Even though it has been conclusively documented that the Virginia Tech shooter did not own a single video game and did not play them, the shootings are of course once again sparking the anti-video game hysteria that so categorized our response to the columbine shooting.
I decided to write this blog because I had not seen many others on the subject in light of a recent even that should have activated some alarm among liberal supporters of the first amendment
A senior at Clements High School in Sugar Land, Texas was transferred to an alternative education center last month after it was learned that the student had created a map of his school in the online game Counter-Strike, according to a report on the community-focused site Fort Bend Now.
The student wasn't arrested or charged with any crimes, but police were called in to search his home, where they found five swords. Police also ordered the student to erase the game and maps from his computer.
Between the game's violent content, the discovery of the swords (which Fort Bend Now reports may have been decorative), and other as-yet-unrevealed information, officials with the Fort Bend Independent School District labeled the situation "level 3," which mandated the transfer to the alternative school. According to Fort Bend Now, "level 3" is code for a student who "engages in conduct relating to a false alarm or report (including a bomb threat) or a terroristic threat involving a public school."
The connections to Virginia Tech are obvious and frightening. In the minutes after the tragedy right wingers such as Jack Thompson but even mainstream voices such as Dr. Phill were quick to blame violent video games and Counter strike in particular. However, there was zero evidence that the shooter actually played video games. No one that knew him at Virginia Tech could remember him playing video games, and indeed when his room was searched not a single video games could be found.
For anyone who has ever played a video games such as counterstrike, the very notion that building a customized map of the school implies a school shooting is absurd. For budding programmers it is often difficult to invent brand new plans and designs at first. A schools layout is one thing that each and every student is intimately familiar with and can construct. Moreover, schools offer a very decent level design by most standards as they offer tight corners as well as multiple entry and exit points. Indeed, it also seems perfectly natural that one would want to design a map that one felt an emotional attachment to.
(Indeed, the point of counter-strike is for a group of civilians to try to stop a group of terrorists from planting a bomb in a set target- I'm sure most of the right wing pundits are those that screaming that the Virginia Tech victims were cowards and should have done more to resist their assailant- one would imagine that this should make them proud)
However, the truly frightening thing about this is the complete lack of regard for the students rights. The police searched the students house on the flimsiest basis and actually ordered the student to delete files from his own personal computer. Next, he was never brought in front of a judge or even a judicial committee in his high school district. Instead, he was shipped of to a correctional facility and equated with individuals making false bomb threats or actual terrorist threats on high school.
It is important that in light of the Virginia Tech shootings we avoid overreacting. While it is obvious that teacher in Virginia Tech needed more discretionary authority in recommending a student to receive counseling and aid, it is essential that we do not overreact and turn to putative measures at the barest sight of anything remotely threatening.
It is unlikely that the damage done to this poor student can be undone, but it is essential that we should use this as a way to gauge a balance between oversight and overburdening