Video game violence and their effects on youth is a hot topic of psychology research. New studies come out every month – such as the recent study out of Australia which found that players devalue themselves and opponents while playing “Mortal Kombat” – saying basically the same thing: Video games increase aggression, but still don’t necessarily make people violent. This article, however, isn’t about the general research on video game violence. This is about a particular game that came out recently, which has caused a storm of violence.The really crazy thing about this, though, is that the gamers haven’t even played it. They went berserk just over getting their hands on the game.
I can’t remember the last time gamers have went so crazy over a video game. Though there was a recent incident a few weeks ago over a handheld video game device. A fight broke out in Los Angeles, California, when four teenagers were intending to rob someone of his Nintendo DS system. A Good Samaritan came over, presumably to break up the fight, and was shot in the chest. The original robbery victim was also shot soon after, while trying to flee, but only the Good Samaritan died from the attack. The four robbers, aged 13 to 16, were all arrested. But I digress.
The game in question is called “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” and it came out last week. It’s opening day was so successful that it sold about 6.5 million copies, earning around $400 million in the UK and US alone – a new record for the developers, Activision. Modern Warfare 2 racked in $310 million within its first 24 hours. It’s safe to say that there is a huge following for this game, and of course there were long lines, and dedicated fans aiming to pick up the game and rush home to play it as soon as they could. You can see the trailer for the video game here:
[Updates: As reported by GameSpy: “Recently it was revealed that Modern Warfare 3 had earned a staggering $775 million in its first five days of release, making it the most profitable launch of any entertainment medium in history.” As reported by Spong, MW3 was also the best-selling game when it came out in Japan, which is not a small feat for a Western company, also considering it is an FPS, which have not been nearly as popular in Japan as in the West. As reported by the L.A. Times, it took MW3 only 16 days to earn a billion dollars.]
Three Separate Cases
Case 1: Bad Jokes
Let’s start the gong-show in Colorado, where a man seemed to lose his cool with some upsetting news:
A man threatened to blow up his local game store yesterday after they informed him that they had sold out of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, according to police in Aurora, Colorado. Aurora Police Det. Bob Friel said that 31-year-old Lomorin Sar was arrested early Tuesday morning after he threatened the employees at the Best Buy at North Salida Court.
Witnesses told police that the man became irate with the customer service department after Midnight on Tuesday after they told him the game he allegedly pre-ordered was out of stock. Sar allegedly threatened employees, asking several of them “when they were leaving” and that he would “shoot them in the parking lot.” Sar also allegedly said something about “blowing up the store.”
After he left the store, employees called the police. He was pulled over and taken into custody shortly thereafter.
“Investigating officers issued a criminal summons to a man who threatened to carry out his own version of modern warfare at the electronics store. Fortunately, this situation did not end in violence,” Friel told news channel KUSA-TV.
Sar was issued a summons for disorderly conduct. His court date was not revealed. Sar did not respond to the local news station’s request for comments.
Soon after, Sar confessed to what he did in a more calm interview:
“I put my hands up to my head and I’m like, ‘God, now I’m mad.’ I said, ‘I am so pissed right now I can blow this place up’,” Sar told 9News.com.
He acknowledged that it was a “poor choice of words” but continued, “I wasn’t gonna blow it up or anything like that. It’s just something you say when you get mad, you know what I mean? But they’re like empty threats. You can’t get in trouble for just saying you’re gonna bomb a building.”
And while screwed-up preorders are frustrating, it turns out that Sar’s may not have been carved in stone. Despite being an obviously high-strung Modern Warfare 3 fan, he waited until the day before launch to put in his preorder and called it in while he was driving, so he wasn’t able to write down his invoice number or anything else related to the transaction. He says he was told that he could get in line at 11 pm and would have “no problems” picking it up, but when he got to the counter the staffer said his name wasn’t in the system, even though he said he could see it written on a box.
Sar said he’s sorry for threatening to kill people but believes he’s owed an apology as well. “It has to be mutual. [The manager] needs to apologize for screwing me around,” he said. “It’s like me wasting my time over there when I could have just been at home playing already. I wanted to be playing. That’s what I wanted to do. Playing and ranking up.”
He is presumably now doing just that with the copy of Modern Warfare 3 he picked up after the incident at a nearby Walmart.
Case 2: Thinking without thinking
Well that wasn’t so bad. The first case was way out of line, but it was essentially only a threat. The next story, from Kansas, involves an idiotic thief who actually did attempt the robbery – with gun in hand.
Adam Freeman, who picked up his preordered copy of the game at a midnight launch event at GameStop, went back to his car and drove home like a normal person. And then there’s David Morales, who also went to GameStop for the midnight launch, saw the stupidly huge lineup and decided to opt for a DIY express checkout instead.
Morales followed Freeman back to his apartment, using his red Ford Explorer to block him in when Freeman pulled into his parking spot. As Freeman got out of his car, Morales approached him and “racked a round” in his gun, shouting, “Give me the game!” in what we can only imagine was his best Steven Baldwin impression.
“Forget you!” Freeman replied – something along that line, anyway.
At that point, Morales “racked another round” for some reason, causing the first bullet to eject and fall to the ground. Perhaps Freeman saw that as his opening, or maybe he just decided that Morales was an idiot; whatever the case, he grabbed the gun by the barrel, they struggled for a bit, and then Morales ran back to his SUV and drove away. Freeman went to his apartment and called 911.
And that should be where this sad, sordid and silly tale ends, but it’s not. After talking to Freeman, police went to the GameStop location where the big adventure began to see if the store had any surveillance footage that might have captured Morales’ face. What they found was even better: a red Ford Explorer in the parking lot and a man matching Morales’ description standing in line, waiting to buy the game. He was arrested and eventually copped to the attempted robbery.
As for Freeman, he said he reacted to the situation instinctively and acknowledged that it probably wasn’t the smartest move to make. “If I had more time to think about it, I probably would have just given him the game,” he said. “It’s a wonderful game, but it’s not worth dying over.”
Case 3: The Merchandisers
Don’t be fooled – this is not just an American phenomenon. There was also the incident that happened in France, as reported on the day the game came out:
In France, two masked men armed with tear gas and knives stole a truck thought to contain around 6000 copies of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
French news channel TF1 (translated by Eurogamer) claimed that at 8am Sunday morning, 10km south-east of Paris, a car crashed into a van containing unspecified video game cargo worth €400,000.
The two men driving the van left the vehicle to “make a report” – presumably phone emergency services. It was then they were reportedly sprayed with tear gas by two men whose faces were obscured. The criminals then climbed into the van holding the video game cargo and fled.
A subsequent report by AFP (Agence France Presse) revealed the €400,000 cargo to be copies of Modern Warfare 3. Mathematically, this was said to represent 6000 copies of Modern Warfare 3, or thereabouts.
What has happened to the copies is unknown. Online marketplace eBay, however, is awash with copies of Modern Warfare 3. But you’re unlikely to receive them before those people queuing to buy Modern Warfare 3 at midnight tonight.
What’s Going On?
People will continue to blame violence on video games and be suspicious about its many reported benefits. Modern Warfare 3 has also been in the news because PETA has leveled complaints that there is excessive and gruesome rat-killing in the game. Obviously PETA has never played a RPG before, or else this complaint would have been made a long time ago.
I suppose you could say that the addictive nature of video games has caused people to act rashly, which is why so many of them have been demanding the game. If you argue that, then we can forget about the third case, because that was stealing in order to sell the products. And you have to remember about the others… these were basically isolated individuals among hundreds of others who did not do anything so irresponsible. So if video games cause that kind of behaviour, where is the rest of it?
In my opinion, America should worry less about video games and more about guns. Obviously guns aren’t going to get rid of aggression, though I have come across various studies where simply having guns present in the room – even in simple picture form – increased the likelihood of aggressive behaviour. But if people do not feel like they are in a position to get away with a crime (i.e., by threatening to kill someone), or if they don’t feel as protected (i.e., actually being able to kill someone), then they might not feel so powerful, and therefore succumb to the laws to which the rest of us adhere.
I’m not sure, but this is not an easy thing for people to investigate because of the many complications involved in such research. For example, there are the millions of environmental factors that shape the way we perceive and experience the world, such as time spent in front of a TV screen, role models, and explicit parental and peer lessons and messages.
All I know is that this game had better be good, or else there are going to be a lot of disappointed fans; I’d hate to see the caliber of “crazy” those guys engage in.