When tragedies such as the recent massacre in Oslo, Norway occur, the first place many look to lay blame is in the video games the perpetrators played. According to clinical psychologist Christopher Ferguson, when white males kill and games are blamed, there may be racism at play.
While there is concrete evidence that accused Oslo shooter Anders Behring Breivik played games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, Texas A&M University International's Christopher Ferguson doesn't believe the games were a cause of the crime, any more than Doom or Quake cause the 1999 massacre in Columbine, Colorado.
"I know it's a little controversial to say but there's a certain type of racism in place with these killings," said Ferguson. "When shootings happen in an inner city in minority-populated schools, video games are never brought up. But when these things happen in white majority schools and in the suburbs, people start to freak out and video games are inevitably blamed. I think that there's a certain element of racism or ignorance here."
An expert in both video game violence and mass killings, Ferguson has dedicated much time to the study of the effect of violent video games in children, recently publishing a in-depth study on said effects on children of multiple nationalities. He knows what he's talking about, at least as well as anyone else claiming to be an expert in the field of video games on behaviour.
People look to violent video games as a way to explain away behaviour that's difficult or even painful to try and understand. They want something to rail against, when in reality such crimes are impossible to predict or prevent. The growing popularity of video games among young men makes the hobby an easy target.
"Linking the playing of violent video games to a mass homicide when the perpetrator is a young male is like blaming the killing on the fact that he was wearing sneakers," said Ferguson. "The base rate of that behaviour is so common that it has no predictive value whatsoever."
Ferguson does note that the violent video game finger-pointing seems to have calmed somewhat in regards to the massacre in Oslo, perhaps due to the fact that it took place so far from U.S. soil, or maybe, just maybe, video games are coming to the point where they're such a part of our culture people are finally realising they're just another form of entertainment. "There are groups out there who are going to blame video games on everything," said Ferguson.
And what of the extremely vocal minority here in the U.S.?
"They're like ambulance chasers, really. I think it's irresponsible and thoughtless to try to make political gain off of someone else's tragedy, but they're going to do it. That's what they do."