We all are sick of the media blaming video games for all violent crimes. This once again caught my attention this morning when I chanced to look at a newspaper an old man was reading on the train. What caught my attention was the prominent image of the Achievement Hunters logo. At first I thought it might be something cool but it turned out to be an article about Will Cornick, the British 15 year old who stabbed his teacher to death and just received a twenty year jail sentence.
I’ll start by saying that I am in no way defending him, nor do I condone what he did. He got what he deserved. It is as simple as that.
But because of the Achievement Hunter logo I looked up an article from the Telegraph newspaper that had a more in depth story. Reading it, I was once again reminded how much the media would like to blame the worlds problems on the shoulders of video games.
This is the Telegraph’s description of Cornick: “a loner who spent much of his time playing violent video games including Dark Souls, which is set in a medieval alternate reality. Dark Souls II is marketed with the tag line ‘prepare to die’.”
Dark Souls? Really? That is their definition of a violent video game? No GTA, Call of Duty or any number of morally grey or excessively bloody games? Dark Souls is a fantasy game where you kill monsters to save a dying world. There is little blood, next to no opportunities of killing humans and a deep story about the cycles of the world and the decay of humanity. The tagline “Prepare to die” is taken completely out of context since the game’s selling point is how difficult it is. That is ‘Prepare for you as the player to be killed again and again until you are worn down and defeated” not “Prepare to kill others”.
But Cornick’s description doesn’t end there. “His Facebook page featured a picture of the grim reaper as its background, alongside a picture of the boy, with long hair, wearing a T-shirt with the logo of Achievement Hunter, an online gaming community”. This serves no purpose except to further highlight his gaming background. Why specify that he had long hair? Because it fits the stereotype.
This idea of stereotype is continued in the next paragraph. “Cornick listed the heavy metal band Bring me the Horizon and American rock band A Day to Remember as his ‘likes’, as well as the band Enter Shikari.” They are painting a picture that has been painted many times before. The lonely gamer, listening to rock/metal, then going on to commit gruesome crimes. This idea that this subset of society, a subset that I myself belong to, is outside the bounds of normal society is best shown through the Telegraph’s quote from a fellow student that “He wasn’t normal in the head. He was an emo and stuff like that, a mosher.”
I find that statement very disheartening. Games and music don’t turn people into killers. They don’t turn people into lonely wierdos either. People who don’t fit in with the world around them flock to games and rock because they find acceptance there. They can ignore the world and just be themselves. If anything, it is society as a whole that creates the monsters that we see rising from such backgrounds. We as social rejects are bullied and struggle to fit in. We are pushed away so that we delve deeper into the games and music, feeling only a growing bitterness towards the society that shunned us. How many times can someone be pushed down into the mud before they finally just snap or give up all together. It isn’t just murderers that come from these groups but also the highest levels of suicide and self harm. These people are crying out but are ignored and branded as misfits. I’d be willing to bet my life savings that people who like football and listen to rap commit far more criminal offences than these few but shocking cases from the gaming camp but we expect that and so ignore it as a commonplace occurrence.
The article goes on to explain how Cornick had excellent grades and attendance and was a good student until shortly before he committed his crime. This proves that he started out good, was not a time waster or delinquent and could have made something of himself but instead took a sharp turn to murder. Questions have to be asked, questions that I fear people don’t care about while the issues can be easily swept under the carpet.
In the end, I can only say that this was a tragic event caused by a warped minded boy and that the media should be ashamed for their tactic of ostracising the ostracised. It only backs up the belief in those outside of mainstream society that they have nowhere to turn and that society has no respect for them. That is also why we as a gaming community should stick together and not tear ourselves to pieces (looking at you, Gamergate and Youtube comments). No one else is going to look out for us. Peace.