How did GTA get blamed for London riots?

How the #$@! should I know? Somehow, reports indicate that the London Evening Standard has indicated it could claim the events seen in London for the last two days were inspired by Grand Theft Auto. While I’m a gamer ready to defend gaming’s honor, I’m also a realist and an observer. How did GTA get blamed for London riots?

What events took place before the riots?

A pre-planned arrest of Mark Duggan went terribly wrong in many ways. Operation Trident – the Metropolitan Police unit that “deals with gun crime in London’s black communities” – stopped a cab with Duggan inside to make the arrest. Shots were fired. Duggan was dead at the scene.

Conflicting reports quickly followed which clouds the story of what really happened. A bullet was lodged in a police radio, but one report refutes the evidence suggesting it was a police-issued bullet – not from Duggan. Some reports say Duggan was held down and shot in the head. The police refuted that claim as well.

Around 5:30 pm, Saturday evening, roughly 120 people held a demonstration outside the Tottenham police station, not far from the shooting. For two hours, it was reported the demonstration was peaceful before violence erupted due to gang interaction. The ill-fated story went on from there – spreading into other areas of London.  (BBCCNN)

A little deeper into the area

London is hosting the Summer Olympic Games in 2012. Tottenham is one of London’s poorest neighborhoods with high unemployment and poverty numbers, and many feel that cutbacks in government services have unfairly hindered improvement started back in 1985. Some local residents claimed they weren’t gaining the benefits of nearby investments to prepare for the Olympics. (LA Times) asked its readers to describe the riots, and some interesting insights were made about the situation:

Walking home from Tottenham Hale tube station at approx 22:00, many people were seen walking by with hands full of looted goods. If they were heading for the tube station, most of them were not from Tottenham, meaning a lot of people must have informed them to come to Tottenham specifically for the riot/looting.

Cultural divide, with anger towards the police. I don’t believe much of this has to do with Mark Duggan and is more about the “yob culture” in Tottenham.

There are countless stories available about the culture, current living conditions and about the riot available on the Internet. Most seem to have a good grasp that this was a situation that spiraled out of control out of misinformation and sketchy details from the start.

So how did GTA get blamed for London riots?

How the #$@! should I know? Riots have been started over less. It’s unfortunate they happened. London Evening Standard must be digging, citing (MVC):

Two people – one a police officer in Tottenham and the other an Enfield resident – told reporters that they believed the popular game series was the catalyst behind the breakdown of law and order.

This isn’t the first – nor the last – time a video game creeps its way into the spotlight when negative press happens. There’s a stigma around video games.

Last month, MW2 caught a lot of flack because a shooter in Norway claimed it to be “the best military simulator for training” before what he did. That time, the shooter actually claimed the video game helped him. Usually, it’s someone just looking for something to blame. Something to troll for hits and supporters.

The truth is, I think GTA couldn’t be further from the truth as the catalyst for this situation given the knowledge of the population in that area and the event that sparked it. If you want to blame the media, how about books, movies and songs about “cop-killers” or “killer-cops”?

So somehow GTA got into the mix. In my honest opinion, it’s because people are looking for answers in the wrong places.

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Update (8/9/2011): The London Evening Standard did change their headline and tune when the article was published, but it still identified the officer who made the comments that GTA helped incite the riots.

6 Comments How did GTA get blamed for London riots?

  1. Wiggy

    I’m 29 in a couple of weeks and I remember way back in ’89 and the early 90’s my generation being told constantly that our video games would make us all violent delinquents with our Marios, Sonics, Mortal Kombats and Streets of Rages. Well, all I can say is, stop being so lazy with your reporting and just focus on facts. Of the countless millions of kids who play video games (and have done since gaming began 30 odd years ago!), how many of them are at these riots? I used to be an avid gamer back in the day and was generally considered a well rounded, respectful individual. Now I’m married, own a house and am about to start a family with my wife and there’s still no sign of my violent gaming past waiting to make an ASBO of me! Yet again, excuses being made for the 21st Century’s culture of ‘lack of accountability for ones own actions’. What makes me laugh more is, the people of today who seem to point blame at these games don’t tend to be of an older generation and appear to be of/or around my age group, give or take a couple of years, who more than likely would have played games like this (albeit with cruder graphics) many years ago. Like I said, Im 29 very soon and even before I was born (’82!), there was a good 5-10 years worth of hardcore gamers before me. How many of them grew up dysfunctional?

  2. H21

    Much like yourself, I’m 28 years old and have been gaming since the age of 4. My exposure to violent video games has been relatively extensive, and I am now a young professional, married and have two wonderful kids. I just don’t understand how people honestly want to point to video games as the source of all these problems since there were wars, murder, rape and so on long before video games.

  3. Johannes Kepler

    Video games are an outlet for the imagination to go places reality cannot create. Either because video games violate many scientific laws, or they are not healthy period. Yet we crave the excitement these provide knowing full well that these designed worlds are a fiction that is an escape, or a trial run of a world never-to-be. It is perhaps curiosity in many forms, and this is most likely due to personal character, which leads many to the realms of video gaming, or even dungeons and dragons for that matter. Video games do not inspire more than they are seen as abstracts to the way in which we contrast our reality with fiction. The confusion which leads video games to inspire violence completely overlooks the valid argument of how school yard rivalry ends up in tragic blood baths. It also undermines the intelligence of the programmers who spend countless hours creating these fictional realms. Discounting their ethos and their moralities. Indeed we tend to see video games as an entity that spawned it’s self from hell when we take the view that they inspire violence. Because in the end, it is this corrupt society and broken world in which we live in that makes us all mad, not our comic books, not our video games, not our television programming, not our books. Video games at least let us escape this world at least for a little while. Yes there are very happy people in the world, and my thanks to them for being so. Yet we cannot use this as the poster child for our world, it is anything but. When we ignore the cruelties of our world and allow ignorant fools to blame our escape from their torment, then we’ve failed as humans and most of all we’ve failed as gamers.

  4. H21

    Thank you for your comment. I agree with you in many ways. I am also impressed with the point of by claiming these video games are responsible for these things, you do discredit those who put in all their creative energies to try to create something unique, innovative and fun!

    Again, thank you for your input!

  5. IncreaseBlue

    This is just a natural response at this point. No one wants to take the blame so they shove it off on a medium so generalized that it won’t be defended (except by writers such as yourself). This is just like when VTech happened people started blaming Counter Strike (Jack Thompson to be precise). It’s a stupid way of shoving off responsibility and facing reality.
    To be honest though, the reason most of these video game accusations are included in stories is to get people going on either side.

  6. Justin Gifford

    I’m not positive about this, but my guess is that video games (specifically, GTA) is being “blamed” for the riots for several reasons.
    First: at least in the U.S. (and, considering Rupert Murdoch’s presence in the UK, likely in Great Britain, too), many of our “news” outlets are no longer neutral providers of information, they’re 24 hour cycles of information that used to be found only on the editorial/letters to the editor pages and they keep viewers glued to them with fantastic renditions of the day’s goings on; my suspicion is that a big chunk of the “traditional” news outlets (particularly TV) consumers are from the baby boomer generation.
    Second: The baby boomers have been trained to respond well to fear(the Red Menace, MAD, The Man, Urban Crime, Terrorism) and were brought up trusting news outlets to provide them with unbiased information. When this “unbiased authority figure” with a sober face tells them that video games are going to cause the collapse of society and are evil, they’re inclined to buy into that on a visceral level
    Third: The baby boomers (generally) are only peripherally familiar with video games and when they’re told that video games (the things the kids are playing) are the cause of a riot or a shooting, they buy into it in the same way that many of their parents and/or grandparents became convinced that rock and roll, the “counterculture” movement, or comic books would cause societal collapse.
    Sum up: There’s a very large generation of people who are unfamiliar with videogames, who I suspect get more of their news from TV than the millennials, are less skeptical of a slant coming from that news provider (who is providing an opinion and going for ratings), are well trained to respond like a herd of terrified cattle to the newest threat to Humanity, Western Civilization, Christianity, Puppies Being Cute, The Right to Drive Like A Jerk, and Jello Pudding.

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