Something worse than terrorism: making a game of it

Just when you think you’ve seen everything you realise you haven’t.   The world is a big place and there are always new things to see, new experiences to undergo.  Thankfully there are lots of wonderful novelties and that is indeed a positive, enriching fact.  Unfortunately, there are also lots of not so wonderful people, events and actions that are anything but positive.

Then there are those who have decided to create an active shooter online game that mirrors the recent massacres at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.  If there is a hell I do so fervently hope that there is a special corner set aside for these people, equipped with every agony and torture that we think the Underworld is known for.

I must confess that I do not understand the attraction behind online shooter games. Then again I am a 58-year old guy with no interest in computer games of any ilk, except for FreeCell which I play sometimes when I am tired of reading or writing about terrorism.

On the other hand, I have no right to criticise those who enjoy this kind of activity.  Maybe it is harmless after all. I’d be hard pressed to point to any one-to-one relationship between pretending to shoot figures on your computer screen and doing so in the real world.  Nor I am aware that the verilsimiltude of these games – and apparently they are getting more and more realistic every year – is linked to an enhanced ability to acquire skills and kill actual people.  Then again, there may be – this is not my specialty.

But if you partake of these games it stands to reason that they should feature fictionalised targets.  Shooting monsters or zombies or aliens is one thing; shooting people made to look like recent victims of an act of horrific terrorism is quite another.  I also learned that the creators may have tried to mimic the actual venue of that attack and allow the player to pretend to be the Australian terrorist who GoProed his actions live for the world to see. Here is one description of the ‘action’: in one game, based on The Sims, the shooter kills worshippers inside a mosque before dancing outside.

What would possibly possess anyone to do this?  Setting aside the sheer ignorance, disrespect, and lack of any morality of these individuals, can this not be construed as support for terrorism?  We agonised over whether the video of the massacre should be taken off the Internet or whether the killers pathetic manifesto could be shared: does this new development not make matters worse?  Are the designers of this disgusting product not glorifying the terrorist acts and perhaps encouraging others to follow suit? Could this not be construed as incitement to terrorism?

I can already hear the cries of censorship and muzzling of free speech.  If these games were removed from the Web would that open the gates to the removal of lots of other stuff?  Where would it end? Who would decide what to remove? Why should we react to something that is ‘just a game’?

Maybe there is no solid reason to take any action in this regard.  Maybe I am overreacting. Maybe this is just ‘fun’

At the same time I cannot understand why someone thought this was a good idea.  How could anyone NOT associate this game with praise for a very bad man and dismissal of those mourning the deaths of 50 innocent people at prayer?  Where, if anywhere, is the justification for these ‘games’? What redeeming value, or any value at all, do they have?

I know that there is a lot of crap out there and one blog piece will not make much of a difference.  Then again we also know that tragedies often occur when those who know about them choose to do nothing.  Consider this my attempt to do something about this base act. Take the games offline and shame those who made them.  That is the only decent thing to do.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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