There are few certainties in life, but you can always bank on death, taxes, and white terrorists being diagnosed with gaming addictions after they’ve committed terrible crimes.
Brown terrorists have their radicalisation dissected, usually tying it to something in the culture of their ancestors, or their religion. But the white terrorists have some kind of tragic backstory involving the death of a parent, and suddenly turning from being a caring schoolboy into a game-addicted maniac.
I’m not going to mention the name of the terrorist who killed 50 innocent people in New Zealand last week, because his isn’t the name we should remember, but I will say that this narrative has started up yet again.
Video games are such convenient scapegoats, aren’t they? Some are violent, and a lot of keyboard warriors who magically become psychologists every time there’s a tragedy are afraid of the things they don’t know – and they don’t know video games beyond seeing a scaremongering story on a current affairs show once.
According to the IGEA, 67 per cent of Australians play video games. So if games made people into violent psychopaths, we would be doomed.
I’ve been playing games for most of my life, and as a game reviewer I play more than most, yet somehow I have managed to avoid killing anyone.
Is gaming addiction a real thing? Yes. People can get addicted to almost anything. Do games make you violent? Well, there’s been plenty of reputable studies that say no.
However, there is a trend that white nationalist terrorists, who kill hundreds of women, queer people, people of colour, and children in the US each year, play video games. That’s probably because video games are one of the most popular hobbies and they’re also amazing.
Video games make anyone, anywhere in the world, feel like a superhero who can do anything, no matter their actual physical abilities or what they’re like in the real world.
So it’s really no surprise that these spineless racists turn to fictional worlds where they can be gods.
These inadequate young men feel that the real world is depriving them of what they ‘deserve’. They feel they’re owed cushy, well-paid jobs and beautiful women just because they’re white men and supposedly superior to all else. More than anything, they fear an equal playing field because their lack of skills, and lack of will to improve themselves, means they know they will be left behind in a world that doesn’t discriminate against people because of their ethnicity, religion, sexuality or gender.
At the heart of every racist is fear, and the need to demonise others to hide their own shortcomings. It’s so much easier to have an enemy than it is to be introspective and work on becoming a better person.
So, were 50 people killed in New Zealand’s worst ever terrorist attack because this violent racist played relatively tame RPG World of Warcraft and the violent and misogynistic Grand Theft Auto? Or is it because he marinated in the more vile corners of the internet that are famous for radicalising racists?
Could it be that this terrorist was radicalised by the dregs of the internet at a time when the President of the United States of America has called white nationalists “fine people”, and when we have a representative in the Australian Senate who thinks it’s acceptable to hit a child and to espouse anti-Semitic sentiment?
Not to mention the social media posts that normalise hating people who subscribe to a religion practised by well over a billion people around the world. And the YouTube algorithms that have been shown to radicalise people and turn fringe craziness (like flat-earth theories and anti-vaccination) into mainstream beliefs. Could that normalisation of hatred have been a major contributor?
Following the terrorist attack in Christchurch, someone I went to high school with posted on her Facebook that the attack was “payback”, applauding the terrorist for killing those people. She doesn’t play video games, and yet she thinks it was a just attack.
I’m in LA right now at an event with journalists from around the world. One of them has asked me how bad the racism is in Australia and whether it’s a safe country, because they’ve heard otherwise.
Racist and unsafe – this is now our international reputation and it’s got nothing to do with playing video games.
It would be so much easier if the cause was simply violent video games. We could ban them and keep going the way we’re going.
But it’s not, and we can’t. So instead of trying to pin the blame on this entertainment medium, let’s have a long hard look at ourselves and correct our course before this isn’t just an isolated incident.
Alice Clarke is a freelance journalist who reviews games for Sunday Herald Sun. @Alicedkc