"Right-wing terrorism, staged like a computer game" (Link)
"He planned his actions like computer games" (Link)
"He wants to earn points and be praised like in a game" (Link)
Such headlines are currently making the assassination in Halle the round - and especially game fans annoys this kind of coverage. After all, millions of people are playing in Germany alone, and many of them identify with this hobby, which is as complex as the selection of games. These range from action games like "Call of Duty" or "Fortnite" to everyday simulation "The Sims".
Some people even define themselves as being gamer. Others remind the headlines of the partly fact-free "Killerspiel" debate of the noughties, when shooters like "Counter-Strike" stood in the pillory.
Almost all outraged people probably the idea that they want to distance themselves from someone like the assassin of Halle maximum far. The fact that the act of this man could have the smallest relation to their own world, seems to awaken a bad gut feeling, if someone just suggests - regardless of the fact that games among young men probably the all-time hobby number one.
So is it a problem if media or even politicians like Saxony-Anhalt's Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff make the assassination in relation to games, even though millions of players would never think of committing such acts?
Two things are clarified in advance:
- This is a marginal aspect of the debate . After an attack on a synagogue in Germany, it is much more important to talk about right-wing terrorism, as well as anti-Semitism and xenophobia than about video game references. Even more problematic are the swamps of conspiracy theories and the social isolation into which the perpetrator must have slipped with his mentality, without the safety authorities noticing it.
- Any game comparison in describing the attack is also the reality does not do it justice . In computer games die pixel figures, and, yes, one may also find that immoral. But attacks kill real people, like Jana L. and Kevin S. Gaming comparisons play down.
Nevertheless, it is understandable that someone immediately thinks of computer games when he sees scenes from the video, which the perpetrator himself has taken by smartphone on his helmet. Although surfers or cyclists use helmet cameras, in the picture is not a weapon run. Inevitably, this creates an aesthetic that we in Germany know - fortunately - almost exclusively from shooter games in the first person perspective.
The perpetrator does not have to put it on this association, because it simply arises. But it fits into his krudes concept of the show for possible imitation offenders (read more here).
It looks like a let's play
The offender stopped his stream at Twitch. Gaming livestreams are no longer running there, but the main content of the platform is still broadcasts of gamers. They comment on the game or chat with the community. Under the keyword Let's Play there is also a whole video genre of this kind on YouTube.
Much of what the culprit in the stream of himself, such as "Fuck it, I blew myself in" and "I've shot me a tire Fuck" reminiscent of such videos. One notices that the offender expects to have an audience in the livestream - for this audience he comments on the events. It's not just thinking out loud, because sometimes it even appeals to viewers.
By the way the offender staged his approach, it has more in common with a let's play than with the normal playing of a video game. It is - alert mode fired briefly - a let's kill, a killing madness for the live audience.
It is possible that the man saw Twitch as an ideal platform for such a thing. But it might as well be that he assumed that the transfer to Facebook, where the Christchurch assassin was streaming his alleged role model, would have simply stopped faster.
Cynical "Achievements" - tasks for killing
Violent scenes from the video also allow for different interpretations. If the offender shoots again at a seemingly dead person, you can see in it a game reference, because some players do something in games ever. But it could just as well be insecurity, irrational action. Or an attempt by the perpetrator to supply the audience of forums like 4chan or 8chan with something that might be required from his confused view: action and death.
How exactly and where in the gaming culture the perpetrator is rooted, is still unclear. However, references to the game world also provide his "manifesto", in which he lists under the keyword "Achievements", which could be facets or have an attack, from killing with a certain weapon on victims of certain religious affiliation to the accidental self-injury of his own hand. All these goals are cynically named, like "I liked that hand ...".
"Achievements", certain goals that can lead to digital trophies, are found in almost every modern video game. In shooters like "Call of Duty," they have descriptions like "Protect the bombers in 'Ardennes offensive' by shooting down 12 enemy aircraft." Achievements are also part of the so-called gamification, the adoption of game mechanisms in everyday life. They are used, for example, at Internet forums, where users can reach certain levels.
Nevertheless, it seems clear that the assassin wants to stage his plans by mentioning the Achievements like a game. The case of Christchurch already showed that young men like him suspect that their gaming references are being examined. The perpetrator wrote in his manifesto that "Fortnite" trained him to be a killer - only to expose this sentence immediately as a joke, with a subsequent "No". Also in the case of Halle, one can be sure that a perpetrator who uses homemade weapons, has prepared not only with games on their use.
Debates that should be conducted
The hall assassination has therefore very references to gaming, although often diffuse. The act of violence is therefore certainly no reason to warm up the "Killerspiel" debate, especially since the offender was not young, but 27 years old.
However, as long as it does not focus on more important topics such as anti-Semitism, it could be an occasion to think about the responsibility of the game industry, streaming platforms, or community of players and forums.
- It is worth talking about the harsh tone in online games, game forums and streams. Crossing borders, for example in the direction of anti-Semitism or hatred of women, often not only remain unpunished, but also unchallenged by other players. The so-called Gamergate movement originated five years ago from this breeding ground.
- Also worth discussing is the masculinity that some games propagate and that still prevails in many communities. Instead of sporting competition or fun, it is sometimes about power and dominance.
- One could also thematize the sometimes very close connections of game companies and weapon manufacturers. One could talk about the concomitant glorification and belittlement of military equipment.
- And then there are platforms from the gaming cosmos, which obviously have no problem with the spread of misanthropic conspiracy theories, Nazi symbols or right-thinking of users.
These are just four ideas from many. No gaming company, no streaming platform, no uninvolved game fan is responsible for what happened in Halle. But as a whole, the gaming community, as heterogeneous as it is, is also responsible for the social interaction that other communities have.
It is the responsibility to do everything to ensure that something like this does not happen again in Halle. And that starts in the normal online and gaming life, whose part was probably also the perpetrator of Halle once.