Anders Breivik, the admitted mass murderer in Norway who slaughtered 69 people amid a sudden attack and bombing last year, said in court Thursday that he played Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 to sharpen his aiming skills ahead of the attack, adding that he was previously a 16-hour-a-day World of Warcraft fanatic.
The game itself did not inspire his attack. However, according to CNN, Breivik said that Modern Warfare 2 helped him improve his “target acquisition” skills when combined with what he called a “holographic aiming device.” It’s not clear what device in particular he was referring to.
“In reality [a gun with a holographic sight] requires very little training to use it in an optimal way,” Breivik said, according to The Guardian. “But of course it does help if you’ve practised using a simulator.”
Video games similar to Call of Duty are used by some groups, including the U.S. military, to simulate battlefield tactics and help soldiers prepare for combat. The U.S. Army even has a multiplayer shooting game they use as a recruitment tool.
Breivik added that while he was writing his 1,500-page manifesto and saving up for the massacre, he used the massively-multiplayer online role playing game World of Warcraft as a “cover” to convince his mother to let him stay in her home, saying he played it for 16-hours-a-day over the course of a year so he would not have any “regrets” once he’d been killed during his attack.
“I couldn’t tell her I was taking a sabbatical because I was going to blow myself up in five years’ time,” Breivik said. “I played on the idea that: ‘Ooh, I’ve become addicted to games.’ That was my primary cover.”
The game Breivik was playing in particular triggered a torrent of controversy over a scene (warning: video contains graphic violence) which depicts a covert CIA agent participating in a terrorist massacre inside a fictional Russian airport (pictured above). Copies of the game were recalled in Russia and the developers had to remove the scene entirely to get it released on PC.
When players reach the controversial scene, the game gives them an option to skip it entirely — but they can also watch as terrorists murder hundreds of civilians, or, chillingly, join in the slaughter themselves. The Tom Clancy-esque story contextualizes the gruesome scene as a double-cross orchestrated by a U.S. general turned traitor in order to start a war between the U.S. and Russia.
Although linking video games and violent behaviors is a common message in the media and a popular theme with politicians, scientific research does not support those claims. Some studies have even shown that violent games reduce crime by giving people with violent tendencies a safe outlet.
Breivik, an ultranationalist right-winger who said he attacked a Labor Party youth camp to fight multi-culturalism and Muslim influence, was initially ruled insane, but officials later reversed their ruling after he demanded they allow him to prove his sanity.
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