Super Columbine Massacre / Catcher in the Rye
The moral bankruptcy of the video game industry is back in the spotlight! Games are under fire again with the recent shooting spree in Montreal Quebec, Canada. On Wednesday of this week, a 25-year-old named Kimveer Gill walked into a Montreal college and opened fire, killing one student and injuring 19 others. Inspiration for the shooting perpetrated by this latest killer is being connected squarely to his favorite video game, Super Columbine Massacre. It's an underground game, free for download only, which means it's hardly indicative of the gaming industry at large. Not that published games follow any particular moral code, but there is a self-regulating body called ESRB, who provide a video game rating system. Free downloads are not bound to conform to this or any other rating system.
But there will be people (particularly the media) who lump SCM in the same category as any other video game you can name. Gill posted long, hate-filled tirades on an online community called VampireFreaks.com, and newspapers got hold of a specific quote that read:
"Metal and goth kick ass. Life is a video game, you've got to die sometime."
So, the philosophers in the news media tied it all together, and decided that Gill was a goth / metalhead driven to murder by a particularly tasteless and violent video game. So, again debate will rage about how tightly we should restrict the video game industry, even though SCM is no part of it. But that's small consolation to politicians eager to appear morally active, like former Senator Joe Lieberman with legislation like Jack Thompson's Video Game Bill.
Video games are a form of media. I will go out on a limb and agree that games like Super Columbine Massacre probably massage an unhealthy fascination. But I don't make any distinction between playing a tasteless game like CSM and watching a documentary TV special about serial killers or made-for-TV-movies that exploit tragic events. People who are shocked by video game violence will sit down in front of equally ghoulish TV shows like Forensic Files or American Justice. Newspapers routinely exploit our natural ghoulish inclinations with headlines like "Portrait of a Killer" in today's Toronto Star. This headline was specifically written to draw you in, appealing to the same part of your brain that causes you to slow down as you pass a tragic car accident.
Maybe these ghoulish tendencies hard-wired into our psyche allow us to process the unthinkable. But can anyone say our actions are caused or 'inspired' by media? The biggest single influence on Kimveer Gill, the one that actually inspired him to do the unthinkable, was Kimveer Gill.
Video games, even underground video games like SCM, are just media. So is a classic novel like J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, which according to gunman Mark Chapman inspired his murder of John Lennon.
Perhaps blaming external influences, like media, music or friends is yet another way for us to think we are processing the unthinkable, without actually doing so.