Video Games And The Sandy Hook Shooting: Two Very Different Reactions

Over the weekend, two men sent me two very different messages regarding last Friday's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. One was from Antwand Pearman, an up-and-coming gamer/reporter/event-organiser who runs a small outfit called GamerFitNation. He was flagging my attention to what he calls a proposed "demonstration of peace". He calls it Day of Ceasefire For Online Shooters.

On December 21, for 24 hours, he is calling on his fellow gamers to cease playing online shooters. "It's to show that we as gamers give a damn," he says in an emotional eight-minute video posted on Saturday morning.


The other note I got was from the publicity-loving anti-gaming ex-lawyer Jack Thompson, a guy who only makes it into the news when they are violent deaths (or when he's being dis-barred). He believes games train kids to kill. He hadn't emailed me since October, when he was trying to shame Best Buy into no longer selling Mature-rated video games.

Thompson wrote: "You people are Kotaku have blood on your hands. You have facilitated the infestation of an entire generation of young men who have now come of age, like this sociopath in Connecticut, who were raised on violent video games and who see the killing scenarios therein as a means of solving their problems.

"I warned you at Kotaku that a day like this would come, and now it has come. Congratulations. Hand sanitizers won't ever room the blood on your greedy little hands. Jack Thompson, Miami"


Antwand Pearman's voice quivers in his Saturday-morning video. He talks about growing up around guns. "I grew up in a really bad neighbourhood," he said. "And I grew up with gun violence in my life. It got to a point where, to me, it got numb. I was used to it. When I heard somebody got killed to me it was just another story, but as I got older and became a man, I started realising I just didn't want to hear the stories no more." He trembles with the sense of wanting to do something about this latest, extraordinary act of gun violence.

Thompson had trouble figuring out which of our emails to send his note to and eventually dug up my personal email and sent me this: "Actually, Adam Lanza [, the killer,] is the one who is the computer geek and hardcore gamer. Epic fail by you Stephen. Of course he trained on the violent games you pimp for. "

I asked him for more information about Lanza's past with video games. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that Lanza was obsessed with violent games. It's certainly a possibility that they were part of his cultural diet. Despite what mental illness he may have suffered, despite the familiarity he had with guns through his mother (who he allegedly murdered), maybe games did further his zeal for shooting. Possible, right?

I asked Thompson: "Where are you seeing that he trained to kill little children by playing video games?

He replied: "You are such an idiotic tool. The New York Times is reporting that he was an avid gamer. He shows up in body armour. What games do you think he played, you moron?"

The New York Times didn't report that Lanza was an avid gamer. Other outlets made passing references to him playing in LAN parties, which blew up into top news at the massively-popular news aggregator, The Drudge Report.

I wrote: "I understand that you're angry about the murder of innocent people. But calling me an "idiotic tool" isn't going to make things better. Which New York Times article are you referring to? The Adam Lanza profile I read makes no mention of video games.

"It's entirely possible that shooter video games helped desensitize Lanza to violence or served as some sort of very crude training simulator. It's also entirely possible they had nothing to do with it. You're interested in the law. I'm a reporter. We both care about evidence. So if you see some, feel free to share it and make your case. Otherwise, if all you've got is insults, you're wasting my time and yours."

He replied: "I understand you are a moron"

The exchange went on, but you get the gist.


Some Facebook users have questioned the wisdom of Antwand Pearman's call for a ceasefire. They think that he's actually drawing a connection between the killings and the act of playing online shooters. Not really, he told me:

"When I thought of this cease fire I saw it as a means for gamers to come together and show their love and support the families. The one thing we can't get in this world is peace. War will always rage on but in the virtual world we have an opportunity to be better. This isn't something for the media it's for the families and us.

"So what if people stop playing shooters for a day? It will be forgotten the next day. The point is that in that silence you'll have time to listen to something you haven't heard in a long time. Something you have been too busy to hear. Too social to notice and that's... your Heart."

I think Thompson and Pearman's approaches both will rankle some gamers. These two very different men — one who hates video games and one who loves them — may both be accused of trying to get publicity or channelling the hurt we feel when we hear about these kinds of killings into actions that don't seem to fit perfectly.

In all of our hearts we wish for a solution. We wish for something to be done. Thompson would stamp out violent video games. Pearman would have #OSCEASEFIRE become a day of reflection.


    It would be more effective to boycott all computers/consoles for a day.

    I'm not going to be 'hearing' anything if I'm playing an RPG, or an adventure game, or a fighting game instead.

    Time away from the distractors is what we need to get back to what we're really feeling inside.

    I dunno... I'm not thrilled by these sorts of things at all. I think they're kinda stupid and achieve nothing. And yes, they draw links between completely unrelated past times, which is the last thing we need right now. But I admire the spirit required to set it up, and the idea behind it all.

    And why are you journalists keeping someone like Jack Thompson in the news? Seriously... everyone complains that he's crazy (he is) but then as soon as this happens you interview the guy! Sheeeshk!

    I think that it all comes down to a few things here. Gun control and a wider look at the society that folks are growing up in. Games on their own will not be enough to tip someone over the edge. The same as guns. If you take a look at American society, for the majority of folks they are nice people to be around. However, the overuse of "freedom of speech" as a right to say and do pretty much whatever you like, the over censorship of news and radio (cant say toilet, ass etc), the general over "mothering" of the people at large shows that .....shows.....hell I am not sure what it shows.

    I think the point I am trying to make is that you need to fix up how your culture is running and how your people are living together. Something is very wrong and it is coming from varying different areas. Games, gambling, T.V, radio, the over the top fascination with celebrities, the constant need to show your patriotism (over the top in most cases), the xenophobia and bigotry that is seen on a daily basis (not limited to the US I assure you) and the drive to show that your nation is "the best in the world" means you are neglecting your selves. I do not hate the US and I do not hate Americans. Far from it. I just think you need to take a long hard look at your selves.

    No nation is perfect. I live in Australia and we have our share of neglect and racism (something I am subject to all to often, as is my wife) especially. But for the most part, we see our selves as a lucky country, not a just or riotous country.

    I hope things change for you as a result of this. I doubt that it will, but we can hope none the less. I just wish that this and all the other shootings ins schools would stop.

      I meant righteous not riotous.

    The real issue is not that guns are out there, it is that nobody teaches kids respect for guns. Guns are a tool like any other item that is used for a job or sport, and like any tool when used incorrectly (granted when used correctly in some cases they also cause harm, but this is usually by people trained to do so and in the "right" situation, do not want to get into an argument about war here) they can cause harm. Parents need to sit down and teach their kids what a gun can do to people and how they should be treated.

    Granted in this country a scant number of kids will ever get their hands on one, but the ones that do should have the proper respect for the device. It is when you turn it into a taboo and scary instrument that it becomes a problem, kids love that shit, I know I did. I grew up around guns and guess what? they bore the SHIT out of me, I shot sport trap for the better part of my teenage years and DAMN it can get boring and if everyones kid knew that it was just another tool to do another job I bet most of them will realise they are boring as hell and the ones that don't might garner enough respect for them that they won't get this wacky idea that running around pointing them at their friends (and then tragically pulling the trigger) is a whole lot of fun.

    Last edited 18/12/12 11:42 am

      no, the real issue is the amount of guns out there. Pretending anything else is just that, pretending. It's obvious to everyone not in America that until some form of sane gun control is enacted this shit is going to keep happening.

        I never said that the amount and type of guns that are available was not a problem, it is a huge issue and it most certainly should be addressed. nobody NOBODY needs to own any sort of assault rifle or automatic weapon for personal use, semi automatic is debateable and there should be much tighter checks on who can purchase guns.

        Gun control is not a dirty word, but some governments take it to the extreme (ours for example). People use guns for legitimate purposes and banning all guns and making them this big taboo does not solve this issue, per my post above, and no matter how illegal you make them it will never mean they will vanish completely (like drugs, drugs are illegal, can pretty easily go get me some drugs, can not so easily go and purchase an illegal weapon too).

          I fail to see how our Government takes gun control to the extreme - you can still buy a hunting rifle or shotgun, i.e. the sorts of guns that constitute a tool.

            have you ever tried to purchase such items? have you tried to even get a license to purchase them? The hoops you need to jump through and the money you need to fork out just to get permission to start looking at buying a shotgun is phenominal

            Last edited 18/12/12 2:40 pm

          I don't believe Semi-Automatic weapons are debatable, what possible use as a tool can a Semi-Automatic weapon be?

          There are people who enjoy sport shooting and that's a great past time, there are people who go hunting and that's fine. My father did both but he never went hunting with a Semi-Auto he never went trap shooting with a 30 round hand gun. It's the equivalent of needing a monster truck because you have a gravel driveway.

          Adam Lanza did not have a disrespect for guns, I don't know why he did it, I just can not understand it but it's not because he didn't know what a gun could do.

            There are a number of huntering activities in which a semi-automatic hunting rifle is more effective and can be warrented as reasonable, this does not include ALL semi-automatic weapons, hence the debate. Not all semi-automatic weapons carry large clips or are intended for war, though yes most are.

            So you know for a fact he was educated on the weapons his mother possessed? Nobody knows that for a certainty, and no this would not solve the issue completely, but nothing will, but it would not hurt and would go a long way in helping prevent or atleast lower the number of incidents. Education is always better than forcing people.

    Are Kotaku raising children now?

    Evidence of a correlation between violent games and real life violence or the discussion has no value.

      Correlation means nothing though. Causation is the important thing. Violent people will be attracted to violent things but aren't necessarily motivated to act because of them.

    While I think it's a great idea to set down your consoles for a day to reflect on yourself every now and then, calling for a worldwide don't play games day feels like forcing it. Introspective reflection comes when you're ready, not when you set a date for it. And when you're asking for a worldwide reflection based on a local event, you have to realise that not everyone is effected the same way because of it. Many people in Australia don't actually realise the significance of a school shooting in America, because it's in America.

      Are you for real? Protecting your young and innocent is a basic, universal human emotion. I think anyone, anywhere in the world understands the significance of an event like this.

      They didn't have to die. They shouldn't have died. It's a tragedy.

    can you post Jack Thompsons email? I'd love to have a chat with this headline seeking talentless hack.

      Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease... we'd all love to see it.....

        Do we really want this disbarred irrelevant fool to get media attention?

        Anybody who points the finger only and completely at video games is doing more harm than good, we need to be able to identify and help people like Adam Lanza before it becomes a tragedy.

        Jack Thompson, comes across as a ranting lunatic, he's quoting fictional sources, he's seeing things that aren't there and he's taking these misbeliefs and reporting them as fact. If you start doing that in this country you'll quickly be called a liar or find yourself in a psych unit.

      His final reply shows he hasn't changed a bit since 2005.


    According to the paper this morning, the video game that the guy played most was Dance Dance Revolution at his local arcade. BAN THIS DISGUSTING MURDER SIMULATION!

      Dance dance revolution, How could we be so silly, Boycott this sick filth

    Im going to keep this short and sweet.

    If games are the cause of these problems then why isnt this happening everywhere? The rest of the world plays the same games but we only see this happening in the states. Gun control and healthcare are the real issue here.

    See the thing is that, There are Millions of gamers world wide and you're asking them all to stop playing online shooters for a day? Good luck with that, Mostly because how much coverage has the story had in australia other than when it first happened and little titbits on the news, We hear more news on the retard in england that killed herself over a prank call then we do about a man walking into a school slaughtering innocent children, That's F*cked up.

    What does he mean by the 21st, can't we play shooters on our 21st and 22nd because the US is a day behind, It's unclear.

    Call me a pessimist but this just seems for a grab for attention, I will guarantee that if this is somewhat successful we will hear about it in full force with his name and company attached to every bit.

    But back on topic, I will oblige his request to not play online shooters on the 21st

    *Edit: See what I mean the thumbnail includes his @gamerfitnation twitter handle, Fantastic... It's already started, What's the bet they will get subscribers from this and eventually, if not already, some adsense money

    Last edited 18/12/12 12:07 pm

    I learnt more about how to shoot a gun effectively from novels than I ever did from video games.

    pressing a mouse button is highly different from peicing together a gun loading it taking the safty off and pulling the trigger... And dont forget bout recoil

      the argument is that games are teaching a certain attitude towards guns, not how to use them

        the attitude in games is to survive... dont attract cops ...and not die/kill yourself

          no thats the aim of a game, the argument is that the way you wield guns in a game (without thought to the target etc etc) is desensitising to the effect of guns.

          I dont agree with these opinions but its better to know what youre disagreeing with than being illinformed

            Do not take gunplay in games out of context, either. There is an difference between attack and defense - in reality, and in videogames. Especially in open-world games too. Where the player is responsible for his own actions & choices.
            On another point. I believe censorship, in films/games, is actually the cause of desensitisation to weapons and violence. A hellova lot of people do not understand the actual damage caused by weapons in general. People do not keel over and die in a second, in the real world...

              yeah i have a compound bow and shooting it is totally different to far cry

                Noooooooo, pulling an bow string is no different to pressing the A button on an controller - where are you from, Actual Reality. Pshhhhhhhhhh :P

    I rage @ BF3 with the best of them! the amount of times i've really had to give myself a stern talking to, to stop me from destroying my keyboard, mouse monitor, keyboard, punch the door, jump on my tower and so on is countless, but i never say hmmmm, lets go buy/steal/get a gun and i'll show them or just randomly start a massacre... These's people have deeper issues, mentally and possibly physically, the world is not a fair place, and i sympathise but games don't make killers.

    I guess my comment didn't post?

    As someone (Kelly Oxford) on Twitter said:

    mental health care, education, stronger gun regulation... should be the resonant chant of this country.

    And I agree. No, this isn't video games possessing your children with demons or giving your children the experience they need to do bad things. This is far bigger than that. This is the proverbial elephant in the corner that nobody wants to acknowledge.

    (But with gun control, people are trying to talk about the elephant in the corner, but the NRA keeps stepping in and saying "Hey! That's my cousin you're talking about. She was born with elephantitis which gives her grey skin and makes her look like an elephant. Good job, jerk!" and everyone says "Oh.. sorry. Didn't know. Sorry. My bad" and nothing gets done)

    Too many people are focussing on the guns and not at the root cause of all this. These attacks aren't carried out by sane, reasonable individuals. They're carried out by sick, mentally ill people who usually feel isolated from society.

    Last Thursday, a man in China went into a school and stabbed 22 kids. Nobody is calling for knife control or calling for the ban of cooking classes. If a crazy person wants to hurt people, they will find a way. It doesn't matter if the government stops him accessing guns, and it doesn't matter if he 'respects' a gun or not. I doubt they respect anything very much.

    America must have some of the stupidest people, i just watched an interview with one of the children from the school and one of the comments was "If the teachers had of been able to carry a firearm there would have been far fewer deaths" are they serious? At no point does the thought, "maybe if we weren't all allowed fully automatic assault rifles and sniper rifles there would be fewer deaths" enter the mind, which is what everyone outside America is thinking.

      Was the comment from a little kid or an adult, if it's from a kid that's understandable but an adult that's just stupid. Teachers should not need to carry guns nor need the training to take out an armed intruder.

      What next put some Armed Soliders in every school, a Swat Team?

        Yep, a comment from (I believe) a US senator or some such was that if the principal had an M16 in her office then they could have shot the gunman in the head and it would have been over and done in minutes.


    JACK THOMPSON!!!!! The lawyer who tried to bring down the Grand Theft Auto franchise but FAILED!!!!! I can't believe he is still talking crap about violent games so many years later. He was really trying to pull Rockstar games down when they made Grand Theft Auto. Well, he failed badly and never won a case against Rockstar games. He eventually got disbarred from the law and when reporters/journalists ask Rockstar games for comments they didn't want to comment. Even now I am still not sure if Rockstar games have anything to do with the Jack Thompson getting disbarred from the law.

    Last edited 18/12/12 5:31 pm

    The online cease fire is the only thing stupider than the knee-jerk call to ban guns.

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