May 21st, 2006

Was Belgian Killer Emulating GTA ?

An unprovoked shooting, a European nation rife with ethnic tensions, and an apparently racist and mentally unstable killer.

Under those conditions does it come as any surprise that investigators are considering whether the murderous rampage of 18-year-old Hans Van Themsche was inspired by a video game, Grand Theft Auto?

As reported in today's Seattle Times:

"When... Van Themsche was expelled from his boarding-school dormitory for smoking... it pushed him over some existential edge. He shaved his head, bought a Winchester hunting rifle, put on a black leather trench coat and wrote a note saying he was going to kill foreigners."

And kill foreigners he did, critically wounding a Turkish woman and killing a 24-year-old nanny from Mali and the white toddler in her care before a brave police officer shot and wounded Van Themshce, thus putting an end to his rampage.

While much of the backlash to the shooting spree has focused on Van Themsche's family ties to the separatist party Vlaams Belang ("Flemish Interest"), a party official sought to shift blame elsewhere.

"He apparently wanted to commit suicide," said Vlaams Belang spokesman Phillipe Van Der Sande. "He played a lot with violent computer games, and he went to a shop and bought a gun and started shooting around with it. Such a murder has no racist motives. He was probably mentally disturbed."
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Sunday Editorial Round-up

Lots of editorial opinion to check out today, so here goes:

Strong stuff in the Washington Post, where writer Jose Antonio Vargas offers more info on the highly-controversial Super Columbine Massacre RPG game, including the revelation of the real name of its creator, Danny LeDonne (seen at left). By the way, I think GP is first to reveal LeDonne's MySpace. The WaPo's Vargas also spoke to the widow of Columbine victim Dave Sanders, a popular teacher killed in the 1999 school shooting. Vargas reports that, upon learning that a video game based on the massacre had been created, Mrs. Sanders was, quite understandably, unable to continue the conversation.

In the Peoria Journal-Star, columnist Phil Luciano blames poor writing skills on video games. Luciano writes in part, "Many of my college students... seem to be less familiar with books than earlier generations. In part, you can blame the influence of video games in pre-teens' lives. If the choice is 'Moby Dick' or Playstation, I think we know which one a kid will pick... In other words, good writing means good salaries. Think about that the next time you choose between taking your kid to the video store or the library..."

GP: For many reasons, we think Luciano couldn't be more wrong on this point. We'd advise him to do a little research next time, and encourage him to read Marc Prensky's excellent Don't Bother Me, Mom - I'm Learning!!.
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