The Virginia Tech murders got plenty of coverage in the press and on the Internet, but none of the writers here at Unsought Input weighed in on the subject. Really, there wasn't anything left to say that hadn't already been said a hundred times on a hundred channels already.
But now there is something interesting going on that isn't getting enough coverage. Did you know that there are two more casualties to add to the list of 32 people killed by Seung-Hui Cho? In addition to murdering and wounding all those people, Cho somehow managed to kill common sense and reason in thousands of commentators and high school principals across the country.
For example, school officials at Clements High School in Texas kicked out a student because they thought he posed a threat. No, he didn't threaten anyone, or buy guns, or stalk girls, or anything like that. He made a level in the game Counter-Strike based on a map of his high school. And posted it on his MySpace page.
For those of you who are out of the video game loop, Counter-Strike is a first-person shooter where you fight a bunch of terrorists, or alternatively fight a bunch of anti-terrorist troops. As you can imagine, it involves a lot of shotting and blowing stuff up. It's most fun when you compete and cooperate with other players.
Now why would a student replicate his high school in such a game unless he was using it as a simulation to train for an attack on his school? In the weeks since the VA Tech massacre, thousands of people would think that's a very good question. That's because they are scared out of their wits.
Why would he do such a thing? Listen, in high school I bought a game named Sim City 2000 (no I will not let you download it for free). One of the first things I did, after getting the hang of how to build a city, was build my home town. My home town was a dismal failure because I lived in a suburb with no industry and there were some scale issues, but that's beside the point.
Later in my high school career, I was president of the computer club. Yes, I know that also makes me king of the nerd patrol, whatever, I have to represent. One of our projects was to build a map of the school in the game Doom (or maybe Duke Nukem, the memory is getting hazy). It was a lot of fun, trying to get the textures right, figuring out where to put the power-ups so that the game would be fun to play.
It never occurred to us that we were doing anything wrong, or that we could use this map for plotting elaborate scenarios. It never occurred to me that building my little home town in Sim City and then unleashing tornadoes on it was wrong. That's because the whole idea is ludicrous.
Why do people play video games? Because, like any game, they are interactive. Some games take interaction to the next level, allowing you to do more than just explore virtual places - you can build your own. This appeals to the same kids who loved Legos when they were younger, and while they may not be the star quarterback or head cheerleader, they are hardly murderous misanthropes.
But what about the link between video games and violence? It turns out the link isn't quite that simple. Apparently only unstable people are really effected by violent video game content, but not any more than they are by violent movies, or even increases in room temperature.
What about the link between Cho and Counter-Strike? Uh, did he ever even play Counter-Strike? Or any video games for that matter? Does anyone actually know, or are they just making it up to get on TV?
After a tragedy like this, people want closure. They want to be able to do something to make sure it doesn't happen again, or find something to place all the blame on. Unfortunately, Cho was a self-important nutjob who refused the help that was offered to him at every turn. There's not really much we can do about that, so bring out the scapegoats and lose the rationality.