It turns out that the judge who presided over the case of Daniel Petric, the teenager who killed his mother in a dispute over Halo 3, believes videogames are primarily responsible for the killing after all.
Petric was 16 when he killed his mother and wounded his father after being caught trying to sneak a copy of Halo 3 into the house, a game his parents refused to let him play. Petric’s attorneys blamed his actions on a combination of stress and videogame addiction, but the judge in the case rejected the claim, saying there was evidence that he had plotted for weeks to kill them and that videogame addiction is not a valid defense for murder.
Initial reaction to the verdict among gamers was positive, but it turns out that Judge James Burge isn’t quite as enlightened as many had hoped. Burge made it quite clear after handing down his decision that he was compelled to find Petric guilty, but that in his opinion Petric suffers from a “serious defect of the mind,” and that videogames are responsible.
“The Court must enter a finding of guilty on the counts set forth in the indictment. That being said, it’s my firm belief as a human being – and not as a jurist – that Daniel does suffer from a serious defect of the mind,” Burge said in a transcript put together by GamePolitics. “This Court’s opinion is that we don’t know enough about these video games. In this particular case, not so much the violence of the game because I believe in the Halo 3, what it amounts to is a contest to see who can shoot the most aliens who attack.”
“It’s my firm belief that after a while the same physiological responses occur that occur in the ingestion of some drugs. And I believe that an addiction to these games can do the same thing. The dopamine surge, the stimulation of the nucleus accumbens – the same as an addiction. Such that when you stop, your brain won’t stand for it,” he continued. “The other dangerous thing about these games, in my opinion, is that when these changes occur, they occur in an environment that is delusional. Because you can shoot these aliens, and they’re there again the next day. You have to shoot them again. And I firmly believe that Daniel Petric had no idea, at the time he hatched this plot, that if he killed his parents, they would be dead forever.”
Naturally, Burge’s comments have resulted in a dramatic turn-around in opinion among those who just a day ago were hailing him for not swallowing any nonsense about videogames causing people to kill their mothers; now it seems the best thing anyone can say about him is that he’s at least able to set aside his personal beliefs while following the letter of the law. He also appears to believe that despite the guilty finding, Petric’s case may not yet be over.
“But I believe there is hope here,” he said. “I believe that it will start here and, uh, at some point when all is known about Daniel and what occurred here we will be able to achieve a greater sense of justice.”