By now, everyone has become all too aware of what took place in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14.
It still feels strange to coldly type the facts into a keyboard and discuss them. Naturally, the “facts” were nearly impossible to come by in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. Contradictions presented themselves about the killer’s identity, the number of victims, and the locations of all involved.
The biggest problem began with the media’s witch-hunt once the name was released. One of the Lanzas brothers was found to be a fan of Mass Effect, a fact that CNN decided to highlight during their pathetic attempt at journalism that has become nothing more than a relic of the days of actual reporting. Without warning, Electronic Arts found themselves having to defend one of their products from torchbearers angrily pecking away at their keyboards, the public no more intelligent than the biggest name in “news.”
This won’t be a column so much as a diatribe. Prepare yourselves.
I go out of my way to avoid the news. Politics, popular culture and pundits mean fuckall to me and my way of life. The only time I encounter anything happening on a national level like this tragedy is when I am out and the zombies in a building are glued to a TV for whatever reason. On this occasion, the shooting had just happened and initial details were surfacing.
I was sad for two reasons, the first and most obvious being the fact that over two dozen people had been murdered. The second was that they were going to be used as tools by everyone within reach. I watched as, one by one, people began to use this story as an excuse to spout off about every cause they had ever seen listed on a brochure. Gun control debates lit up the airwaves before we even knew the names of everyone who had died, a list that you must still go out of your way to find. Thanks to social media and the instant gratification our society needs to feel, the local police had not even released the identity of the killer before his brother was made out to be a monster. The president of the United States was in tears on national television and the public continued to roll around in their own shit.
A giant asshole at CNN named Jim Clancy, who deserves to have every credential as a reporter immediately revoked and never allowed to so much as type one keystroke again, was one of several outlets who got wind of the alleged identity of the shooter. Rather than making a simple phone call to the police to verify the information, national media ran with the name Ryan Lanza and had the audacity to link to his personal Facebook profile. This is a resounding death knell for journalism, and everyone had best turn their televisions off for good. Let it be stated that every writer on NSFW Gamer has as much credibility (if not more so) than Clancy, who probably had to be taught how to use fucking Twitter so that he could break stories.
What does all this have to do with games? The shitbird known as Clancy, whose Twitter account is seen here (and yes, I actually did my homework to make sure that’s him), helped CNN’s slobbering audience to start a riot over the fact that Ryan Lanza was a fan of the Mass Effect series. Since any game with an “M” rating may as well be a scarlet letter, a reference probably lost on anyone who watches CNN for their own personal entertainment, the horde flocked to Electronic Arts’ Facebook page and slandered the company for essentially creating a killer.
How many fucking times are we going to do this?
Let’s go back into the hypothetical world that the angry mob likes to create. A man walks into a school and guns down more than two dozen people before killing himself. They search his residence and find a video game that involves shooting people. Immediately, the conclusion is drawn that the game caused this to happen and that both violent video games and guns need to be more tightly regulated. This is coupled with the fact that in the history of gaming as well as the science of the mind and the medicine of the brain, there has never once been a concrete study producing hard evidence that clinically demonstrated the fact that violent video games create or even suggest violent behavior.
Adam Lanza, the actual murderer, was described in a New York Times article as “[feeling] uncomfortable about being put on the spot” by a former classmate. He was quiet, skinny, and what you could call a geek if you were to put a physical stereotype on him. He had no friends and simply did not want to be bothered, but was a smart guy evidenced by test scores.
There are thousands, if not millions of Adam Lanzas out there who don’t pick up a firearm at any point in their lives, and I’m one of them. I was horrendously picked on during elementary school to the point that I dreaded the idea of getting on the bus for a couple years. I do not talk to a single person from high school or either university I attended. My free time is mostly spent alone, holed up in my bedroom with comic books, video games, and pro wrestling. According to analysts on cable news, this makes me a prime candidate for domestic terrorism. The fact that I don’t go outside right this minute and sing fucking Christmas carols should also earn me a few points in that category.
It’s only going to get worse, because the sorry excuses of journalists don’t stop inside the United States. English publications The Sun and The Express are hopping on the game train, with The Sun publishing an embarrassing “interview” with a plumber who supposedly worked in the home of the family and saw Lanza playing Call of Duty surrounded by military posters. The Express, citing sources as imaginary as the reporter’s education, proclaimed Dynasty Warriors to be one of the killer’s favorite games. That’s right. A game where you ride around on elephants, randomly waving swords at Chinese dignitaries, fueled the murderous rampage of a 20 year old whose mother was herself a gun collector.
With no note, no digital profile and no obvious reason, first person shooter marathons are going to once again get blamed in the case of an event the size and scope of this one. For whatever reason, it is simply not possible for the general public to believe that, not in spite of but along with the fact that this guy grew up in a gun-filled household and was a little on the quiet side, he was simply wired this way. You can counsel someone, you can “be there” when they need, you can reach out and you can support all you want. Sometimes it just doesn’t matter, and Mass Effect, Electronic Arts and any other video game company who makes a game where a character uses a firearm are no more to blame than anyone who looks at a future killer and passes a lack of judgment.
Woe is us, as always.