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CALkulon avatar 3:27 PM on 11.11.2008  (server time)
Idiotic UK press attacks games...again

We've all seen it before, but it certainly doesn't get any easier when the press blindly lash out at video games, scapegoating them for abhorrent and disgusting crimes. The last week has been no different.

Today in the Daily Record, a tabloid UK newspaper, a report on the man jailed for brutally killing an innocent woman and cutting up her body before throwing it into the sea. Clearly, a very, very, sick man. Who happens to like playing GTA in his cell.

Without any evidence, the article asserts that Aleksandras Skirda "gets his kicks in jail by murdering prostitutes in a blood-soaked computer game". Their source, a jail insider, says he enjoys playing GTA, Need for Speed:Underground, and Mortal Kombat. We do not know beyond any sort of reasonable doubt that he actually goes around murdering hookers in the game "for kicks", and so such a spurious implied link between his actions and GTA is reprehensible.

Unfortunately in the UK we're all too familiar with such outbursts from the tabloids, but the broadsheets aren't doing a better job. A few days ago, the Daily Telegraph ran the story of a GTA player who sexually assaulted women. The headline mentions the game, again implying a serious connection, but reading further shows he assaulted the women whilst high on drugs and alcohol, and had an "unhealthy interest" in porn. (Note: that is another debate for another day.) His obsession with the game? Playing it for "hours on end" before bed. Since when is that abnormal behaviour? Most of us gamers do similar things reguarly.

These examples of so-called journalism may not directly accuse the games of influencing these men, but they certainly do try to implicate them by giving them the all important headline attention. There is no attempt in either article to try and address the underlying issues at hand, the background of the men or what really could have driven them to assault/kill others. Unfortunately, I fear that newspapers will always use video games an easy way to grab headlines and sell papers rather than address the issues at hand, as they are an easy scapegoat that an ignorant general public will happily accept as being at fault.

Personally, I would like to see developers take a harder line against papers who print such dross instead of their own consumers, however this is unlikely given the costs and bad publicity that may come with this. So as always, we, the (fairly) sensible and non-hooker-killing gamers are left to suffer the negative stigma that comes with our favourite pastime.

(Note: In the preview the header image has been enlarged, and I have no idea why. Sorry, but don't shout at me for it!)

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