Before the Internet was invented, archaeologists speculate that humans got their entertainment and porn from a device known as a “Tee-Vee”. When TeeVee wasn’t an option, these ancient humans would turn to a collection of eldritch games, some of which weren’t even electronic. It was a dark time for entertainment before we could all browse pictures of kittens and boobies for eight hours a day. According to records [of hysterical suburban moms] of the time, these shows and games influenced all manner of terrible behavior, much of it ending in puzzling deaths and equally befuddling outrages that followed.
Dungeons and Dragons
On June 9th, 1982, teenager Irving Pulling committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. Instead of grieving and wondering what sort of legitimate mental trauma would lead a teen to this point, his mother promptly blamed his interest in playing Dungeons and Dragons. And then she blamed Dungeons and Dragons for…just about everything else. The complete list included “demonology, witchcraft, voodoo, murder, rape, blasphemy, suicide, assassination, insanity, sex perversion, homosexuality, prostitution, satanic type rituals, gambling,barbarism, cannibalism, sadism, desecration, demon summoning, necromantics, divination and other teachings.” While most D&D nerds wish that half the stuff on that list actually happened while playing D&D, the truth is that RPG gamers don’t have any particular inclinations toward violence or suicide, and many of them haven’t gone anywhere near anything resembling “sexual perversion”. In fact, they are actually better-adjusted than the general population.
While Patricia gets a little bit of leeway for being a grieving mother struggling to understand her lost son’s life in a strange, reactionary manner, her crusade against D&D became such a joke that it’s a crime to not make fun of it. After she lost wrongful death suits against both her son’s school and TSR (the makers of D&D), she founded the congenially-named Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons (BADD). She published several books and even served as an expert witness in game-related court cases (all of which resulted in losses). She believed the Necronomicon was a real book. She once stated that if 4% of children in Richmond, Virginia were satanists and 4% of adults were as well, that logically added up to 8% of the total population being satanists. She continued this crusade for 15 years, making inroads with conservative christian groups and the type of scared housewife who hears the word “Glabrezu” and automatically assumes it’s either satanists or a weird sex act teens are doing these days. This leads one to wonder: did Irving Pulling kill himself because of D&D, or because his mother was probably batshit insane long before 1982?
Most of us remember Halo 3 as the exceedingly disappointing conclusion to the only reason we bought an XBox in the first place. But to Daniel Petric, it was the only thing standing between racist diatribes on XBox Live and murdering his goddamn parents. In 2008, his parents took away his video games, presumably, since he went on to attempt to murder them both in cold blood, this was because he was getting a little too into them. In the most chilling part of the story, Petric asked his parents to close their eyes because he “had a present for them” before shooting them both.
While some might seek to pin this on the violent behaviors he’d learned playing Halo, since there was no post-murder tea-bagging, legal experts agree there’s not a lot of weight to that argument. Petric can take some solace in the fact that when he gets out of jail in 2031 at age 40, there will be tons of amazing games out there to send him into a homicidal rage.
Grand Theft Auto
Where would alarmist bullshit about video games be without Grand Theft Auto? For those of you who don’t play video games or sensationalist news, Grand Theft Auto basically casts you in the role of a low-level criminal trying to rise through the ranks. In the game you can murder prostitutes, police officers and civilians if you want, but it doesn’t make for a very good game-playing strategy. It’s about as violent as an R-rated movie, but you wouldn’t know if from what people blame it for.
Everything from a recent murder in Thailand to the London Riots earlier this year gets blamed on GTA. Not, you know, simmering economic inequality and disenfranchisement, but a video game. Not only does GTA get conveniently and simply blamed for complex social ills, but, like the Thailand murder that led to the game being banned, whenever a murderer claims to be inspired by a video game the witch hunt begins for the game instead of discounting what this person says because they’re homicidally crazy.
When it was launched in 2000, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation quickly became a hit as a result of its combination of a serial crime drama with sexy science. All this over-dramatized knowledge of how forensic evidence is used to solve crimes gave your average citizen a sudden above-average knowledge of how DNA evidence is collected and analyzed. This led to two unfortunate side-effects: 1) the bar for guilty is now set much higher for juries to convict, given that they often expect the clean, indisputable DNA evidence they see on TV. 2) Criminals can watch TV too.
Known as the “CSI effect”, experts speculate that more critical juries have led to acquittals based on ill-informed ideas about the accuracy and fallibility of DNA evidence. On top of this, numerous criminals have used information they learned from the show to conceal evidence after a crime, even going so far as forcing rape victims to clean themselves with bleach after the fact. Arguably, this has led to a drop in the number of rape cases that are solved each year. The good news is that criminals tend to be a rock-stupid bunch to begin with, and though they now know it’s possible to get DNA evidence from the saliva used to seal an envelope, they still forget to wipe their fingerprints from their ransom notes.
Remember how innocent the 90s were? It was an age where people thought that Mortal Kombat was the height of violence and gore. Here’s Mortal Kombat. Here’s a scene from Fallout 3, a game that’s not even considered that violent. But that didn’t stop people from blaming it for murders and violence. And that’s exactly what happened on November 22, 1997 when “Yancy S.” stabbed his friend Noah Wilson in the chest, in what Noah’s mother believed to be an imitation of a move in Mortal Kombat.
Mrs. Wilson promptly sued Midway games for encouraging her son’s childish homicidal antics. Just as promptly, the court dismissed the case because of an obscure technicality legal scholars like to refer to as the “First Amendment”. As a nerdy end note, Mrs. Wilson claimed that her son was so obsessed with the game he believed himself to be the character of Cyrax, which just goes to show her ignorance of the subject as we all know that every kid wanted to be Scorpion. â€¨
What could possibly be the problem with a TV show where people deliberately injure and maim themselves for fame and money? Except the fact that retarded teenagers will make the connection between danger and fame without making the connection between serious bodily harm and the fact that the Jackass team likely has an ambulance standing by on every set.
The number of injuries, deaths and maimings associated with fans of Jackass (and by associated, we mean someone found out the victim watched the show at one point and some alarmist won’t shut up about it) are numerous. They involve friends setting one another on fire, jumping on to the hood of a moving car, and driving recklessly across train tracks. Though in all honesty, this is one instance where the show might actually be blamed, simply because while most teenagers don’t go on mass shooting sprees, almost all of them do really stupid, reckless shit to impress their friends.
Known to nerds as the great grandaddy of modern first-person shooters, Doom was also one of the first games to be attacked by hysterical politicians and parents looking for easy explanations of terrible tragedies. For the uninitiated, Doom is about as close to real-life massacres as shredding a bunch of paper cutouts.
This didn’t stop Doom from being blamed for the Columbine massacres in 1999, however. Almost immediately after the tragedy, lawsuits flew for blaming a game where you shoot monsters with 8 frames of animation for a heartless killing spree. The accusation was that first person shooters served as “murder simulators” (heh) and were responsible for training Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris to ruthlessly and efficiently kill as many as possible in the shortest time span. It was even alleged that they built custom levels in Doom modeled after their high school and practiced the attack there. The cases were thrown out and pretty much all connections to video games were revealed to be total nonsense. Now blaming that Marilyn Manson figure, that seems legit, he’s one shady character and threatens a lot of my conceptions of normalcy.
For those who haven’t enjoyed the glory of watching Michael C. Hall stare blankly at things for hours on end, Dexter is a show about a serial killer who only kills bad guys. He feels a homicidal hunger, but has learned to focus it as a tool for good. Apparently, Andrew Conley missed the “murdering bad guys” part when he strangled his 10 year old brother for 20 minutes to “make sure he was dead”. Conley claims he was inspired by the show, and likened his hunger to kill to Dexter’s. He also likened it to a craving for a cheeseburger so we’re not dealing with the most stable person here.
Dexter’s musing’s during the show connect with the average viewer by tapping into a sense of self-aware awkwardness, the feeling that we’re all concealing our true personality from those around us. Unsurprisingly, another killer didn’t pick up on the allegory, and claimed he was re-enacting Dexter when he lured a man to his home, murdered him, and dismembered the body.
The First 48
The First 48 is an award-winning documentary series on A&E that (usually) chronicles the first 48 hours of a homicide investigation. The title refers to the fact that the first 48 hours of an investigation are when most homicides are solvedâ€”no fancy forensics (which usually take weeks), just good old fashioned police work fuel the drama behind this show.
Apparently, the producers did their job a little too well as the show inspired Texan Seth Winder to orchestrate an elaborate homicide designed to be followed by The First 48 crews and create the most drama for the show. Unfortunately, the “leaving a bunch of obvious clues like a lame version of the Riddler” didn’t exactly pay off for Widner, and he was quickly arrested by normal police with no camera to document his uh…dramatic brilliance? Widner, a homeless man with a history of severe mental illness, did at least get a “complimentary” quote from one investigating officer who said the crime scene looked “like a scene out of a Stephen King novel.” Which, depending on your opinion of Dreamcatcher, might not be a compliment at all.
Behind charades and Scrabble, Yahtzee ranks up there with the most irritating games that your older relatives will make you play just so they can beat you. Most of us begrudgingly accept for the sake of family unity. But not Jacob and Andrew Cobb. They decided they were sick and tired of their mother’s games and straight-up murdered her when she insisted they play Yahtzee. And we’re not talking “(fit of rage) Jesus mom we don’t want to play Yahtzeeâ€”oops I hit you too hard”. The Cobbs pulled a plastic bag over her head while simultaneously strangling her with a belt. They then stored her remains for months until the frozen ground was soft enough to bury her. As far as a casual Google search can tell, this is the only dice related game death outside of Dungeons and Dragons, which is shocking to anyone who has actually played Monopoly for more than five minutes.