A report published today on last year's Sandy Hook massacre, in which a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn., has detailed the killer's relationship with games. The report lists his game collection but draws no conclusions about their impact on his state of mind. It does not include games in its conclusions as to his motives.
The summary report was filed by Connecticut State's Attorney Stephen Sedensky III, and details the events of Dec. 14, 2012, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and, using a military-style assault rifle, murdered children and teachers before turning the gun on himself. A more detailed report from the Connecticut State Police is due to be released at a later date.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Lanza's interest in video games became a focal point for media, politicians and investigators. According to reports at the time, Lanza owned a large collection of violent video games, and kept a meticulously researched spreadsheet of past massacres that was compared by law-enforcement officers to a video game "score sheet."
The report shows various games owned by Lanza and collected from his house by police. It shows that his interest in games included violent and non-violent games. The list mentions brands including Left 4 Dead, Metal Gear Solid, Dead Rising, Half-Life, Battlefield, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Shin Megami Tensei, Dynasty Warriors, Team Fortress and Doom.
According to the report Lanza "liked to play a game called Dance Dance Revolution, which is a music video game in which the player stands on a platform, watches a video screen and moves his feet as directed by the video. A home version of this was seen and photographed in the shooter's home. Several videos of him playing DDR were found on digital media taken from the home."
Investigators said he owned an Xbox and that his gaming history included titles including Call of Duty 2: Big Red One, Halo 2, Lego Star Wars, Panzer Dragoon Orta, Splinter Cell 2, Star Wars Battlefront and Worms: Forts Under Seige.
It also added the he owned a PlayStation 2 with a collection including Dynasty Tactics, Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts 2, Onimusha and Dynasty Warriors.
A section on his social history said that he was often a loner, but that he had hosted a LAN party at his house in 2008. The reported added that "he played video games often, both solo at home and online. They could be described as both violent and non-violent. One person described the shooter as spending the majority of his time playing non-violent video games all day, with his favorite at one point being Super Mario Brothers."
In its conclusion, the report makes no mention of games. It states, "What we do know is that the shooter had significant mental health issues that, while not affecting the criminality of the shooter's mental state for the crimes or his criminal responsibility for them, did affect his ability to live a normal life and to interact with others, even those to whom he should have been close. Whether this contributed in any way is unknown. The shooter did not recognize or help himself deal with these issues. He had a familiarity with and access to firearms and ammunition and an obsession with mass murders, in particular the Columbine shootings."
Following the massacre, the National Rifle Association issued a statement blaming video games for real-world violence. "There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people," said NRA head Wayne LaPierre. "Isn't fantasizing about killing people to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?" he added.
President Obama met with video game industry executives at the White House in January as part of a fact-finding mission, before making a recommendation that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conduct further research into the relationship between video games, media images and violence.
"If there's even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there's even one life that can be saved, then we have an obligation to try it," said President Obama. "I will put everything I've got into this, and so will Joe [Biden], but I tell you the only way we can change is if the American people demand it." At the time, vice president Joe Biden said that the Government was making "no judgment" on the alleged link between violence and video games.
Jay Rockefeller, a Democratic Senator from West Virginia, introduced a bill to the Senate three days after the massacre, calling for the National Academy of Sciences to study the impact of violent video games and violent video programming on children. "In today's world, where kids can access content across a variety of devices often without parental supervision, it is unrealistic to assume that overworked and stressed parents can prevent their kids from viewing inappropriate content," he said. Rockefeller has long been critical of violence in entertainment and the media. Polygon has sent a request for comment on today's report to his office.
At the Game Developers Conference in February, a panel of speakers including author Ian Bogost and former Epic Games boss Mike Capps argued that the public perception of gaming is overwhelmingly one that is tied to violence and violent games.
Polygon's coverage of video game issues related to the Sandy Hook massacre can be found here.