David Johnstone

Anders Behring Breivik and violent video games

July 27, 2011

It is popular to link violent crimes with violent video games. It didn’t take long for reports to claim that violent computer games were found at Breivik’s house. Nor did it take long for some to use this for their political advantage. However, since Breivik has published a 1500 page manifesto detailing all sorts of things, it is worth looking at this to see what he himself says about games.

Firstly, it should be noted that, despite the length of the document, there are very few things on games. There are massive sections on Islam and it’s evils, on how Europe (that is, “Christian Europe”) will be destroyed if the Islamic invasion isn’t stopped, on the current suicidal political structures, and on how the war against Islam should be fought, but there are only a few references that have anything to do with video games. It is ridiculous to suggest that video games provided any inspiration for Breivik’s actions.

As for what he does write in the manifesto, let’s start in a profile of himself, where he lists his hobbies and interests, some of which are games:

I took a year off when I was 25 and played WoW PvE hardcore for a year.

Conservatism - Alliance, human female mage – PvE, Server: Silvermoon

Conservative - Horde, tauren female resto druid – PvP, Server: Silvermoon

I raided hardcore and was a guild leader in a couple of hardcore guilds: Virtue, then Unit, Nordrassil – Rank 1 Alliance PvE. We transferred the guild to Silvermoon. I grew tired of running the guild and sorting recruitment issues so I joined Nevermore, another hardcore guild on Silvermoon (Rank 3). Silvermoon is the most progressed Alliance server in the world out of more than 300 servers (10 million + players worldwide) so the competition is extremely hard. This means we were one of the most progressed guilds in the world at one time. I can honestly say running a hardcore WoW guild is equally challenging to running your own business with 7 employees or more. It requires an extreme amount of work in order to be successful and get server first kills. It was a good experience and something I wanted to do at least a limited amount of time during a period of my life.

I’m currently playing Modern Warfare 2 casually.

And in another section:

I spent three years were I focused on writing the compendium, 2083. During a 12 month period in the beginning, I also played World of Warcraft part time (which had been a dream for some time – hardcore raiding:). I lived very ascetic and relatively isolated in this period. These three years would also contribute to detach myself from my “old life”. It’s a process I used in order to isolate myself from most of my network, in preparation for the coming operation. I feel that this period was needed in order to completely ”detach myself from “the game”, my “former shallow consumerist lifestyle ” in order to ensure full focus on the matters at hand.

In his journal for January 2010 he writes:

A usual day for me involves email farming, writing, sharing “moderate” resources from my book on debate groups to coach fellow cultural conservatives, smoking, eating chocolate lol, taking a daily 1 hour walk/motivational meditation and doing some occasional battlegrounds in WoW on my badass Horde resto druid. I just completed Dragon Age Origins not long ago. A brilliant game!:D It’s important to have fun a few hours every day. I regret to admit that I’ve become a notorious downloader of pirated movies, series and games etc. but have noticed that an increasing number of sites have been closed down lately. Stealing is bad, I admit, but then again, when you have devoted your entire life to a good cause you can allow yourself some naughtiness especially if it can contribute to conserve your funds, cough;). Yes, yes, no ones perfect:P

The most interesting quote, however, is in his journal article for the next month, in February 2010:

I just bought Modern Warfare 2, the game. It is probably the best military simulator out there and it’s one of the hottest games this year. I played MW1 as well but I didn’t really like it as I’m generally more the fantasy RPG kind of person – Dragon Age Origins etc .and not so much into first person shooters. I see MW2 more as a part of my training-simulation than anything else. I’ve still learned to love it though and especially the multiplayer part is amazing. You can more or less completely simulate actual operations.

He also suggests playing games for marksmanship training:

Consider taking a vacation to a country where you are able to train in marksmanship or join a gun club. Simulation by playing Call of Duty, Modern Warfare is a good alternative as well but you should try to get some practise with a real assault rifle (with red point optic) if possible. There are select 2nd or 3rd world countries that offer arrangements where you can practise with an assault rifle.

Furthermore, he writes than an internet cafe can act as a makeshift training facility for his militia:

Temporary arrangements can be made with the local gun club, the local gym and an internet café which facilitates multiplayer Modern Warfare 2 simulation.

He also suggests that telling friends that you’re addicted to a game is a good alibi as you prepare for an operation:

F example, tell them that you have started to play World of Warcraft or any other online MMO game and that you wish to focus on this for the next months/year. This ”new project” can justify isolation and people will understand somewhat why you are not answering your phone over long periods. Tell them that you are completely hooked on the game (raiding dungeons etc). Emphasise to them that this is a dream you have had since you were a kid. If they stress you, insist and ask them to respect your decision. You will be amazed on how much you can do undetected while blaming this game. If your planning requires you to travel, say that you are visiting one of your WoW friends, or better yet, a girl from your ”guild” (who lives in another country). No further questions will be raised if you present these arguments.

Another suggested cover is to say that “you are gay and are in the process of discovering your new self and that you don’t want to talk any more about this issue”.

So, where does this leave us? Breivik was planning his mission by at least 2002, long before he had an interest in violent games, so it is impossible to blame them for what he did. But he did get Modern Warfare 2 and saw it as part of his training. The value that it provided to his training is not an issue he discussed. (I’m not sure if it’s meaningful that some time after getting it and writing that it was part of his training that he writes that he was merely playing it casually.) And again, the above quotes are all he says about video games in the 1500 page manifesto, so it is impossible to say they play an important part.

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