Video game

Opinion: YouTubers and video games aren’t responsible for this tragedy – Kidspot

But, the internet isn’t blameless here.

Two days ago, a 28-year-old Australian citizen (who I will not be naming in this article, because he doesn’t deserve fame) walked into the Deans Ave Mosque in Christchurch and killed 41 innocent people, a further seven were killed at the Linwood mosque and another person has since died in hospital with 50 more sustaining injuries. 

It was a senseless tragedy that has left the world searching for solace in answers and solutions.

Who was this killer? Well, he was a troll. He was a man with an online presence on forums like 8Chan, a hotbed of racism, misogyny and violence, a place that most people with any sense of humanity avoid like the plague. He didn’t just avoid it, he thrived in it. In fact, prior to committing the offense he posted his intentions on the forum and received support from other users. 


A screenshot of the post on 8Chan.

It was on 8Chan that he first posted his ‘manifesto’ a document riddled with sarcasm and references to meme culture. A kind of unfunny edgy humour known in those circles of the internet as sh*tposting. 

“Subscribe to PewDiePie”

When he began his attack, which he live-streamed to Facebook, he called out “remember lads, subscribe to PewDiePie”. 

PewDiePie, a 29-year-old Swede whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, responded to the mention by tweeting: “Just heard news of the devastating reports from New Zealand Christchurch. I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person. My heart and thoughts go out to the victims, families and everyone affected by this tragedy.”

Picture: Youtube

A screenshot from one of PewDiePie’s recent Youtube videos. 

Still, the mention of his name pulled the popular Youtuber into the spotlight – had he inspired the attacks? Was he somehow to blame for the radicalisation of this man? The answer is, no.

PewDiePie is a Youtuber who makes videos about gaming and memes. Yes, he’s had his own run-ins over the years with ‘edgy humour’ gone wrong, but there is nothing on his channel that would suggest he is promoting a white nationalist agenda to his audience or inciting violence of any kind. You don’t have to like the man to see that he is innocent in this situation. 

The term “subscribe to PewDiePie” has become a meme itself as he battles to maintain his position as the most subscribed Youtube channel. So why did the attacker use his name? Simply, to participate in the meme, and to gain notoriety on the sad depths of the internet where this might be considered an accomplishment. He wasn’t giving PewDiePie credit, he was giving a nod to his fellow trolls

Indeed, his entire ‘manifesto’ is filled with meme references, most of them too awful, racist and offensive for the average person to recognise. Everything, right down to the music he played as he drove towards the mosque was a reference to a meme. 


Picture: Epic Games.

Fortnite? No.

Here’s a great example of the level of trolling and sh*t posting that was going on in this ridiculous document. In his FAQ section, the man wrote:

“Q: Were you taught violence and extremism by video games, music, literature, cinema?

Yes, Spyro the dragon 3 taught me ethno-nationalism. Fortnite trained me to be a killer and to floss on the corpses of my enemies. No.”

Now, many media outlets were quick to jump on the first part of that answer, despite the fact that it is obvious sarcasm, and neglected to include the part where he concluded ‘no’. 

So, one more time for the cheap seats in the back: no, Fortnite is not responsible for training this man to kill. That blame would actually lie with the guns he was allowed to buy and the shooting ranges he was able to attend to literally train himself to kill. 

In fact, there was a very recent very comprehensive study from the Oxford Internet Institute and the University of Oxford, on the link between video games and real-life aggression in young people which concluded that no link could be found.

The lead researcher Professor Andrew Przybylskitold Forbes: “The idea that violent video games drive real-world aggression is a popular one, but it hasn’t tested very well over time. Despite interest in the topic by parents and policy-makers, the research has not demonstrated that there is cause for concern.”

If not videogames, then who’s to blame?

Number one, obviously, is the person who decided to pick up a gun and channel the hatred within himself into hurting other people. It’s also the fault of the culture of racism and fear that lets white supremacists thrive. But, much more terrifyingly, I think it’s a part of modern culture that we all buy into: we communicate solely through electronics. 

We’ve slowly transitioned into a world where we don’t really talk to people very much outside of our close family and friends. Most of the time we keep up with mates on messenger or other social media. It’s easier to like a picture and leave a comment than it is to pick up a phone and have a whole damn conversation. 

Our kids are living in an isolated world

This is the world our kids have been born into, they’re increasingly more isolated and making connections only online. I think we’re going to see its negative effects very soon, in fact, I think we’ve just seen them. This man spent so much time communicating through hatred to similarly miserable hate-filled, faceless individuals online.  There was no empathy in that 8Chan forum, no kindness, no soul. It is inside these echo-chambers that hate breeds, they find there the camaraderie that is missing in their ‘real lives’. 

We can’t let our kids go down the same path, we need to get them off screens and interacting with each other in the real world. We need to fight the loneliness that is living a life solely online. Teach them social skills, teach them how to express empathy, teach them the value of kindness for kindness sake, and if they occasionally want to play Fortnite while they do that, be comforted that it’s not going to do them harm.


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