WoW is Not Just for Psychopaths

Gamers occasionally get a bad rap, especially when violent psychopaths
are revealed to have also been gamers at some point. The recent tragedy in
Isla Vista was committed by a sick, sad person who clearly wanted to hurt
the world, but in his manifesto, Elliot Rodger goes into great detail
about his World of Warcraft addiction. He paints his addiction in the same
rage-red hue he uses for everything else in his life:

These recent events cause me to withdraw even further away
from the world. I drowned all of my misery in my online games. World of
Warcraft was the only thing I had left to live for. My grades at
Crespi dropped dramatically. I just didn’t care anymore. I hated that
school. I didn’t think about my
future. The only thing I gave any serious thought to was my WoW
character. I had become very powerful in the game, and I was in one of
the best guilds. With this guild, I participated in lots of five-hour
raid events to collect better gear and armor for my character.

Over the years, I've seen fingers being pointed at video games - and MMOs
in particular - as the cause for a lot of awful things. American senators
and congressmen have spoken out against video game violence on many
occasions, and a number of mass-murderers claim to spend a lot of time
playing shooter games or fantasy MMOs. The unscientific minds of the
world, often fueled by suggestive, irresponsible media, seem to believe
that correlation equals causality - these people play these games,
therefore these games must be responsible for these terrible actions.

The rest of us know otherwise.

WoW is Not Just for Psychopaths - Elliot Rodger

Most of what I read in Rodger's manifesto just made me angry - apparently
he was just always a little douche who regularly threw tantrums when he
didn't get what he wanted. But it really kinda got to me when he kept
going on about World of Warcraft. Not because it's a terrible game, or
because it is to blame for his later actions - it is neither of those
things - but because it paints a bad picture of the MMO audience in
general. "Guilt by association."

Rodger claims he sought refuge in WoW from his terrible world of
loneliness and despair. Considering when this manifesto was written (after
he had already decided on the course of action that would make him
infamous), I'm not sure how factual his claims might be. But that's a
fairly common negative perception of MMO gamers: we hide in our games
because we fail at life.

WoW is Not Just for Psychopaths - Warcraft Orc

I call bullshit on that one. I won't deny that that exists in some small
quantity, but it is far from being true for most gamers. I would dare to
say that most MMO players have active, healthy social lives outside of the
games they play. The "social refugee" is the rare exception, and
absolutely not the rule.

Elliot Rodger isn't the only mass murderer from the past few years that
has been an avid gamer. The Sandy Hook shooter, the Oslo shooter, the
Columbine shooters and loads of others were heavily into violent video
games. But so are a bajillion teenagers with stable family lives and no
genetic propensity for organic mental disorders. And a bajillion
well-adjusted adults who own and enjoy guns. And a bajillion pot-heads who
don't go on shooting sprees fueled by the devil marihuana. And a bajillion
people using psychiatric drugs for anxiety and depression, who also don't
arm themselves with an arsenal of guns and march on the nearest shopping

There are other correlations between many mass-murderers. I'm willing to
bet that most of them drove cars. I'm also willing to bet they were all
wearing pants at the times of the shootings. Does this mean cars and pants
cause violent behavior? Of course not. It means that driving cars and
wearing pants are something that tons of people do every day. Video games
tend to target a certain demographic (males, aged 18 - 49) which is an enormous
percentage of the population. That same demographic also happens to
produce damaged, broken people that commit violent acts more regularly
than other groups. It also likely produces the most doctors, physicists,
humanitarian workers, ditch-diggers, and pretty much everything else.

WoW is Not Just for Psychopaths - Adam Lanza

Mass murder isn't something new that only came about after Nintendo was
invented - Charles Whitman never played a video game in his life when he
climbed the clocktower in Texas. Manson and his family had never even
heard of Call of Duty or World of Warcraft back in the Summer of Love.
Andrew Kehoe, the perpetrator of the deadliest mass murder in a school in
United States history, probably didn't even have a TV back in 1927, when
he blew up
the school in Bath Township, Michigan
. TV never really entered
American homes until 20 years later, after World War II - which,
incidentally, is another act of horrific violence that was also not
inspired by violent video games.

Truth be told, we don't really know why these people end up committing
these horrible acts. Some assume that they snap because they can't take it
anymore; they don't. Rodger planned his rampage for over a year. So did
the Sandy Hook shooter, and the Columbine kids. There's no one single root
cause common to all cases of mass murder, and to imply that there is is
overly-simplistic at best. Human behavior - even the broken kind that
causes tragedies like the Isla Vista shooting - is incredibly complex. "A
causes B causes C" simply doesn't work when describing why humans do what
they do.

WoW is Not Just for Psychopaths - Fallout 3: New Vegas

I do believe, however, that we as a community owe it to the world to
monitor ourselves more closely. It's possible that we can catch killers
like Elliot Rodger or Anders Breivik before they reach that terrible
tipping point, and take steps to get them the help they need. Keep an eye
out in game chat channels for the warning signs of impending violent

  • threats of real violence and/or suicide
  • preoccupation with specific violent incidents in real life (school
    shootings, bombings)
  • bullying or antisocial behavior that goes beyond normal trolling
  • frequent anger or hate-speech targeting a particular group (women,
    ethnic groups, religions, etc)
  • indications of personal stress (e.g. if the person talks about major
    personal issues in game - failing in school, loss of a job, family or
    relationship issues, feeling hopeless)
  • indications that the person frequently feels persecuted, bullied or
  • blaming others for anything that goes wrong, never taking
  • sudden changes in personality

Not all of these things are sure indicators that a person will be violent
- especially in MMO or other Internet chat. MMO chat is vastly different
from real life outside of a game. A stranger lashing out at other
strangers for no reason, or espousing shocking personal values, is
probably just trolling because he's bored. It will be hard to really gauge
these behaviors in people you don't know or speak to regularly, but if you
see the same person exhibiting these traits on a regular basis, or notice
them developing over time with a guildie or a buddy on your friends list,
it may be an indication of trouble.

WoW is Not Just for Psychopaths - Anders Breivik

Most games have a function to report players for various causes, which
will usually just get the offending player banned - be sure to send as
detailed a report as possible, and indicate that you are worried about
real-world violent behavior. It's possible - however unlikely - that the
GMs may be able to monitor chat logs, keep records, track IP numbers and
inform local authorities. In many cases, this is not likely possible for a
variety of reasons... but that shouldn't be an excuse stopping anyone from
doing what is right.

It might not be a good idea to try to "talk the guy down" if you see
someone exhibiting the warning signs. Most of us don't have the
psychological training required for dealing with someone in a state of
psychosis. But you can always offer to listen if the other guy wants to
talk. It might be all that the person needs to calm down - someone willing
to listen without judgement. But, again, if you are not trained in the
field of psychology, you may want to find someone who is. Call a help line
on your cell phone, contact the authorities - do what you need to do.
Check the links posted below.

If we can prevent just one Elliot Rodger by reporting alarming behavior,
we will have made the world a less-terrifying place.

Here are a few helpful links

Psychological Association
- warning signs of violence

Department of Education
- warning signs of violence

Ontario Mental Health
Helpline (Canada)
- crisis assistance's
Mental Health Hotline Numbers and Referral Resources
- American
crisis assistance

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016