In the case of Anders Breivik, a 33 year old Norwegian man being tried for orchestrating the death of 77 people in a series of terrorist attacks in 2011, the focus has shifted towards the topic of video games. In evaluating Breivik’s psyche, the judge hopes to determine whether an apparent “gaming addiction” was part of the reason for the attacks. Despite an earlier admission from Breivik that he used Call of Duty as a sort of “rehearsal” for his crimes, the court’s main focus is currently on whether or not World of Warcraft is to blame for his actions.
From the summer of 2006 till the summer of 2007 Breivik spent an average of nearly 16 hours a day playing World of Warcraft. When asked if this was a sign of a personal breakdown, psychiatrist Synne Sørheim replied:
Perceiving Breivik as having “cognitive function” but not ruling out this WoW-crazed period in his life as being some sort of mental breakdown, Sørheim then went on to give her thoughts on whether or not this behavior could be classified as an addiction:
Regardless of the “scope” of the matter, or whether or not it’s frequent enough to be labeled as an addiction, according to Sørheim, playing video games in your 20’s is a sign of an abnormal psyche. Those are some pretty harsh words for the millions upon millions of over gamers over the age of 20. While I disagree with the notion that video games can directly cause violent acts, I can understand the concern of a medium which puts you directly in charge of a violent fantasy situation being dangerous. However, for anyone to believe that simply playing any video game in any scope once adulthood is reached is a sign of an abnormal or potentially dangerous mentality is sheer ridiculousness.
So what research has Sørheim done in this regard? What qualifies her to make such a bold, all-encompassing statement about the potential negative side effects of playing video games?
So why is someone who has done no research and claims no form of expertise in the field of computer games, or evaluating their effects on a person’s psyche, making such statements in a case of such sensitivity and importance? Especially considering that Sørheim is clearly out of touch with what is and is not considered “normal” in the video game entertainment industry. If there is something psychologically disturbed with Breivik it’s not going to be uncovered by going through his WoW account.