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Did Va. Tech Murderer Learn From Video Games?

Newsmax | April 18, 2007
Jim Meyers

The shootings at Virginia Tech have once again brought the issue of violent video games to the fore, with critics citing a link between murderous rampages like Monday's and games that often involve simulated mass murder.

Appearing on Larry King's CNN show on Monday night, psychologist Phil McGraw -- TV's "Dr. Phil" -- stated: "Common sense tells you that if these kids are playing video games, where they're on a mass killing spree in a video game, it's glamorized on the big screen, it's become part of the fiber of our society."

Murders Echo Game Scenarios

The grisly murders of 31 people at Virginia tech eerily seem to match the stalking of targets in video programs some times called "first person shooter" (FPS) games. In the FPS video game genre is characterized by an on-screen view that simulates the in-game character's point of view and by the use of handheld weapons.

Typically, the game player participant stalks through rooms, mazes or buildings seeking out victims, firing multiple shots into targets to ensure death. The player is frequently required to change ammunition.


"You take that and mix it with a psychopath, a sociopath or someone suffering from mental illness and add in a dose of rage, the suggestibility is too high," Dr Phil added.

"We're going to have to start addressing those issues and recognizing that the mass murders of tomorrow are the children of today that are being programmed with this massive violence overdose." Video games with names like "Quake," "Grand Theft Auto," or "Doom" are among the most popular killer programs.

Such games allows a player to vicariously experience a shooting rampage like the one gunman Cho Seung-Hui perpetrated at Virginia Tech. Reportedly, Cho killed some of his real-life targets with multiple shots to assure their demise.

The modern FPS games emerged when home computers became powerful enough to utilize basic 3-D graphics in real time. Other popular FPS games include "Duke Nukem 3D," "Blood," "System Shock," "Counter-Strike," "GoldenEye 007" and "Quake."

First released in June 1996, "Quake" was the first FPS game to gain widespread popularity as a multiplayer Internet game. "Quake" and its three sequels have sold more than 4 million copies, and in 2005 a version of the game was even produced for mobile phones.

FPS games have been called "murder simulators" by Lt. Col. David Grossman, a former West Point psychology professor who has written several books on violence in the media, including "Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill."

He argues that the games inure young people to the act of murder by simulating the killing of hundreds or even thousands of opponents in a single game.

It was widely reported that the two shooters in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre were fans of first-person shooter games. Last year the Alabama Supreme Court kept alive a $600 million lawsuit blaming the violent video game "Grand Theft Auto" for the murders of two police officers and a police dispatcher in Fayette in 2003.

Attorneys for the relatives of the three men slain claimed the killer, 18-year-old Devin Moore, played the game obsessively, and Moore reportedly told investigators after his arrest: "Life is a video game. Everybody has to die sometime." Sens. Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman have been highly critical of violent video games and their manufacturers. Clinton has attacked violent games as "a silent epidemic" among children, and in July 2005 she called for a federal investigation into "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas."

In 1993, Lieberman headed Senate hearings about violent games that led to the establishment of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. And late last year he co-sponsored legislation that would make it a crime to sell violent video games to minors.

Banned: Violent Games in Germany

Germany has taken steps to go even further and ban violent video games outright, the trade publication Variety reported. A bill placed before parliament would outlaw the depiction of violent acts committed against human characters, and would effectively ban most first-person shooter games.

The bill was introduced late last year after 18-year-old Sebastian Bosse shot up a high school in Emsdetten, injuring 37 before killing himself. An investigation revealed that Bosse spent most of his waking hours playing the game "Counter-Strike."

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