The idea that video games can spawn real-world violence is an especially hot-button topic at the moment. Just yesterday we brought you word of a new study into the effects of media violence created as a bipartisan response to the December 14 shooting in Newtown, CT. Sadly, today’s news is only tangentially related, yet much more grim.
In December, a Chinese man identified by the Chinese paper QQ Games (and then translated by Tech in Asia) as Zhao, was enjoying an unnamed web-based video game at an Internet cafe in the city of Renqiu, in China’s Hebei province. According to Chinese authorities, while Zhao was enjoying his game, the Internet service dropped, prematurely ending his fun. Zhao then approached the cafe’s owner – a man identified as Ren – to complain. The two men argued, with Ren claiming that Zhao may have downloaded a virus, causing the Internet outage, and Zhao claiming that he did no such thing. Enraged, Zhao attacked Ren with his fists. Ren attempted to defend himself with a hammer, but since he had no intention of killing Zhao, he never actually struck his assailant. Seeing Ren’s weapon, Zhao went for one of his own and repeatedly stabbed Ren with a nearby pair of scissors.
After stabbing Ren several times, Zhao then snatched away his hammer and beat Ren over the head with it until he slumped to the ground, dead. At this point, Ren’s wife (who remains unnamed) rushed over to aid her husband, only to be similarly assaulted. Zhao hit her with the hammer, stabbed her with the same scissors used against her husband, then found a kitchen knife and stabbed her with that as well.
With Ren and his wife dead, Zhao attempted to cover up his crime. He set the Internet cafe ablaze, tossed the murder weapons into the fire and went home. The bodies of Ren and his wife were discovered by authorities the following morning, and though justice travels slowly in China, the police eventually caught up to Zhao and arrested him days ago. Zhao is currently in custody, awaiting trial.
The Chinese government has long held that games can cause damage to the minds of the young – hence the 13 year ban on gaming consoles – so there is a very good chance that the government controlled Chinese media will implicate the nature of gaming in these brutal and despicable attacks. Along with the growing chorus coming from the West regarding violent media, this case may be used as one more circumstantial piece of evidence in the case against violent media. But the Chinese culture highly regulates and monitors what it deems as violent media, which seems to contradict that assertion. If this had not occurred in an internet cafe while Zhao was playing a game, it would most likely have been written off as a senseless crime and forgotten. Instead it may add fuel to the fire being stoked by those happy to cast aspersions on an industry they neither understand nor care about.
Even after spending thousands of hours playing video games of all shapes and sizes, the brutality of these crimes remains utterly unthinkable. Say what you will of gaming violence, but it’s hard to believe that something much more sinister didn’t motivate these murders.