Comment: Spawning a scandal

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Splashed across the cover of today's Daily Telegraph in Sydney is a large screenshot of Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, the single player version of the world's most popular multiplayer game.

The story is about a murder case currently underway in the Supreme Court in which it is alleged that two assailants dressed in combat fatigues, balaclavas and ski goggles, undertook a home invasion that left one man dead and his wife injured with a gunshot wound.

This tragic story made the front cover thanks to a statement made by the prosecutor, which has been quoted in several news stories about the case. He stated to the court:

"The peace and tranquillity of the family life they had enjoyed up to that time was shattered because of two men, one of which the Crown says was the accused, dressed in an outfit that was inspired by a computer game, Counter-Strike, in which the accused had some interest and from which he derived some enjoyment."

This remark has now been transformed into a full-blown link between the game Counter-Strike and the crime. It has all the hallmarks of a great story, especially in the post Manhunt ban climate where video game violence is again rearing its head as a corruptor of youth. It is not even as if the crime appears to be directly linked to the game as all the prosecution is alleging is that the outfits worn were inspired by the game. The Daily Telegraph translates this in its coverlines to "yesterday a court heard it inspired a murder"

But what are the outfits of Counter-Strike, a game that until a recent upgrade was based upon the same rudimentary 3D graphics that power the game Quake. They are copies of real world Counter-Terrorist uniforms, simplified to work with the game technology. They are not uniquely identifiable as being from Counter-Strike, in fact there is no uniform comprised of combat fatigues, balaclava and ski goggles. The closest is the German GSG9 inspired outfit that has ski goggles sitting on a distinctive brown camouflage helmet.

But I doubt things are going to fizzle out at the fashion level. I'm almost certain that by the time you read this the foot of at least one current affairs journalist will be jammed into a door of an internet café, hoping for a glimpse at the kill-factory inside. And yes, then we will get another wave of video game violence scandal, maybe a couple more games will be recommended for reclassification by the OFLC and retroactively banned despite years of free availability.

Maybe I'm too cynical. But yesterday, when the story first appeared on another news website there was much debate, and anger, around the editorial room. As someone put it "the game guys are angry again", and despite the belief by some that the story would go away, we knew deep down that this was just the start of something ridiculous.

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