Combat games alone not seen to inspire violence
Hyvinkää shootings cause concern among Airsoft enthusiasts
The revelation that Hyvinkää shooter Eero Hiltunen was an active player of Airsoft combat games has cast a shadow over the combat game hobby.
Airsoft involves battle games in which members of an opposing team using replica weapons powered by compressed gas, which fire small plastic pellets.
Experts confirm that there is some connection between violent games and violent behaviour. However, most agree that the games do not cause aggressive behaviour. Instead, people who are already interested in violence could be more likely to seek out such hobbies.
“Aggressive fantasies can stay in people’s minds to emerge again in some circumstances. They are never the only reason [for acts of violence]”, says Doctor of Psychology Anu Mustonen.
Mustonen says that violence is excessively emphasised in entertainment and in games, which increases the risk of aggressive behaviour in some people.
Games researcher Janne Paavilainen, who has played action games himself, says that the role of violence becomes secondary in action games, and the focus is more on tactical competition between teams.
“Social activities are good for people even if the game that they play might seem aggressive. The games often support positive experiences”, says Professor Frans Mäyrä.
There are more than 10,000 Airsoft hobbyists in Finland, says Tero Salmela, chairman of the PKS Airsoft association.
Salmela says that shooting is only one aspect of the game, and camaraderie is the main function.
“More important than shooting or the weapons is doing things together with a group of friends. Airsoft is a sporty and social hobby”, Salmela says.
The Hyvinkää shooting has been discussed intensely among Airsoft hobbyists, who are concerned that the incident might hurt the reputation of their game.
Salmela says that in the 15 years that he has been involved in the activity, he has never seen anyone who would have joined the group out of a fascination for shooting people.
“If something like that were to emerge, we would probably intervene in some way”, he says.
Paavilainen says that the game is an easy target for accusations.
“I hope that there would be more discussion on how to fight against marginalisation and that school bullying might be opposed, so that bad feelings might not be expressed in the way that happened in Hyvinkää.”
However, Anu Mustonen says that there may be a greater risk among the emotionally unbalanced to respond to violent models of action. “The more sensitive and more frail we are, the easier it is to influence us.”
Previously in HS International Edition:
Hyvinkää gunman Eero Hiltunen admits killings in remand appearance (29.5.2012)
Hyvinkää shootings: Gunman shows remorse; policewoman still not out of danger (28.5.2012)