Oslo, R18+ And Default Media Finger Pointing

Oslo, R18+ And Default Media Finger Pointing

About three years ago I interviewed a group of soldiers deployed in Afghanistan about gaming on the battlefield. Here were three men, fully trained soldiers, trained in combat, who spent most of their spare time LANing Modern Warfare on their laptops.

“Why do you guys spend so much of your time,” I began, tactfully, “playing a video game that attempts to replicate the kind of real, terrible violence you guys have to deal with day in and day out?”

Their response was uniform and shocking.

They laughed at me.

The reason for their laughter? The fact that the gameplay featured in Modern Warfare, and any other ‘military shooter’ for that matter, was so dramatically removed from the reality of actual warfare that they, as soldiers, barely even bothered to make the connection. In one switched-on soldier’s view, Modern Warfare was about as close to a real combat situation as The Sims was to real life.

From reading various news reports about the Oslo shootings, you’d think that Modern Warfare was a streamlined killing simulator, a training ground for wannabe terrorists. Next they’ll blame The Sims for the rise in teenage pregnancies and the subprime mortgage crisis. When will the madness end? Where did it even begin…

You’d think the media might have learned their lesson from irresponsible reporting on high school shootings, heavy metal music, hip hop, video nasties, comic books, penny novels – the list, tragically, goes on. Making video games the scapegoat for an international tragedy is as idiotic as it is passé, and the attempt by the media to hitch this impotent scare-mongering to the recent R18+ announcements is almost staggeringly cynical.

It makes me feel for Brendan O’Connor, a politician who was brave enough to stand up for an R18+ rating for games, who then has to answer idiotic, completely loaded questions combining the two topics. You have admire how tactfully he navigated such stupidity.

“Because there is a madman who has done just such atrocities in Norway,” he said, “I don’t think that means that we are going to close down film or the engagement with games.

“I think it really points to, of course, a person who – clearly there is something wrong with this person to sort of cause such devastation in Norway. But I’m not sure that the argument goes that as a result of watching a game you turn into that type of person. I think there is something clearly intrinsically wrong with him.”

Of course it’s hard to blame hit hungry journalists too much for following the well trodden trail of moral panic, particularly when Anders Behring Breivik, the suspect in the Oslo shooting, was so explicit in his own description of Modern Warfare 2 as “training-simulation”, but what’s so conveniently side-stepped is the fact that Breivik is clearly insane.

Utterly insane.

Modern Warfare 2 is nothing but a convenient excuse – for lazy reporting, for an act of complete lunacy, an excuse for an unfortunate act of violence that resulted in the death of over 90 people. It’s certainly not a reason to question the existence of the Modern Warfare franchise, let alone the existence of an R18+ rating – particularly when you consider the fact that every single Call of Duty game was passed as MA15+.

It’s far too easy, and too convenient, to blame a video game like Modern Warfare when millions of people worldwide continue to play the game daily without incident. Far too easy to stoke the fires of moral panic than explore the issue with any kind of restraint or good sense.

The speed and efficiency with which the mainstream media moved from shock and surprise the shooter wasn’t Muslim, to blaming video games is something that should irk every single person who has played a video game – and every Muslim for that matter. Default narratives in the media are based on fitting news into negative, fear-inducing stereotypes.

The soldiers in Afghanistan openly burst into laughter when I tried to suggest that Modern Warfare replicated real life combat. They laughed at the absurdity of it. Right now, as 93 people lay dead, laughter is hardly the correct response, but we should be angry at the ease with which the media has blamed video games, and the ease with which that explanation was accepted by the public at large.

Surely, by now, we should all know better.


  • Charlie Brooker attacked the lazy journalism going for the cheap excuses in his article in the Guardian.

    Really, I’m just sick of seeing that damned photo of him that looks more like a glamour shot than the picture of brutal murderer that he is.

  • It shouldn’t surprise really that this would be the first port of call for the media. When I heard he was a gamer, I knew this would be their focal point, not the fact he was an unhinged mental case. Should we focus on what he read? Listened to? What mental nuances he had or mental defects?

    No. Lets focus on if he played ‘No Russian’ or not… surely that’s more relevant than if he was a raging nutbag.

  • The fact is that you can take just about any console gamer nowadays, and there’s a far greater than even chance they’ll have played a ‘Military-themed FPS’. You can’t throw a rock out your window without hitting a couple. And the games are popular because the audience wants them. There’s an entire generation who have grown up having to deal with the ‘war on terror’ and it’s not surprising that that generation gravitates toward those games as a means for exploring and coping with the issues that arise from this. It’s not much different to the way that film explored the gritty detail of the Vietnam war, which was very real and immediate for that generation too.

    • This is kinda off topic but it really annoys me when people over psycho-analyse people and their choices.
      Millions of people play FPS’s not as a “means of coping with the war on terror” but because they are fun. Nothing more.
      There does not have to be a deep physiological meaning to everything and you definitely can’t put an entire group of people on the couch based on a single thing you know about them.

      This is little different to what the media is doing, take any two pieces of knowledge and you can tie them loosely together if you try hard enough. Does not make it correct.

      Not ripping into you personally but it just seems like a lot of people should stop judging until they walk in the others shoes.

  • As a survior of the 1991 Strathfield Masscare, i abosolutely hate it when the media tries to blame something like books, porn, movies, games what ever as the reason for such a thing happening.

    Wade Fulcum, the person who took my mother and grandmother away from me when i was 9 years old was a nutjob end of story. he suffered a nervous breakdown when his mother passed away from cancer. Martain Bryant was also a nutjob. the V Tech killer was Nutjob.

  • Great article, Mark.

    People like Ed Gain, Dahmer, David Koresh and the Unabomber certainly didn’t exist and do what they did because of video games. People forget that the urge to kill, and the will to carry it out, comes from within. Whether its evil, insanity or the agenda of a deluded psycopath, ultimately the human at the heart of the disaster is fully responsible.

  • I don’t suppose you have a link to the interview with soliders you did? I would like very much to read that.

  • Haven’t seen any of the news about this, missed it all somehow other than a little of the first mentions of it happening. Doesn’t surprise me at all that it’s happened though (the media bit, not the shooting >_>).

    Great piece, Mark.

  • Will be interesting to see if the ACL pipes up about this issue- especially given that said crazy loser has identified himeslf above most other things, as a Christian.

    • and not just any christian either, but one of the ACL’s main demographics. The killer stated he was a far right fundmentalist concervative christian.

      Not saying all ACL people are child killing fuckjob nutters, but they are gunna need to find some new ways to spin this

    • My thoughts exactly. I’m seeing a lot more damaging links between Christianity and his behaviour than gaming and his behaviour. But it would be ridiculous to make that claim, right?

      In fact yes, it probably is. But it’s worth raising as a rebuttal to anybody who tries to seriously support these ridiculous claims.

    • ACL Media Release:

      “The Australian Christian Lobby voices disappointment at the Minister of Home Affairs statement on video games and violence which clearly stands in the contradiction of academic opinion, research and now tragic experience…..”

      I read the entire release, they are forgetting to mention about the whole fundamentalist Christian thing…
      And the fact he was very sick and needed help..

  • The guy is also a fundamentalist Christian with right-wing political views. So how come the media aren’t out there railing against Christianity (or religion in general) and / or calling for conservative political opinion to be banned?

  • The thing that gets me about scapegoating, is not (in this case) that my hobby is being put in a negative light again, it’s more this isn’t even being taken seriously. Instead of actually looking at why this happened, how to prevent it, and actually treat the victims with respect, a lot of people just go straight to blaming dem vidya games.

  • You will know better when you feel you no longer need to write these hit chasing articles. They will know better when people actually try the very things they are condeming.

    We know better because we have stopped listening.

    • I’m reminded of when my mate returned from a tour of Afghanistan were he was involved in some intense fire-fights. I was cautious about what to do when we were hanging out, because one of our favourite pastimes before he flew out was co-op shooters.

      So I’m tentatively courting the subject, not entirely sure yet of whether he may have killed a man in real life. He realised what I was thinking, basically considered me a knobhead for comparing the 2 situations, and we continued to play where we left off.

      But I found it pretty interesting, I doubt there are many people more qualified to assess the comparative impact of violent videotapes than actual combat veterans. This dude was clearly born a broken man.

  • Great piece Mark.

    I know a guy who’s been deployed to Afghanistan twice (or possibly three times), having been wounded on his first tour he still went back for a second (or third). He had some crazy stories to tell. I asked him over a game of MW2 whether it bothered him than kids play these games. His response was basically the same: “dude, this is just a game”.

  • This is why is refuse to watch, read or listen to any form of mainstream media.
    The rate at which random correlations become taken as actual facts in media is disguting.
    Honestly, it’s exactly like The Simpsons (the world would be a better place if more people understood it) funnily enough, from the “think of the children episode)
    Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a
    Lisa: That’s spacious reasoning, Dad.
    Homer: Thank you, dear.
    Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
    Homer: Oh, how does it work?
    Lisa: It doesn’t work.
    Homer: Uh-huh.
    Lisa: It’s just a stupid rock.
    Homer: Uh-huh.
    Lisa: But I don’t see any tigers around, do you?
    [Homer thinks of this, then pulls out some money]
    Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
    That right there, is how mainstream media take EVERYTHING.
    I’m ashamed to live in a society that takes these outlets as “news”

  • I must say this Norway attack has disturbed me quite heavily. I certainly do not blame his action on video games, as you keep saying Mark almost EVERYONE plays video games and the term gamer is almost moot in this day and age. Reading up on the whole situation the problem was more related to politics and religion, I sincerely hope that the real cause of this massacre is realised rather than the stupidity the media will likely try and spin this into.

    Last night I tried playing some Bad Company 2 and I must say after this massacre I really just didn’t feel like playing.

  • Every current affairs program in the world rubbed their hands together in glee. 40 of their 60 minutes of weekly ‘journalism’ taken care of.

  • You’d think so but no, the mass media runs wild with stupidity and feeds the fear the simple public craves. One idiot pulls a trigger and they look at everything but him for an explanation. That guy is a poor excuse for a human being, blame him for what he did not what he does. Want someone else to blame? Blame the mass media for feeding us these lies for so many years. Within an hour of that happening there was accusations of him being Muslim but no one pulled them up on that. The mass media needs to be regulated but how will that ever happen when they directly and indirectly run the world. Up yours mass media, your an absolute disgrace i really hope you’re hand is forced when it comes to reporting because i know if i did a degree in journalism and was producing that sort of garbage then i would go and jump off a cliff. End rant, Good article Mark.

  • Why don’t they suggest that since he is a Christian that maybe Christianity is to blame for this?

    Stupid people who can not discern coincidence from causation.

  • He’s not insane – at least, not legally. All evidence suggests that he knew exactly what he was doing and who he was shooting. The common thrust of the anti-violence in games crowd is that the player becomes disconnected from the real consequences of their actions, and even if that were a legitimate phenomenon it simply isn’t at all what we’re looking at here.

    This guy was absolutely a terrorist. He was working towards an extremist right-wing agenda of eliminating young people who believed in multiculturalism. His hope was that he could kill the next generation of left-wing political leaders, and terrify the immigrant population. This was not some random cry for attention, or deranged outburst – he planned meticulously for 2 years. The fact that he worked alone is perfectly reminiscent of other western domestic terrorists like KKK/Neo-Nazi “lone wolves” and Timothy McVeigh; his being a lone gunman shouldn’t disqualify this from being seen as an act of terror.

    The really disturbing thing for me is that the media has stopped using the word ‘terrorist’ now that it’s clear that the perpetrator isn’t a Muslim. Us white guys can be terrorists too, folks! He’s a non-state actor using violence and intimidation to achieve a political goal – surely that’s the definition of terrorism, it’s not defined by his religion or ethnicity.

    • That is so interesting – the word terrorist gets removed from the dialogue as soon as it was discovered he wasn’t a muslim. Great point.

      • The same thing happened a couple of years ago when that whack job in the U.S. crashed his plane into a government building to protest against tax reform. The media even went out of the way in a number of cases to actively tell people that he was in fact not a “terrorist”.

    • Wow, they really stopped using that word? (as I stated above, I don’t follow news outlets)
      That’s ridiculous.

    • Although I won’t totally disagree in that he’s not insane.
      There has to be something not quite right in there.
      People can have their beliefs and live a fine life with no problems against others.
      There’s no way, someone in a totally sane state could commit those acts.

    • Exactly the (thing) was a terrorist pure and simple – he bombed a government building and then, goes to a camp sponsored by a political party and kills 86 people (86?? That is a staggering number). If that is not terrorism I don’t know what is.


    dear god, current affairs shows have probably got there stock footage of young kids playing COD ready now in preperation for the reports -_-

    • This ^ I play shooters, but if held a real gun I think I’d soil myself. I imagine the majority of gamers (especially in the this country) would be in a similar boat.

      • Not me. 🙂

        That said, it gets drilled into you in training programs (before getting anywhere near a firearm) that you only ever point it at something you’re willing to destroy. Might make you a little paranoid about where the business end of the weapon is, but that’s really the way it should be.

  • Games don’t make me want to kill people. Politicians signing petitions to block adult content from adults makes me want to kill people.

  • I’m Muslim, and a gamer, and a few other things to boot, as well as being me.

    As is the often the case with you Mark, well said.

    Anders is insane, just as the al Qaeda types. They both may cloak their disconnection from the rest of humanity in religious or political language, but the fact remains that at one point in their pasts, a switch flicked in their moral compasses/minds/souls said: “yes, it is ok to consider this person/these people as less than human, to do horrible things to them.

    Terrorists (people who use terror as a weapon, as some journalists have forgotten) are just plain sociopaths, with fancy words and sometimes the odd costume to dress it up.

    Plenty of people don’t go down that path – be it Niemoller in Nazi Germany or massive sections of the Egyptian and other Arab Spring youth today vs the fundamentalists.

    If everyone took a leaf from South Park’s book – don’t be an asshole – the world would be a better place.

    (i know its not thursday, but what was going to 2 sentences kinda rolled on from there)

  • The other thing that’s really bothering about all the coverage focusing on MW2 as a “training simulator” is that all the articles mentioning it also seem to ignore the fact that this guy had completed compulsory nation service. He had actual military training.

  • I knew this was going to happen. This man’s motivation didn’t come as a result of video games but the fact he is a extreme right radical. He attacked the Government building of a Coalition government which is lead by the Labor party. The youth camp he attacked was a labor party youth camp. He has been known to make extreme comments regarding the increasing muslim population in Norway and similar comments about people who oppose his political views. It is absolutely ridiculous that this happens, “OH SOMEONE WENT ON A SHOOTING RAMPAGE, LETS BLAME ISLAM AND IF THAT FAILS LETS BLAME VIDEOGAMES, DUHHHHHHH”. sorry.

    • i couldn’t see that kind of political violence occurring in oz, but imho you can see a trend. hardline talk by some etc – e.g. that liberal party morning tea in which some old guy chased a greens voter who was attending down the street. we’re not arizona or oslo yet thankfully though.

      • Caught a cab (Sydney, Aus) the other week, and the driver went on a norway muslim hating rant. How great it was they were going to get rid of them all and what not. It was so bad I had to get out of the cab.

        People are people, what country your in doesn’t matter as much as that fundamental fact. Sure there’s some culturial bias to certain things but the kernel of the human condition is still the same.

        Unfortunately that means some people are born unstable and to terrible things. But blaming gaming, movies, books, whatever for these things doesn’t make sense when its been going on since pre-history.

        PS – I’m not a muslim, and it was still so horribly offensive I couldn’t stand to be near the person.

  • Strangely it didn’t even occur to me that morons would link this tragedy to videogames, but there you have it!

  • This piece is written far more superious compared to that horrendously biased piece about R18+ in the Herald Sun last Friday.

  • Both the ACL and their allies (Salt Shakers, Australian Family Association) will use any leverage they can get. That’s why Jim Wallace had his anti-Muslim/gay rant on ANZAC Day, that’s why Wendy Francis tried to censor a public health campaign. They rail on the games angle simply because they’re ignorant (they didn’t even read the manifesto, instead soundbiting off the games angle) and because it gets them airtime.

    Unfortunately, the ACL and their kin are festering the same extremism as seen in this attack. This Christian terrorist had links to the English Defence League (according to his manifesto) and scarily enough, ACL and their kin allow promotion of the EDL’s plant, the Aussie Defence League.

    Just consider this:

  • This just in: Being Christian makes you a mass-murderer that kills 90+ people.

    If we reverse the ACL and media’s childish and backwards logic, we get this. Its a 2-way street. Also as stated above, no-one has taken into account that Norway has its citizens do 19 months of mandatory military service. Too bad the media likes to silence those who are informed.

    At least O’Connor is mature and has logic. Good on you, Brendan.

  • Is it really that hard to just call people a f**king nutbag and call it a day?

    Why does the media need to find a reason for why someone is nuts. Some people are simply f**ked up.

  • I want to start up a Colbert Report-esque parody website, as a direct reflection of the ACL’s website.

    I want the first post to be about banning violent video games, and that even then it’s not going far enough. We need to ban all forms of entertainment that could conceivable involve any violence.

    I want to parody the crap out of the ACL.

    If anyone’s interested, let’s get talking. I’d love to start up some anti-ACL hilarity.

    • Sorry for the double post, but also…

      PROTIP: The ACL has a list of companies that support it on the lower right hand side of their website.
      Email the companies about them and question why they support the ACL, and tell them that you will boycott their business, and advise others to do the same unless they halt their support.

      Money talks.

    • “If there are even a few deranged minds that can be taken over the edge by an obsession with violent games it is in every Australians interest that we ban them.”

      I just love this line the most. By his logic anything that could send someone crazy should be banned. Quick Ban Marriage, Ban Tax’s, Ban Social Interaction. Lock everyone up in a cell because they could be a danger to someone else.

      But for the love of all things can we please ban poorly written and misinformed articles riding on scare tactics to pretend they present a valid viewpoint

  • People have been killing eachother for millions of years, we’re all jerks.

    He was also a “devout christian” i believe, so i take it then religion is the evil, and it should be banned across the board, because this is me developing mad politician syndrome….

  • I’m literally seeving with rage right now.

    No other major news organisation on the planet i’ve looked into have even mentioned the association with video games, and even those who did played it down or merely discounted the fact entirely. Here we play it out like it was the sole reason he did what he did, no mention of his excessive religious views, no mention of his hatred for multiculturalism, it was the bad video games that did it.

    my only solace is the fact most people appear too intelligent to fall for this sensationalist bullshit.

  • The media needs to just back off these stereotypes. Next thing we will see is a Korean going on some murderous rampage… and Starcraft 2 will be mentioned somewhere in a negative spotlight. I’m damn sure of it!

  • Breaking new oxygen sends people insane.

    We have done an indepth review and as fair as we can see every person who has ever comitted a crime or gone on a rampage has breathed the stuff in. So Ipso Facto it makes you insane. Stop breathing people

  • I posted the below on this ACL page http://australianchristianlobby.org.au/2011/07/mr-norwegian-tragedy-highlights-impact-of-violent-video-games/ comments section but clearly the ACL doesn’t believe in freedom of speech as they haven’t approved it.

    “I think you are mistaken, with trying to link this with computer games. More likely are his right wing political views which are more closely aligned with Adolf Hitler than anythhing to do with playing computer games.”

  • like 7/10 people aged over 15 play video games.

    7/10 people aren’t becoming psychopaths running around smashing things and slaughtering people for the sake of it. Clearly this individual had a serious, pre-existing mental disorder.

    people were going on shooting sprees years ago, and of course they will blame video games, not his religion, they won’t say a single phrase about it.

    And thats just further poof that playing video games means SFA in 99.9% of cases.

    Its like accusing ALL middle eastern people of being terrorsist.

    Its like accusing everyone who likes rap music a drug user / dealer

    Its just absolutely retarded, nonsensical garbage spewing from someones mouth, what do they do for a job you ask? why, they sit behind desks and listen to other paranoid ignorant fools exaggerate their stories. or read their exaggerated crap.

  • Finally getting around to reading this and the responses.

    Nice article, Mark, and I agree that it’s a convenient and even lazy (or cynically opportunistic) connection to make.

    I think perhaps part of it is a desperation to find something, anything to explain why someone would do something this heinous. Heinous probably isn’t a severe enough word to describe pure evil, but it’s the best I’ve got.

    It’s as though we can’t accept that a human being could be [i[that[/i] evil, that consumed with hatred and paranoia that they’d kill over ninety people – the vast majority of them children or teenagers – because they had a political grievance with the party they represented.

    It’s easy to blame this on video games and a lone psychotic mind.

    Much harder to contemplate is the idea that political polarisation can make walking into a camp and shooting eighty children a ‘valid’ form of expression for a ruthless advocate for a cause. Or that spewing unfounded hate about any group in society can have disastrous and tragic results.

  • i heard he drank milk every day….can you believe that, milk must be part of the reason he killed all those people..

  • Thank you, hopefully this article will inform the malnourished suburban kids with A.D.H.D that being a top scorer on call of duty does not make you a real soldier.

  • Australian media, I want to ask you a question. Out of the 92 that died, how many of them were also playing modern warfare?
    I didn’t see them planning this either, even if they were giving the chance.
    His hobby was HUNTING for fudge’s sake! Did they ever think that maybe he obtained his skills from there?
    Of course not, it was obviously the video games.

  • What he did was disgusting, and the ACL trying to make it out to be a video games’ fault is even worse in my humble opinion. These people are all terrorists; using fear to try to control others.
    “Fear will keep the local systems in line; fear of this battle station”
    May the Force help us if the ACL ever gets their hands on those plans……

  • Why isn’t anyone trying to find out what brand of socks he favors?

    Which brand of socks is in danger of pushing us over the edge into mass-murderer territory? I need to know to guard my mind, lest I become a psychopath and accidentally kill hundreds of people.

  • Im a christian and an avid gamer since the late 80’s, the way media potray games to be responsible for insanity this world dealing is just plain stupid, the media should take a look at themselves on how they also costing peoples lives such as princess diana for a “story”, not to mention how the media tricked countries to go to war with each other, scapegoat much?

  • Religious people should not be able to make any choices in life that affect other human beings.

    Religion is after all, at it’s core, an evolutionary failsafe for when our minds were less evolved, a mental illness.

    Do we really want the mentally ill influencing our (now mostly agnostic/atheist) society?

    Christians call out video games but look at what their thousand year old book has done. The crusades anyone? Millions have died because of religion.

  • Of the 92 peolple that were brutally massacred. I wonder how may of them played video games – MW2 included.

  • It is sad but people want something tangible to be frightened of so they don’t have to think about all the intangible threats that are out there. Games are an easy target however logically incoherent the argument against games may be.

    I don’t agree with the argument that religion is responsible for so many wars as wars are primarily based around resources. People are not likely to support you if you say you are going to kill a heap of people and take their water or oil or particularly fertile grazing land but they will if you can convince them that the enemy is evil and worship an entity dedicated to your peoples annihilation.

    The christian lobby need’s to divert attention away from the fact that militant Christians are just as dangerous as militant Islamist’s and just as deluded. Neither side actually understands their own religion correctly and misrepresent beliefs in order to support a completely flawed understanding that in no way relates to any reasonable understanding of the nature of god.

    Lord protect us from upright christian gentlemen 🙂

  • It would be better journalism on your part if you cited the first example of lazy work and media scaremongering which the minister Brendan O’Connor was answering.

    Some readers may be surprised it was The ABC Insiders program.

    I expect better of the national broadcaster.

  • Pretty abhorrent that such a tragedy is immediately politicised by ignorant agenda pushing minority groups.

    Even worse is that the ACL is using the actions of a pro-Euro-Christian, anti-Islam, fundamentalist to do it.

  • The whole media finger pointing did annoy me, but it is theoretically possible for a game that even UNREALISTICALLY portrays violence as a good thing to cause someone to think that reenacting such violence in real life is a good idea.

    Of course, that requires this “someone” to be mentally screwed up to the point that they were probably able to be inspired by many other means, e.g. movies, watching NCIS, reading the Phantom. So it’s certainly not unique to games.

    Ultimately the problem is that we have people with mental problems (can’t think things through straight, too confident in their own judgement), coming in contact with media in general that depicts violence, even the culture of modern society (e.g. “man we should just invade them and get this over and done with”). A very messy issue no doubt.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!