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Oslo Aftermath: A Personal Perspective

By now most everyone has heard stories about the Norwegian man who slaughtered nearly 70 people, including a large number of kids.  Since you’re reading this, you are probably also aware that he played World of Warcraft.  

Each day, when I first boot up my computer and hop online, most of the time the first site I visit is ESPN.com, followed by CNN.com, to check up on the latest news in the real world.  The day after the Oslo attacks I didn’t bother going to CNN for some reason and just logged on to WoW and started playing.  I was greeted by a member of our guild who asked me if I knew about the attacks.  I went and checked it out and was, of course, shocked.  However, the next thing he said blew me away.

“Did you know that sick-o played WoW and he’s from our server?”

I really couldn’t believe this.  I spent the rest of the morning researching and sure enough, this guy had numerous posts on the Silvermoon forums and had been a well established personality there for some time.  I had a permanent chill up my spine for the rest of the day.

Let’s put aside the tragedy of the situation for a moment.  To be clear, this man clearly deserves to burn in hell if there is such a place.  However I don’t want to focus on the actual act, rather I want to take a quick second to examine people’s reaction to the act.  As I look back on the first week after the attacks happened, and specifically at my actions and thoughts going through that week, I get an interesting snapshot of how people respond to events such as this.

After my guildie told me about this and I verified it was indeed true, my next course of action was to try and tell as many people as I knew.  I have to ask myself now why I felt this was necessary.  Broadly speaking, WoW is not looked upon highly by the general public, and mentioning the fact that I played not only the same game, but in the same community as a mass murder wasn’t going to help people view me, as a gamer,  in a better light.  Also, thinking about it objectively, with 6.7 billion people in the world, I guess it’s easy to feel insignificant. Telling people was a way of adding me to a story that had gone global.  Over time my story went from “I play on the same server as that guy” to “I was in a few battlegrounds with that guy” when, to be honest, I have no idea if I ever interacted with him at all.  It’s likely I ran through him in Stormwind a couple times at least, and it is very possible I may have done a BG or two that he was in, as the name does seem vaguely familiar.  But I accept the possibility that it is just my mind trying to convince me of something that just isn’t true.  This seems to be a story that is repeated often when dealing with shocking events or catastrophes.

Other peoples’ reactions were just as interesting as my own.  I spent nearly a whole day at work arguing with people about the shooter’s motivation.   After that, I felt like I should call Blizzard and demand a pay check for how much I was defending them and their game.  It will always blow my mind how people can zoom into one little sentence out of many in a story and come to insane conclusions.  My conversations with people who do not play World of Warcraft generally went as follows.

Me:  “Dude, you know that ultra right wing religious extremist that killed all those people in Norway because he was against Muslim people immigrating to Europe? He played WoW and was on my server.”

Them:  “See? I always said those games promoted violence and was no good.”

Me:  “Ummm… I’m sorry; did you not hear the part where I said he was an ultra right wing religious nut job?”

It wasn’t just one or two people, a worrying number had this same reaction.  We’re also seeing that reaction in the media.  I’d liken it to a person who takes a bath in gasoline, lights a cigarette and engulfs himself in fire.  What do you say to the person who claims his cause of death was smoking??  IMO it’s the same principle at work here.  Anyone that would argue gaming caused this guy to go off the deep end is just an idiot.  Luckily for Blizzard, I think Modern Warfare
2 is going to take most of the heat from the anti-gaming crowd, but I am sure a few PR people in Irvine lost a lot of sleep regardless.

I will tell you one person I am glad I’m not at the moment:  The GM for the guild this guy was in.  We had to deal with people coming on Silvermoon all week trolling trade chat blaming our community for creating this “Monster”.  I can’t imagine the whispers members of his guild are getting, especially the GM.  Needless to say I don’t think he will be recruiting via the public channels for a little while.

Anyway, things are already starting to die down.  Fewer and fewer trolls are coming on, and soon I’m sure most people will forget.  As for me, even though I was far removed from the events of that day, I will always have the same feeling as those who tell stories of being in the same building as Hitler, or taking a train ride with Stalin when he was young.  Even though it is only virtual space, I felt like I had a brush with evil, and it was a very unsettling experience.

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