Blacksburg (VA) - Police and news media are still trying to figure out what caused Virginia Tech student Cho Seung-Hui to kill himself along with 32 classmates and teachers, but so far violent video games don’t appear to be a factor. In a search warrant performed on the same night as the April 16th killings, police found chains, tools, computers and compact discs, but no games. Almost immediately after the shootings, Dr. Phil McGraw and Jack Thompson appeared on major news networks and tried to link Seung-Hui’s shootings to violent video game play.
Virginia State Police searched Seung-Hui’s room at around 9:06 PM on April 16th and recovered 16 pieces of evidence. Most of the items were fairly average including combination locks, notepads and documents, but police also grabbed the killer’s Compaq computer, two cases of compact disks and an 80 GB hard drive. CNN has obtained a copy of the search warrant and the list of items collected. You can read that document here .
You can see from the list that no video game boxes, joysticks, controller pads or software were seized. There were also no game consoles in the dorm room, indeed Seung-Hui’s roommate has told police and reporters that he’s never saw the killer play any video games. Of course, the police could still find games on the hard drives or compact discs, but, at this point, it doesn’t appear that video games of any kind played any factor in Seung-Hui’s rampage.
After the shootings, noted television psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw appeared on CNN’s Larry King show and said that violent video games were “programming” kids. “You cannot tell me, common sense tells you that if these kids are playing video games, where they're on a mass killing spree in a video game, it's glamorized on the big screen, it's become part of the fiber of our society,” said McGraw. You can read the entire transcript of Dr. Phil’s comments here .
Attorney and anti-violent game activist Jack Thompson also went on a media offensive by giving interviews to major networks like Fox News and MSNBC. In those interviews he linked school shootings with violent video games and added that they help the killers simulate and plan out the shootings.
Thompson's interview with Fox News
“Typically the school shooters train literally on video games to do this,” Thompson told MSNBC. In his Fox News interview, he said that the FBI found that the “common denominator” in school shootings were the shooter’s immersion in incredibly violent video games. The study that Thompson cites is “The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective” and actually isn’t as clear cut as Thompson asserts. It said that violent video games was a factor, but added that violent movies and media in general could also cause violence. You can read the FBI paper here.
Thompson's interview with MSNBC
At this point no one really knows what caused Seung-Hui to go on a murderous shooting spree. Evidence is continuing to pour in and some people are now speculating that he could have patterned his rampage after scenes from a very violent released in 2004 called “Oldboy”. Of course there is one person who knows exactly what happened, and unfortunately – or fortunately depending on your perspective – he took that secret to his grave.