Sascha Heist

Sascha Heist is the video game columnist for Okanagan Weekend. His columns appear Saturdays.

When the perpetrator in a mass shooting happens to be a young male, a link with violent video games is usually established.

That’s the case in Canada as video games formed part of the narrative in two notorious crimes — a quadruple homicide and the fugitives wanted in a nation-wide manhunt. The alleged Toronto shooter and at least one of the two suspects in the murder of a B.C. teacher, professed to love violent video games. There were even online hints dropped weeks before the alleged crimes occurred.

Gaming has developed over the years to a point where a young man won $3 million last week in a major competition, watched by millions. It’s a huge industry. Young people spend hours sitting alone in their bedrooms playing games with opponents from around the world.

Older generations don’t get it.

The suspects in both killings enjoyed doing what the vast majority of men their age do — playing video games. A recent study found 96 per cent of men ages 18 to 24 engage in video games to some degree.

Long gone are the days of a yellow figure gobbling dots and chasing blue ghosts around a maze.

Like movies or popular music, some video games are truly offensive. (One plot was about a murderous teddy bear, angered he wasn’t invited to a birthday party.)

Violence in games has been brilliantly parodied by The Simpsons since the early 1990s. (“Oh no, we’re in Texas,” Bart and Lisa quipped before ending in the electric chair.)

In a column from March 2018, Okanagan Weekend gaming columnist Sascha Heist rationalized that video games help many loners by building longtime relationships and self-confidence through the virtual world.

“To say video games cause violence is not only incorrect, it’s irresponsible and doesn’t address the real cause of horror,” Heist argued.

In the two presents cases in Canada, gaming was a defining factor. But, to put the blame solely on video games is irresponsible. As the years unfold, it will be inevitably be discovered that many other factors contributed to the suspects’ behaviour.

Although many of today’s most popular games involve shooting, there are brilliant sports and music games. The challenge for developers is to create something original, challenging and fun for gamers. They don’t need to always rely on blood, gore and violence.

James Miller is valley editor for Okanagan Newspaper Group which includes The Penticton Herald and Kelowna Daily Courier.