Nearly two years later, MW2’s name came up on the internet for wrong reasons once more. Anders Behring Breivik, the suspect in the brutal killing of 93 people in Oslo, Norway on July 22, 2011, mentioned the game by name in his ‘manifesto.’ Amidst writings of radical right-wing anti-Muslim views, Breivik spoke of his love for 2009’s Call of Duty game.
"I just bought Modern Warfare 2, the game,” wrote Breivik. “It is probably the best military simulator out there and it's one of the hottest games this year. I see MW2 more as a part of my training-simulation than anything else. I've still learned to love it though and especially the multiplayer part is amazing. You can more or less completely simulate actual operations."
This information did not gain much media attention, but should be important to gamers and developers alike. Revelations such as this would no doubt do more to fan the flames of video game controversy. Through advances in technology, games like Call of Duty have attained such a sense of realism that Breivik’s point of the game being a simulation for actual operations is not that farfetched.
Incidents like this beg the age-old question: do video games cause people to become violent? Villanova psychology professor Patrick Markey recently conducted a study to try and find correlation between violent video games and people becoming violent, and the results were interesting, to say the least.
“The basic conclusion is simple,” Dr. Markey said. “Most people are not adversely affected by violent video games, and those that are have preexisting dispositions, [meaning] they are disagreeable, impulsive and neurotic.” The study, conducted along with Gary W. Giumetti, had 167 university undergrads perform a series of tasks, including randomly being assigned to play video games that were deemed either violent or nonviolent.
Individuals who were deemed to have ‘high anger’ and ‘moderate anger’ by a series of questionnaires and other tests had ‘a significant increase of aggressive responses’ to a final round of questioning after playing violent video games. However, individuals deemed to have low levels of anger were not significantly affected by violent video games. Still, these results are not exactly cut and dry, and there’s nothing written in stone about the effects that violence in games have on someone.
“Research in this area is still too early to know for sure,” said Markey. “Most of our outcomes are only proxy measures [like] answers on questionnaires, aggression measured in a lab setting, et cetera. So far, the only thing that can be known is that violent video games cause some people to feel more hostile.”
Starting with the shooting at Columbine High School over 10 years ago, people have been looking to place blame for such atrocities on video games, but there’s simply not enough evidence to back that up. The shooters at Columbine, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, were known to have played another violent first-person shooter titled Doom, and were classified as loners and unpopular students who were the targets of bullying. Markey said that Columbine was the start of research into violent video games and aggressive behaviors.
Klebold and Harris were poster boys of “kids playing violent video games is bad” for many years. However, with the advent of online gaming, the violent, anti-social stereotype is beginning to fade away. Markey says that gaming online is an interesting aspect of games.
“Although most people still play video games in isolation, a growing number are now online and interacting,” he said. “While many of these interactions are one-time affairs, like [playing a deathmatch] on Xbox Live against a randomly created group, some of these interactions are ongoing and even result in real friendships and romance. This is probably going to be the next big area of research.”