It’s been awhile since video games have been blamed on a tragedy. But the recent terrorist attack in Oslo, Norway that killed at least 93 people has been directly linked to a pair of Activision Blizzard video games by the killer, himself.
In his 1,500 page manifesto, “2083: A European Declaration of Independence,” terror suspect Anders Behring Breivik writes in detail about how he used Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 game and Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft game to help him prepare for the attack. Eighty-five people were killed when Breivik allegedly gunned down campers at an island retreat disguised as a law enforcement officer and an additional seven were killed from a bomb he allegedly set off at a government building in the capital.
“I just bought Modern Warfare 2, the game. It is probably the best military simulator out there and it’s one of the hottest games this year. … I see MW2 more as a part of my training-simulation than anything else. I’ve still learned to love it though and especially the multiplayer part is amazing. You can more or less completely simulate actual operations.”
The 32 year-old Breivik also wrote that he used World of Warcraft as a “cover story” to explain the time away from friends and family that he used to help plot the attacks against Muslims and European “agents of multiculturalism” that he believed are helping Muslim immigration overrun Europe.
“For example, tell them that you have started to play World of Warcraft or any other online MMO game and that you wish to focus on this for the next months/year. This “new project” can justify isolation and people will understand somewhat why you are not answering your phone over long periods. Tell them that you are completely hooked on the game (raiding dungeons, etc.).”
Breivik also used World of Warcraft as a cover to travel to nearby countries to train with real weapons. He told friends and family that he was visiting guild members from the game.
“You will be amazed on how much you can do undetected while blaming this game. If your planning requires you to travel, say that you are visiting one of your WoW friends, or better yet, a girl from your “guild” (who lives in another country). No further questions will be raised if you present these arguments.”
The terror suspect said he spent three years writing the manifesto, some of which has been recently revealed to have been plagiarized by Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. During the first year of writing, Breivik said he immersed himself in World of Warcraft as a way to isolate himself from the “consumerist” world in preparation for his attacks. Up until about months ago, he played World of Warcraft extensively under the handles “Conservatism” and “Conservative.”
Over the years, violent video games have been used by the mainstream media to place blame on why people attack others. One of the most famous cases of media run rampant was the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado back in 1999. Because the two teenage killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, had played violent games like Doom and Quake, debate raged about what role video games played in the tragedy that killed 12 students and a teacher. Because the two killers committed suicide, there was never any explanation from the sources.
Columbine ultimately paved the way for the media, as well as those who live for stirring controversy and business as a “talking head,” for video games to be blamed for many other tragedies – including those with no links to video games whatsoever. Case in point is the Virginia Tech massacre of 2007. The deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S. history resulted in 32 students killed and 25 injured. Killer Seung-Hui Cho committed suicide after the spree. Although there were no video games found in his home and no writings or any evidence around Cho being a gamer, Florida attorney Jack Thompson blamed Valve’s popular online multiplayer Counter-Strike game for the tragedy. And the media gave him plenty of air time to stir up debate, even though no evidence was ever found to connect Cho with games of any kind.
Unfortunately, this time, the killer has written about the role video games played in his plot. And he remains alive, and in custody, to further discuss his gaming moving forward. But one thing to keep in mind is that video games are now entrenched as part of popular culture. Blizzard has over 11.5 million people playing World of Warcraft. Activision sold over 22 million copies of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. That means there are a lot of people out there playing these games. And the overwhelming majority of these gamers live normal lives without ever harming so much as a fly. Unfortunately, Breivik was one bad apple in this crowd.