesty: It's NOT a secret (nor a surprise) that the military-FPS genre is popular with fringe elements of the gun/paramilitary subcultures with which Breivik was of-a-kind - is it not worth at least considering that it'd be a good thing for gamers and the games industry to A.) make it overwhelmingly clear that guys like this are NOT representative of "us," and that they are in fact not welcome? and/or B.) take a hard, critical look at the genre and ask if MAYBE there are things that could be done/said to ensure that it ISN'T attractive or welcoming to people like this? I'm NOT at all certain that the answer is "yes," for the record...
As I've said in comments already, metal musicians and metal fans worked earnestly to distance the genre from it's onetime popularity among "skinheads," Confederate Civil-War Re-Enacters have worked similarly hard to distance themselves from the "Rise Again!" racists. Hell, I attended a scifi convention last year where one of the panels was about keeping the "Steampunk" genre free of racism or ethnocentrism given it's grounding in an idealized-fetishism for the 19th Century. Other fan-cultures are capable of having these discussions, gaming should be no different.