Report Finds Violent Video Games Not a Factor in Shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary

By Luke Caulfield , Updated Nov 26, 2013 10:18 AM EST
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It's a small, but hollow victory for video games compared to the tremendous loss suffered by the victims and their familiesin last year's school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. A report from the Connecticut State Attorney's office has found there was no links between the gaming activities of Adam Lanza and his abyssmal actions one year ago this December the 14th, resulting in the deaths of 27, not counting the shooter's death by suicide.

As tends to unfortunately be the case, various figures were quick to point the finger at violent video games and media as a root cause of Lanza's actions, much like what happened with similarly unfortunate situations like Columbine and Virgina Tech.

When erroneous reports first surfaced that the identity of the shooter was Adam's older brother Ryan, whose Facebook profiled showed he liked the game Mass Effect, swarms of users converged on the game series' Facebook page, littering it with comments, insulting the company and the team behind the game, leading to an all around blame game. The page eventually had to be taken down.

Similarly, in the month following the shooting, state senator Christopher Murray stated that both guns and video games played a role in the shooting at Sandy Hook: "I think there's a question as to whether he would have driven in his mother's car in the first place if he didn't have access to a weapon that he saw in video games that gave him a false sense of courage about what he could do that day."

However, in all of the 48 page report, video games were only discussed very briefly. The word "game" can only be found a total of 30 times out of the more than 20,000 word report. According to the report's executive summary:

"The evidence clearly shows that the shooter planned his actions, including the taking of his own life, but there is no clear indication why he did so, or why he targeted Sandy Hook Elementary School. It is known that the shooter had significant mental health issues that affected his ability to live a normal life and to interact with others, even those to whom he should have been close. As an adult he did not recognize or help himself deal with those issues. What contribution this made to the shootings, if any, is unknown as those mental health professionals who saw him did not see anything that would have predicted his future behavior. He had a familiarity with and access to firearms and ammunition and an obsession with mass murders, in particular the April 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado. Investigators however, have not discovered any evidence that the shooter voiced or gave any indication to others that he intended to commit such a crime himself."

While it is indeed true that, like most of us, Lanza had several exceedingly violent games in his collection, he also was shown to play and be a fan of games that don't even come close to the amount of violence his actions illustrate. For example, while he owned several Call of Duty titles, he also owned the first two Kingdom Hearts games, and was known to be a fan of Dance Dance Revolution.

Rather than force you to leaf through the entire report, we've provided the key points below.

* "He played video games often, both solo at home and online. They could be described as both violent and non-violent. One person described the shooter as spending the majority of his time playing non-violent video games all day, with his favorite at one point being 'Super Mario Brothers.'"

* "In 2011 and up until a month before December 14, 2012, the shooter went to the theater and played [Dance Dance Revolution]. He went most every Friday through Sunday and played the game for four to ten hours. The shooter was specific about the clothes he wore. He typically wore the same clothing when at the theater: a grey hoodie and slacks. After a snowstorm in 2011 the shooter was not seen at the theater until about February 2012. At that time he seemed more anti-social and no longer played DDR with others. An acquaintance of the shooter from 2011 to June 2012 said that the shooter and the acquaintance played DDR quite a bit. They would play the game and occasionally see a movie. They did not play first person shooter games at the theater."

* "Online first person shooter games that the shooter did play as determined by a search of the digital media in the home, "Combat Arms" and "World of Warcraft" were played on the computer using a keyboard to control the player. The shooter also wrote about all of these topics. Other topics of discussion included human nature, perception, judgment, morality, lack of control, prejudice, empathy, suicide, mental illness, existential crisis, urban exploration of abandoned areas, hiking and cookies.

* "The shooter had a LAN party at his home in 2008 with Tech Club members; no firearms were seen at the shooter's home. In terms of video games, the shooter liked to play "Phantasy Star Online" (a role playing game), "Paper Mario," "Luigi's Mansion" and "Pikmin." He also liked Japanese animated films and television. Over the years from the late 1990s and into the 2000s, the shooter had evaluations of various types, some of which were available to the investigators. In the late 1990s he was described as having speech and language needs. At that time he was also being followed medically for seizure activities. In preschool his conduct included repetitive behaviors, temper tantrums, smelling things that were not there, excessive hand washing and eating idiosyncrasies. In 2005, the shooter was diagnosed with Asperger's Disorder and was described as presenting with significant social impairments and extreme anxiety."

The full report has been made available to the public via Scribd.

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