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Friday, February 16, 2007

Gran Turismo And Journalistic Accidents

Christopher Hayden, 19, overtook a BMW after finishing playing Gran Turismo on his PlayStation while parked in a layby. He was on the wrong side of the road and driving at up to 55mph in a 40mph area on a cold night when he crashed into 79-year-old Phylis Williams on a hazardous bend.

Bournemouth Crown Court in Dorset was told that Mrs Williams’s car spun into the path of the BMW and somersaulted through the air. She died at the scene of the crash.
-- Driver caused fatal crash after using PlayStation in car

I'm not sure where to begin with this one. The assumption that playing Gran Turismo was somehow a critical factor in this situation feels ... impossible to prove. It's just that - an assumption. Sure, it's an interesting aside but there's no attempt here to explore any factual connection. How long after Hayden was playing did he get into an accident? Were there any other factors? What time of night was it? What was the road like? The article leaves Gran Turismo out to hang as the sole example of what was found legally to be a routine example of careless driving. Hayden wasn't even found guilty of the larger offense of dangerous driving and the judge even showed leniency in the punishment due to his terminally ill girlfriend.

Does that sound like a court trial where a video game acted, as the article strongly suggests, like an intoxicant? If Hayden had been doing tequila shooters instead of Gran Turismo - surely the case would have gone differently. So how is it the article feels justified in blaming the game when nothing else does?

Once again, it's simple sensationalism. It's a way of making a very tragic story seem more exciting. Heck, they couldn't even be bothered to quote a study about aggression levels and games - either because more facts would only prove the connection more tenuous or they were simply too lazy.

They do, however, feel the need to list three other "killer games": Manhunt, Carmaggedon and Canis Canem (Bully). As Keith Stuart of the Guardian points out, this footnote also smacks of a journalistic failure:

The connection between Manhunt and the murder of Stefan Pakeerah has been widely discredited and officially denied by police investigating the case.

The tormenting of the homeless man in Canis Canem Edit, an accusation first put forward by The National Youth Council of Ireland, has been discredited. As this article points out the player befriends the homeless character and learns combat moves from him. Also, it's possible to earn a bonus item by giving money to the homeless.

True, Carmageddon was originally refused a certification, but publisher SCi made a successful appeal to the Video Appeals Committee under the European Convention on Human Rights. (Read more here).
-- Times reports on Gran Turismo crash - can't resist naming 'killer games'

The only success this article has is in promoting a stereotype of video games as a dangerous form of media ... even by rehashing already disproven examples.

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