Commentary | The minute Ryan Lanza was wrongfully named as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter, internet users quickly scoured his Facebook profile and learned that he was a fan of the Bioware hit Mass Effect. Immediately, thousands of users took to the game’s Facebook page to place blame for the Newtown shootings on the violent RPG.
Even hours after Ryan Lanza was cleared of the shooting Facebook, users continued to attack Bioware. In one post, a user named “Stanley Esposito” wrote:
“How about they drop their weapons and teach kids the value of life? [In] the game the lives are unlimited in reality we only get one.”
Mario Lee echoed Esposito’s statement, writing that the game was:
“Motivation to go and shoot up malls, schools, jobs, movie theaters.”
Mass Effect is hugely popular on Facebook with more than 1,350,000 fan page likes.
It didn’t help that the social conscious sharing website Reddit also picked up the story and directed its users to the Mass Effect page, asking for a “call to action” against the deadly first person shooter.
While it has been learned that Ryan’s brother Adam Lanza was mentally ill and had easy access to his mother’s weapons, users have still been quick to blame the popular video game for the massacre.
The video game argument has been made many times in the past, often with more realistic game titles. Mass Effect isn’t exactly a Grand Theft Auto type game. Instead, it is based in a fictitious world where gamers take on aliens and not a defenseless school full of children.
Whenever I see people place blame on video games for violent acts, I am reminded of a lyric from rapper Eminem:
“And last week, I seen this Schwarzenegger movie
Where he’s shooting all sorts of these mothaf***ers with an uzi
I see three little kids, up in the front row
Screaming go, with their 17-year-old Uncle
I’m like, “Guidance.. ain’t they got the same moms and dads
Who got mad when I asked if they liked violence?”
That’s not to say that video games don’t glorify violence. However, in the case of Adam Lanza, he was known to be mentally ill, and he was known to have had access to his mother’s weapons.
Our culture is one based on instant gratification, and, for internet users, that often means finding the easiest point of attack and jumping at the chance to act as comment trolls. Users focused their anger at Mass Effect with all of their blame waving fingers despite knowing Adam Lanza was mentally ill. Take a look at some of the comments from a recently acquired screen capture:
Back to the instant gratification point: None (or most) of these angered internet users were not attacking Mass Effect before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Shocked by the events, angry commenters found something to blame immediately for the massacre and took out their anger on Bioware in order to expel their own bottled up emotions as quickly and ineffectively as possible.
The saying “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” comes to mind in this instance. Video games don’t kill people; people kill people. In fact, the most deadly school massacre in the United States occurred in 1927 at the Bath School in Bath Township, Michigan. No video games were available in 1927, yet 45 children aged 7 to 14 lost their lives.
Less we forget, hundreds of millions of people play video games and a very small minority go on shooting rampages; if games were as violence-inducing as critics would have us believe, we would be reporting on a new school shooting every few hours.
The biggest problem with the Mass Effect attack is simply that blame is placed on a single game. Forget that Adam Lanza needed mental health care or that other variable may have led to his decision to massacre Sandy Hook children. Instead, let us simply blame a game and move on. What we need in the United States is open dialogue, not finger pointing with absolution.