Norway’s backlash against video games begins

Norwegian stores have pulled several video games, including Modern Warfare, from store shelves following Anders Breivik’s killing spree.

Remember how I said last week that video games didn’t lead Andres Breivik to kill dozens of his fellow Norwegians? Even Breivik himself already seemed to have terrorism firmly in mind by the time he described Modern Warfare 2 as “probably the best military simulator out there.”

Nevertheless, some Norwegian stores, including Coop Norden and Platekompaniet, have suspended sales of Modern Warfare and other violent video games, such as Homefront, the remainder of the Call of Duty series, Sniper: Ghost Warrior, and Counter-Strike: Source. Coop pulled World of Warcraft while Platekompaniet is still carrying it. In all, 51 games are off the shelves.

It’s unclear why the decision to stop selling some of the top-grossing video games was made. Are they concerned that Breivik’s manifesto — which encourages playing MW2 and WoW — will inspire copycats? Or are they worried about looking insensitive by continuing to sell such games while Norway is grieving?

Coop representatives explained:

In light of Friday’s horrific events, and of respect for those affected, we have chosen to remove simple items from our range … Coop believes that terrorism has been guided by motives other than computer game universes and Coop therefore sees no direct [connection] between them.

Not much of an explanation, eh?

Unfortunately, this decision has the side effect of separating people from a powerful way of processing fear, anxiety, and shock. And Norway is currently a country full of people attempting to process fear, anxiety, and shock. Sure, some of them will find other outlets — but to deny this one seems unreasonable, particularly if nobody truly believes games were to blame for Breivik’s actions.

It also winds up punishing video-game companies for an act of terrorism they had absolutely nothing to do with. Stores usually have the option whether to carry a certain product, so no laws are being broken, as far as I know. But I wonder what the ultimate effect, if any, of this sales decision will be.

What do you think? Should retailers stop selling such games when they’re associated with an act of terrorism? Why or why not?


7 responses to “Norway’s backlash against video games begins

  1. Stopping selling games because they are interpreted as the cause of terrorism, is the same as stopping selling knives because they are used to murder people.
    What happened to personal responsibility? Complaining that something was done because of a game, is just excuses.

    It’s not like potential murderers can’t download the games from the internet either.

  2. Pingback: Norway's backlash against video games begins | Backward Messages | industry, blog, iphone, app, creative, games, programming, project, various, criminalminds

  3. The game store reaction appears to me as a public relations move, and I think it is dangerous.

    Any crazy-nut-case can claim some particular product to be best for . In any given case it’s the crazy-nut-case who is crazy, not the product or item that is evil.

    Taking that product off the shelf is as good as agreement that the product is to blame, even if you secretly put it back on the shelf later. Though it will probably earn you less ire from angry knee-jerk reactionary types who need to blame the nearest and easiest target, it will also help solidify a bad idea into “truth” without any real fact-finding.

    There is a word for that.

    • I don’t agree that taking something off the shelf is an agreement of blame. It could also be seen as something you do to avoid negative publicity, or something that’s done so that people involved won’t be nastily reminded of the crime by seeing something that’s associated with it. It doesn’t help the shops with selling things if people walk into the shop and end up feeling sad or angry because of what they see there.

      I do agree about the danger of solidifying something into “accepted truth” without anybody thinking too much about it but I think other ways – such as public discourses like this – can mitigate that.

  4. It seems just a good PR move for the companies, to me, it gives them an excuse to put out a press release and get warm fluffy publicity for being perceived to be doing something empathic. I don’t see that anything’s actually being banned here, just the companies making a choice, and I don’t see the harm in that.

    I certainly think if I operated a fluffy widget shop and there’d been a terrorist attack where the person involved had made a big deal of blue fluffy widgets being their favourite thing I could make a good PR move and decide that green and red were my favourite fluffy widget colours for a few months!

    Certainly you couldn’t find anybody to quote who was saying the video games were causally connected to anything so commentators don’t seem to be being really stupid in their assignment of blame.

  5. Pingback: Oslo terrorist, World of Warcraft on trial in Norway | Backward Messages

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