Written by: Jason Pitruzzello
This is the final installment in a three-part series.
It doesn’t. In fact, citing Thompson as an example can’t possibly do this for several reasons. First, in order for it to be clinical, a medical professional (mental health or some other kind of medical doctor) would have to use this in a controlled case study. No such thing has happened. Second, if you remember all the claims Walsh made about the school shooters, one of them was that they all spent countless hours practicing with the games before enacting them in real life. But that’s not what Thompson did. It’s quite the opposite. He shows “suicide bomber” behavior precisely because he’s bad at the game and never had enough time to play to get good at it. So which is it? Does playing violent video games a lot result in violent behavior or just playing them a little and being really bad at them? It can’t be both, otherwise there would be 8 million school shooters in the United States alone because, according to Gamespot, 8.1 million copies of Halo 3 alone have been purchased, not counting Doom, Doom II, Doom III, Quake, Quake II, etc.
Thompson’s article about suicide bombing is less about Halo 3 and more about him grasping something about the world around him. This is painfully obvious toward the end of the article when he writes:
“But the fact remains that something quite interesting happened to me because of Halo. Even though I’ve read scores of articles, white papers and books on the psychology of terrorists in recent years, and even though I have (I think) a strong intellectual grasp of the roots of suicide terrorism, something about playing the game gave me an ‘aha’ moment that I’d never had before: an ability to feel, in whatever tiny fashion, the strategic logic and emotional calculus behind the act.”
In other words, Thompson understands why suicide bombers do what they do because, like suicide bombers, he cannot hope to compete with smarter, better trained and better fighting adversaries. In his case, it’s in a videogame, whereas in real life, it’s suicide bombers blowing themselves up because they can’t hope to compete with United States Marines in terms of firepower, marksmanship or tactical aptitude. Perhaps Thompson chose his subject or his words poorly, but there’s nothing clinical or bizarre about his conclusions.
Before I take up the second claim that videogames train people to be good marksmen, I promised I would take up Walsh’s claims regarding Columbine:
“This author chose not to provide a full case study for Columbine since the fact that Doom was a key cause of that atrocity is well known, although still denied. Only an idiot or a liar would attribute the cause of any of these school atrocities to, ‘the kids were picked on at school.’ This is a new violence which corresponds directly to the distribution of specifically designed games to our youth. In the case of Harris and Klebold, they took advantage of a modifying feature, provided by Gates’ Microsoft, to design the killer game to fit their high school layout! In ‘God mode,’ where the shooters could ‘never die,’ the two were able to train endlessly on targets appearing in the settings of their own school. To one of these levels, Harris applied the name, ‘KILL ‘EM AAAAALLLL!’”
Interesting. Walsh claims that Doom was the cause of that atrocity and that you would have to be an “idiot or a liar” believe otherwise. I called this interesting because it means that the Surgeon General of the United States is either a liar or an idiot. That’s because the Surgeon General was commissioned to do a study of youth violence in the wake of Columbine. This report is a landmark study on the subject of youth violence because it helps dispel myths about youth violence and proposes solutions. Included in the myths section is the myth that “A new, violent breed of young super predators threatens the United States.” Wait, so it is a myth that there’s a new, violent breed of super predatory youth? Yes. But that’s not the only interesting thing to take away from the liar (or idiot) that is the Surgeon General of the United States. (That’s sarcasm, for those not paying attention.) The report also identifies several effective ways of preventing youth violence. Not listed in that section is anything about violent video games or movies.
Two portions of the report do address media violence. Some relevant quotations from those portions of the report:
“Second, as noted in Chapter 4, the preponderance of evidence indicates that violent behavior seldom results from a single cause; rather, multiple factors converging over time contribute to such behavior. Accordingly, the influence of the mass media, however strong or weak, is best viewed as one of the many potential factors that help to shape behavior, including violent behavior.”