Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

No Russian

Written By: Bob - Feb• 17•13

At the time it was released, the level “No Russian” from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was one of the most shockingly violent video game scenes ever created.

In the scene,  the player is a U.S. Army Ranger who undertakes a deep-cover mission for the CIA, infiltrating an ultra-nationalist Russian terrorist group. The player sees the scene from this undercover Ranger’s point-of-view as the terrorists step out of an elevator with machine guns and lay waste to hundreds of civilians at a Russian airport terminal.

The player is unable to stop the massacre, as the game makes the player start the level over again as he turns on his comrades. He must go through the whole level watching men and women stop down in cold blood in front of him, or he can choose to participate in the slaughter. The game designers rather chillingly put horribly wounded individuals in the path of the player, as if to coax them into slaughtering victims as “mercy killings” to desensitize them.

I played through No Russian multiple times because I wanted direct knowledge of the consequences of my choices. The first time through I had done what came to me naturally, which was to try to stop the event, but firing on the perpetrators ends the mission immediately. The next time I stood by and watched. It is not an easy scene to stomach, and I tried to distance myself emotionally from what was going on.

The third time, I decided that I would participate. I could have chosen not to; I could have simply moved on then, or even shut off the system and never played again. But a certain curiosity won out– that kind of cold-blooded curiosity that craves the new and the forbidden. I pulled the trigger and fired.

To games familiar with the franchise, this video will be old hat and nothing to be all that upset over. To normal humans unaccustomed to the depravity of this scene, it is every bit as shocking as Infinity Ward wanted to impart.

This is the scene that the Daily Mail is hinting at when it claims Adam Lanza planned theSandy Hook massacre based on his exposure to a video game scene:

Police investigating the Newtown school killings have been looking into the possibility that gunman Adam Lanza may have been copying a video game as killed 26 people in the massacre.

Two months after the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School, little remains known about Lanza’s motive.

Before the killings, he had smashed his hard drive, making his online trail and habits impossible to follow, but police did reportedly find thousands of dollars worth of violent video games.

It is believed that Lanza played the games, which included the Call of Duty series, for hours on end.

Along with the video games, Adam Lanza also learned how to fire guns during numerous sessions with his mother Nancy Lanza at a shooting range, where the two ‘bonded.’

The Hartford Courant reported today that detectives are probing whether Lanza may have been copying a scenario from one of those video games as he fired rounds from his mother’s Bushmaster assault rifle in two classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14.

The U.S. military spends billions on simulators to help train soldiers to kill. Law enforcement agencies have simulations to train officers in “shoot/don’t shoot” scenarios, and to show them how rapidly a scene can go from seemingly benign to shockingly lethal. No sober, rational person can dispute that video simulators are highly useful in teaching people to kill.

Lt Col Dave Grossman author of On Killing and On Combat, authored another book in 2009, Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie & Video Game Violence. It proposes not doing away with violent video games, but restricting them for purchase from those too young and psychologically underdeveloped to readily discern between right and wrong. As a reviewer notes:

Too frequently in the wake of such crimes against society we see, in the criminal investigations following, that the suspect did play violent video games and was also withdrawn, isolated and ‘strange.’ Time and time again these descriptions are used to characterize the killers and yet a percentage of people still deny any connections. Of course people who own firearms are also reluctant to see links between ‘guns and kids’ but the access to guns vs. videos is a bit tilted towards the ease and public acceptance of violent video games either in the home or at arcades. While the detractors would demand ‘proof’, it seems that videos are far more accessible to kids than guns and laws exist to keep firearms locked up while children are almost encouraged to play those games and keep quiet. Young minds, investigated by so many fields of psychology and behavioral studies, have proven very malleable and young eyes and hands have been shaped by some of the most violent games to be capable and quick in their manipulations of real firearms (when they are able to obtain them). We see proofs of such in the hit ratios at nearly all such shootings. Accurate, fast and seemingly indifferent to the results. But some will say ‘oh how could a stupid little game with a mouse and keyboard provide any benefits in any of those areas’ and thus discount or completely dismiss the possibility and then they walk smugly away.

For those who will learn, will see and hear and absorb the correlation of ‘violent games’ to ‘violent behavior’ and ‘repeated, memorized actions’ to ‘eerily professional ability and kill ratios’, Col. David Grossman’s books will be a valuable tool in hopefully curtailing their kid’s exposure to such games. It should be noted that Grossman calls for such restrictions for younger kids and not adults, he’s not suggesting a curtailing of 1st Amendment rights in any way but saying that young people should be protected from impacts and influences that are better coped with by adults. Of course some detractors would say that is unnecessary and even foolish as they see nothing in anything that is even potentially malevolent. Those types will always be around and trolling for responses.

For parents of children this is a must read book as are “On Killing” and “On Combat” – both helping parents to understand the portions of their children’s psyche that can be wrongly influenced by their repeated activities over even short times – don’t be put off by a small number of negative reviews who cry unfair or foul. Buy it, look at the current events of today and recent history, and ask yourself what has changed in the raising of kids and what is the biggest sole occupier of kid’s time today versus 25 years ago… and how is that all working out for society?

The review was posted 48 hours after Sandy Hook.

Perhaps it is time to stop the knee-jerk responses to absolve video games for crimes they quite obviously contribute to under the right devil’s brew of circumstances.

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30 Comments

  1. Dave says:

    It is one thing to kill as a soldier, or in protection of the innocent or self. It is another thing to murder innocents. And it is not just killing. There is rape, theft, beatings and more.

    But the true issue is parenting, or the lack of parenting. If the money was not being paid there would not be games like this.

    I love shooting games, but that would be over the top.

  2. mightysamurai says:

    “Too frequently in the wake of such crimes against society we see, in the criminal investigations following, that the suspect did play violent video games and was also withdrawn, isolated and ‘strange.’ Time and time again these descriptions are used to characterize the killers and yet a percentage of people still deny any connections.”

    Uh, no offense to you Mr. Owens, but the reason people deny it is because the “connections” are tenuous at best.

    “Withdrawn, isolated, and strange” are such incredibly vague descriptors that to even attempt to build a government policy around them would be ludicrous. There are millions of people who play violent video games, and millions of people who could be described in one way or another as “withdrawn, isolated, and strange”. Yet only a tiny minority of people commit these mass murders. Trying to pin the blame on violent video games alone is as silly as trying to pin the blame on guns alone.

  3. pat says:

    Call of Duty is also the most popular and best selling video games franchise ever. If you’re a man, and you’re under 40, chances are you have a lot of experience playing CoD. Additionally, the rate of mass shootings in the United States has, depending on which study you choose, either remained the same or decreased over the past several decades. Widespread acceptance and popularity of realistic first person shooters (FPS) are a much more recent phenomenon than mass shootings. Prior to the advent of the Xbox in 2001 (and the hugely popular launch title Halo: Combat Evolved, that came with it) gaming consoles simply didn’t have the technology to make FPS’s realistic enough to be popular, and “super-realistic” shooters weren’t possible until the release of the Xbox 360 and PS3 in 2005. Columbine happened in 1999, before FPS’s were hugely popular, and the University of Texas massacre happened before FPS’s even existed. If we are to believe that violent FPS’s have a correlation to mass shootings, then we would expect to see a correspondingly huge measurable increase in said shootings in tandem with the exploding popularity of FPS’s over the last decade. Any such correlation, however, has failed to materialize.

    I find that this argument generally comes from people who have no experience playing such violent games (i.e: over the age of 40), and who don’t understand the mentality of the average gamer. Video games, even violent ones (especially violent ones, some of my friends would argue)are therapeutic. I play video games when I am either bored or stressed. I find them to be a great stress relief, and everyone I know who games agrees. This should be unsurprising, since all forms of entertainment are primarily designed as distractions from our daily lives intended to either reduce stress or alleviate boredom. This includes books, movies, music, and games of all types (even the video ones).

    So why does this matter? Because if someone decides to lash out and go on a killing spree, they generally do it against their perceived source of stress. These maniacs aren’t killing for fun, they’re killing because in their sick twisted minds their targets have wronged them in some way, and this is their retribution. It’s why schools are so often targeted. Our school system can be an extremely stressful and challenging time for any child. Doubly so for one with mental disabilities. Throw in a broken or abusive family situation, and the child has no where to escape from his daily stress inducers. He goes to school and is harassed by his peers and then comes home to be further abused by his family. When these children turn to violent video games, they are either a) trying to find some sort of relief from their unending sources of stress, or b) indulging in their violent fantasies that are reactions to their school and/or family life, NOT the games they are playing.

    Anyway, that’s why I firmly believe that blaming massacres and violence in general on violent entertainment of any kind is an exercise in futility. It should be unsurprising that killers often play violent video games because a) their violent personalities and fantasies draw them towards playing such games, and b) they are largely popular with ALL young men. I think the real issue here is the collapse of the family unit over the past several decades. There ARE studies that show strong correlations between broken/abusive families and violence. It’s also why I believe many of these killers are often liberals. The Republican party has tried to champion the idea of the traditional family over the past 20 years, while the Democratic party has championed the ideas of “alternative” family lifestyles and single parenting over the same time. It should be unsurprising then that members of broken families would gravitate towards the Dems, since that party in essence is trying heavily to recruit them. And since broken families can produce violent children, and the Democratic party caters to broken families, many violent killers are therefore also Democrats or from Democrat-leaning households.

    Anyway, that’s my theory. Thoughts?

  4. Phelps says:

    There were 4.2 MILLION copies of MW2 sold. That’s at least 4.2 million players, although with resales and multiple users, it’s more like 8-20 million.

    The question isn’t why a MW2 player did this. The question is, if it was an influence, why haven’t there been more?

    • Phelps says:

      Actually, my numbers are low. They sold 4.7 million on opening day. They eventually sold over 22 million worldwide. Activision has confirmed that there have been 25 million unique players just in the multiplayer (online) version.

  5. Kevin says:

    Dave Grossman’s entire concept was an expansion of the research presented in S.L.A Marshall’s book “Men Against fire”. It turns out that S.L.A Marshall didn’t actually do any of the research he describes, he just made up his results. Hence you have to have serious doubts about anyone who uses Marshall’s “research” as a starting point.

    He’s done some good work, his talk about school shootings vs school fires was (http://www.policeone.com/active-shooter/articles/2058168-Active-shooters-in-schools-The-enemy-is-denial), but not all of what he has done is very useful.

    http://www.theppsc.org/Grossman/SLA_Marshall/Main.htm

    http://www.carlisle.army.mil/usawc/Parameters/Articles/03autumn/chambers.pdf

  6. Robb Allen says:

    Yup, this is one place I will disagree strongly with both you and Col. Grossman (whose book I have read and found instructive).

    The argument you are using is the same on the anti’s use against guns. An infinitesimally small percentage of gun owners kill, therefore it must be the guns. As Phelps said, they sold 4.7 million copies on the first day. If CoD was responsible for training people to wantonly kill, we’d have seen hundreds of massacres.

    Interestingly,I’m 40 and I’m not a huge fan of FPS but I do like to play from time to time. I’m currently playing Crysis 2 (I like to wait until games drop in price) and yes, I have to kill humans with head shots or stabbing them in the throat for a stealth kill. They’re not real people, they’re computer pixels. I no more have any desire to harm another human, much less kill them, than I did before I played it.

    I played GTA throughout the years, and sometimes it’s fun being the ‘bad guy’ for pretend. Doesn’t make me want to go out and do the same things in real life, just like being a gun owner doesn’t make me bloodthirsty.

    • Bob says:

      Perhaps I need to be more clear.

      I play Halo and CoD, but like you, I’m an adult able to separate fact and fiction.

      There are kids six and eight years old out there playing CoD and Halo as anyone who has heard their falsetto squeals while playing multi-player online will readily verify. Is anyone going to really argue that desensitizing children this young to graphic violence is psychologically healthy?

      When you combine these sort of games with the music and movies and other violent and misogynistic behavior, the combined cultural impact is going to start altering the way people think, especially those souls too young to have developed a sense of right and wrong.

      I have never claimed (nor has Grossman, or anyone else), that playing violent video games at a young age will turn everyone or even many into killers. That is a strawman.

      What it does do is desensitizes people at a young age to violence against other people, and in some rare cases, could possibly turn what might have been a suicide into a murder suicide, or a mass-murder suicide.

      The jury is still out on what the precise witch’s brew is and we may never get it down completely, but we know most of the recent mass murderers of the modern era were dissociative gamers in their teens and 20s on SSRIs. That is a pattern, whether anyone wants to address it or not. We’re not seeing it from teenaged girls on Pintrest or Etsy.

      I don’t think anyone is worried about us old farts playing the occasional FPS shooter to blow off steam. The concern is young men obsessively playing these games hours a day, every day, to the exclusion of all other real life human contact. That is bad for the human animal and the species at large regardless of whether or not they ever snap.

      • Rob Crawford says:

        There are kids six and eight years old out there playing CoD and Halo …

        And you apparently play along with them, rather than deprive them of people to play with. Their parents are primarily at fault, but you’re tagging along with them, aren’t you?

      • Bob says:

        These kids were the reason I quit playing multi-player. I either play the campaigns or the individual missions now exclusively.

      • Phelps says:

        So what you are saying is that because there is the potential of a game to turn one in 22 million into a mass killer that somehow that is enough reason to abridge the 1st Amendment? That is the same slippery slope as the hoplophobes.

      • mightysamurai says:

        “The jury is still out on what the precise witch’s brew is and we may never get it down completely, but we know most of the recent mass murderers of the modern era were dissociative gamers in their teens and 20s on SSRIs. That is a pattern, whether anyone wants to address it or not. We’re not seeing it from teenaged girls on Pintrest or Etsy.”

        And in the years before violent video games the profile was exactly the same…only without the “gamer” part. Video games are mindblowingly popular with today’s youth. That doesn’t prove or even suggest a connection between video games and violence.

        “I don’t think anyone is worried about us old farts playing the occasional FPS shooter to blow off steam. The concern is young men obsessively playing these games hours a day, every day, to the exclusion of all other real life human contact. That is bad for the human animal and the species at large regardless of whether or not they ever snap.”

        Fair enough, but that’s a cultural problem that the government isn’t equipped to solve. What are we going to do, create a Social Activity Police to monitor the number of hours every young man (or young woman) spends gaming? Are we going to drag these anti-social gamers out of their homes and force them to interact with others IRL?

    • Rob Crawford says:

      I played GTA throughout the years, and sometimes it’s fun being the ‘bad guy’ for pretend.

      It’s always fun to hear someone rant about GTA and then praise to the skies movies like “The Godfather”. Um, hello? What do you think the inspiration for GTA was?

  7. Treker says:

    I found the video disgusting . I don’t understand the lust for blood . Very disturbing.

    • Bill says:

      Growing up on Tom Clancy books, I thought the COD series was pretty par for course global conspiracy. It’s not hard to figure out why they put the scene in there.

      It just sucks that your only option was to ride the rail.

  8. Redbear762 says:

    Bob,

    Inevitably there will come a time where those of like minds *will* differ and this is a topic and a point of view where we will; I own Col. Grossman’s books and fundamentally disagree with his (and your) premise about video games.

    If his premise were true then we would be the most violent society on the planet today bar none and we would have let loose an entire generation of psychotic killers into the world.

    I’m a former Infantryman and a gamer and no more violent at 45 than I was as a 21 year old grunt.

  9. Thomas says:

    Nope its not the games or that fact that a six year old is playing halo or cod. Its because parents are not doing there job. School are not giving kids realistic expectations of life ie dont worry no one losses when we play baseball crap. Throw in some other stuff and you get very unstable and confused young adults. But really there just isnt that many events of mass murder happening in this country. Im just tired of having to defend my god given right to self defense. We shouldnt have to sit here and find scapegoats like vidio games to defend are rights.

  10. Rob Crawford says:

    Ever seen the movie “Death Wish”? Early on there’s a scene where two women are raped and beaten; one dies as a result. The viewer is forced to watch as the crime is carried out by ACTUAL PEOPLE (mostly — Jeff Goldblum is in the scene) rather than digital projections of rough approximations of people.

    Then there’s “Saving Private Ryan”. The opening scene there involves legendary scenes of gore, and there’s nothing to viewer can do to stop it. I understand some people have seen this movie multiple times, apparently reveling in the slaughter played out for their entertainment.

  11. Comrade X says:

    methinks this guy has been playing too many video games:

    Chicago police chief: We’ll shoot licensed civilians with guns….

    http://www.gunssavelife.com/?p=4552

    Death before slavery!

  12. Klingonwork says:

    Dang, mom was right…

    Molon Labe

  13. LFMayor says:

    Boys, you might want to take a look at some historical precedents, like Missouri in the Civil War, or Yugoslavia before death made Tito drop everyone’s ball sack.

    Like it or not war, REAL war is coming. And the bitch kitty is that it’s lowest common denominator. How low will you go, or how low will the others go? To win, you just might have to go all LeMay and ashtray some cities. Which is how that little spat got won. Cities burned flat. And don’t give me some academic tripe about “how it strengthend resolve”. It worked, just like shooting all the damn buffalo worked, just like Sherman’s march and the salting of Carthage by the Romans worked. War is not glorius and most of these gaming fanboys are going to lose it when their buddy gets his spaghetti-O’s blown out all over the ground right beside them and doesn’t “re-spawn”.

    I sorry to piss on the Rawlsean Paladins of Goode Deeds Campfire, but based upon what you can read ALREADY in the news about crimes the entitlement classes commit (like those two kids in Knoxville) what is coming down the road is going to make you want to puke your soul out. To survive, to protect those you love, you better be ready to go all chips in. Those Queensbury rules will fly right out the window.

    Be as human as you can but still win, because if they do they won’t be human at all to you and yours.

    • LFMayor says:

      chalk it up to a foaming rant: Yugo AFTER Tito threw a gasket. He kept the lid on the pot while he was still there.

  14. Jrggrop says:

    As others have pointed out. Dr. Grossman’s theory was based on flawed data. There is another good source of information here, an article in the Canadian Military Journal.

    http://www.journal.forces.gc.ca/vo9/no2/16-engen-eng.asp

  15. Parker says:

    IMO, for those who are latently sociopathic, violent games and movies further anesthetize them to the reality of taking human life. That’s why BHO is so quick on the trigger with drones. Its just a video game.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKggU2y5x2Y

    Coming to your neighborhood, soon.

  16. Mudlark says:

    Bob:

    The mental condition of this individual was at best unstable. God knows what kinds of drug/alcohol abuse he may have engaged in. This seems to be the common link between the past lefty killers of the past decade. Its amazing how society will not do anything about these “choirboys” who love spending days playing these games and are generally characterized as creepy. This ability to ignore the abnormal types and penalize the law abiding is the usual policy of gun grabbers.

    Games and movies have become far more violent than they were a decade ago. This kind of bloodlust can only appeal to those who have problems.

  17. JD says:

    The difference b/t this argument and that of the hoplophobes is that guns, unlike violent video games, serve a calling high enough to make the negative aspects worthwhile.
    It is true that without guns there would be no mass shootings. It is also true that without guns people would be much less able to defend themselves against criminals/bullies/murderers/rapists.
    The inherent ability of guns to do this good thing means we should keep guns.
    What good is done by exposing young people to these ultra-violent video games that makes it worth exposing them to it and probably corrupting some of their minds?

  18. blacksmith says:

    Its NOT that everyone who plays will go on a mass shooting spree. Its that some tiny minority do.

    When I see a Campbells Soup comercial I don’t get up and immediately drive to the grocery store and buy soup. Does that prove advertising doesn’t work? Of course not!

    Its an idea, planted in your brain. Opposing the planting of homocidal thoughts in young brains is not controversial or a reach.

    Obviously, there are plenty of people too invested in the games to see that maybe, just maybe, the youngest should be kept away from them.

    • Bob says:

      And that’s all I’m asking, really: keep them out of the hands of those who are two young yet to discern right from wrong.