Loughner and Video Games

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 12 2011 12:40 PM

Loughner and Video Games

Finally, a cliched element that was missing from the Jared Lee Loughner story has emerged. He was a gamer.

Gaming appears to have been an important part of Mr. Loughner's life. In the 7th grade, he and a friend, Alex Montanaro, began playing the multiplayer online games Starcraft and Diablo, which featured complex virtual worlds where players assume roles and play against other people around the globe, Mr. Montanaro said in emails over the weekend and Monday.

Around the 9th grade, recalls Mr. Montanaro, Mr. Loughner abandoned the old games and started playing Earth: 2025, now called Earth Empires, a text-based game in which players assume the form of a country and develop its economy. Players form clans and battle other clans.

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My online life started in 1996 or 1997 on Prodigy message boards, including some for games like Rifts and Shadowrun. This story just broke, but I'd be surprised if that old chestnut -- it was the Violent Video Games, and we must ban them! -- makes a return. The violence was not in the games, because they were pure strategy stuff. It was in Loughner's online persona in the message boards.

On April 24, Mr. Loughner titled a new online thread: "Would you hit a Handy Cap Child/ Adult?" He wrote: "This is a very interesting question….There are mental retarded children. They're possessing teachers that are typing for money. This will never stop….The drug addicts need to be weeded out to be more intelligent. The Principle of this is that them c— educators need to stop being pigs."

Later that day, he posted a rant titled "Why Rape," which said women in college enjoyed being raped. "There are Rape victims that are under the influence of a substance. The drinking is leading them to rape. The loneliness will bring you to depression. Being alone for a very long time will inevitably lead you to rape."

Some participants in the forum suggested that he must be on drugs, while others said he may be mentally impaired.

They were yet another place, like classrooms and conspiracy boards, where he could spout off.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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