Online Publication Learns Lesson About Off-Handed Video Game Comments


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The recent Virginia Tech shooting, where a campus police officer was shot and killed after conducting a traffic stop, has once again turned the nation's attention to Blacksburg, Virginia. The police officer, Deriek Crouse, was murdered by Ross Truett Ashley on Virginia Tech's campus. Ashley committed suicide shortly after taking Crouse's life, and while he incident itself is bad enough, it wasn't made any better when a post by a throwaway video game blog offered unfortunate and misguided speculation behind the senseless act.

The publication in question is a site called, a normally moderate-to-low traffic video game blog that, until its decision to cover the Virginia Tech situation, had article pageview highs hovering around close to the 2000 mark. Now, thanks to an ill-informed statement in their 157-word post about the shootings, the article in question has a pageview count close to 30,000. The post's title should clue you into why it was so popular:

Virginia Tech shooter influenced by GTA 5, Battlefield 3 and MW3?

As you can imagine, the post is completely speculative, and features this incredibly misguided stanza, complete with the [sic]s intact:

This has spark a speculation whether Ross was influenced by the recent burst of video games shooters such as Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. His style of the killing is similar to the upcoming Rockstar’s title Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5).

It should be noted the blog post linked to the AP's article about the shooting, and nowhere in it did the AP make the same inference. In fact, video games aren't even mentioned in their report, making the blog post's offering even more irresponsible.

Because of the irresponsible approach to such an emotional story, the blog was taken to task in the comments sections, with appropriate responses like so, from reader Ed:

You don’t know anything about video games. Grand Theft Auto V hasn’t even been released yet, the only details of that game was a 1 minute trailer. Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 are games set during wars, the fact that the gunman had a gun means nothing. You are connecting to irrelevant things, such as the Columbine shooting was compared to Doom because they played Doom. The boy was unknown of playing video games. Video Games have been studied for years but there is no concrete evidence of violent behavior or outburst from adults who play video games. You may say that there are studies saying that Video Games cause violence, but there are just as relevant studies disputing the claim. Your logical reason is ridiculous, how is it like Grand Theft Auto V, a game that is pretty much kept “under wraps” by Rockstar Games, the British developer making the title. You are being ignorant and is using your ignorance to try to get readers and you are pathetic.

As Ed so eloquently noted, the blog is blaming a video game that hasn't even been released to the public -- Grand Theft Auto V -- as one of its reasons for the senseless behavior.

Clearly, this is an attempt for more pageviews and comments, which, in this case, worked for Myona. The question is, if your publication is getting absolutely trashed in the comments section for what the content of the post, can the publicity necessarily good? Sure, the ad impressions from the increased audience eager to discuss the error of the blog post's ways benefited, but will the people who went out of their way to visit and leave a comment come back to a publication they just ripped for irresponsible speculation?

For, did the means justify the ends, especially if they upset a potential audience base to the point there won't be any return visits to the site?