As the world continues to mourn the 12 people innocently murdered during the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, the tragic events in Colorado draws an unfortunate light on the ongoing debate surrounding video game violence.
Murder suspect James Holmes, a 24-year-old neuroscience drop-out, is alleged to have opened fire on a crowded cinema with critics suggesting video games as his influence.
Criminal profiler Pat Brown offered her opinions on CNN during the news cycle after the event, suggesting Holmes was likely driven by an addiction to video games.
"He probably spent a lot of time in his apartment, playing one video game after the other—shooting, shooting, shooting—building up his courage and building up the excitement of when it’s going to be real for him,” Brown said.
"And now we’re going to find, probably on (Facebook) or anybody who knows him will say – Yeah, he did have a lot of interest in that.”
While the words are both damning and haunting in equal measures, with the greatest of sensitivity to the victims and their families, there is little evidence to support such claims.
Video game violence has been blamed for many heinous crimes in the past, including those of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer who reportedly used games such as Modern Warfare 2 as ‘training’ prior to the massacre of 77 victims a year ago yesterday.
Yet a report published in February suggested exposure to video game violence does not lead to increased aggression.
Brown did stress however that while video games were not directly responsible, they carry the potential to transform criminals into ‘killing mode.’
"He was always playing the video games,” Brown said. "And I’m not saying video games make you a killer. But if you’re a psychopath, video games help you get in the mode to do the killing.”
Members of the gaming community have posted their own responses to the tragedy, including Twisted Metal director David Jaffe who became involved over Twitter after advocating for stronger gun control in America.
"…allowing our population to legally obtain these kinds of weapons (semi/automatic rifles) is akin to leaving our doors unlocked in a shitty neighbourhood,” Jaffe tweeted.
Fellow industry figures added their thoughts on the social networking site including Mass Effect and Final Fantasy XIII voice actress Ali Hillis and voice actor Liam O’Brien, re-tweeting:
"In one year, GUNS murdered 35 in Australia, 39 in England and Wales, 194 in Germany, 200 in Canada, and 9,484 in the United States.”
Yet one of Holmes’ classmates at the University of California suggested the alleged killer was simply addicted to Guitar Hero, a non-violent video game far removed from the midnight theatre terror.
The shooting has over-shadowed the release of the most anticipated film of the year and once again thrown open the door to another debate fuelled by tragedy.
What do you think? Are video games to blame for encouraging violence? Or is the media quick to point the figure? Let us know your comments below.