Anders Breivik is a monster. Last year the man took the lives of eighty-seven people in what has to be one of the worst single-person bloodbaths the world has seen outside of war. Even as the country still recovers from the horror of his actions, he is the face of Norway’s nightmares.
Anders is on trial right now and more than a few bits of information have come to light. However, as the world tries desperately to understand the motives behind his actions, the media have a different interest. To the media Anders is a buzzword, something they can use in headlines to get ratings. As the print media has been in a decline for years, the accuracy of these headlines suffers when pit against the need to pull in readers with scandal and interesting correlations. As always these less than honest headlines and stories sensationalise and blame easy targets, taking more interest in Breivik’s video game hobby than the reasons given for playing them. What follows are a few of the headlines that newspapers have used to report this story with.
CNN: Admitted Norway killer Breivik says he trained on video games
London Evening Standard: Anders Breivik: Online games helped me plan killings
Reuters: Breivik used computer war games to plan attack
Al Arabiya News: Breivik: Playing ‘World of Warcraft’ helped me prepare for the attacks
The Irish Times: Breivik used games to plan attack
The majority of these articles claim the same thing; that Breivik can’t distinguish between video games and real life, and that he used games such as World of Warcraft to plan the attacks. The London Evening Standard article even includes the line, “He said his training on World of Warcraft, an online game, focused on situations where he would be flanked by two commando teams.” which shows that Bo Wilson, the journalist who wrote that article, not only didn’t bother to listen to what Breivik said and report on it accurately, but that he never looked into the game to see if it can be played that way (it can’t, as I’m sure you’ve guessed even if you’re a non-gamer). In fact, Breivik did talk about World of Warcraft quite a bit in the run up to the trial as well as the trial itself. He described it as a gift to himself, a year off from responsibility where he could play the game as a reward for what he saw as an upcoming suicidal action.
I deserved to take a year off to do what I wanted to do, especially with the upcoming so-called suicide action – I wanted to have no remorse for what I would lose out on. I wanted a martyrdom gift, so I wanted a sabbatical year.
Some people like to play golf, some like to sail, I played WoW. It had nothing to do with 22 July. It’s not a world you are engulfed by. It’s simply a hobby. WoW is only a fantasy game, which is not violent at all. It’s just fantasy. It’s a strategy game. You co-operate with a lot of others to overcome challenges. That’s why you do it…
Later on Breivik began to see the benefits his gaming could have for what he had already planned and spoke about that.
I played on the idea that: ‘Ooh, I’ve become addicted to games.’ That was my primary cover.
He continued to explain how he could leave the country for a while and say he was seeing someone he met online, be unavailable for ages and blame it on dungeon raids. The game had become an alibi he used to cover up the warning signs that his preparations may have given to others.
Breivik spent an enormous amount of time planning his attacks, with some of his diary entries mentioning the formulation of such plans as early as 2005. He illegally obtained firearms and explosives and his 1,500 page manifesto has details on how he did this. Details that the media hasn’t picked up on. He named his guns after figures from Norse mythology and the media has mentioned this but never once spoken about the obvious connotations to his mental health. He has claimed to have been a member of the Knights Templar and the media have torn that detail to shreds, outing him as someone who has trouble separating reality from fantasy due to that. Yet as soon as he mentions playing Modern Warfare as a way to train himself how the police will react to terrorist actions, it is reported as fact with no questions asked. It doesn’t matter that Modern Warfare doesn’t have any levels like that in the single or multiplayer games, or any way to make your own levels that simulate such things. Gaming as an industry is still new enough to be attacked in this way.
As a gamer I’m appalled by this, but it is as a human being that I am truly horrified. Pushing the attention towards the minuscule gaming aspect of this case is a cheap way for the media to get a few extra readers and show off “a new threat that we all need to be aware of”, but it cheapens the truth of the matter. Anders Breivik is a monster. It doesn’t matter what his hobbies were, or if he imagined those things as essential parts of his training for his actions. He is a killer who has no remorse for his actions and truly believes them to have been justified by an imagined “Islamification of Europe”. We shouldn’t be remembering this as the actions of a poor fellow who got confused by video games but as the rampage of a monster. We shouldn’t be distracted by what clothing he wears when the blood of close to a hundred people is staining that clothing.
As I said at the beginning of this article, Anders Breivik is a monster. To focus on anything but that is to cheapen the deaths of his victims.