Hags of Lag – Videogames and Suicide

During the February half term, William Menzies died.

He went up to his room after lunch. 3 hours later he was found asphyxiated. He had hung himself after tying his hands behind his back. According to his brother, William was in a happy mood and there were no warning signs of depression.

Menzies death has rocked the local community. MY local community. He died in Altrincham. I drink at the Unicorn and the Classroom if readers want to come give me company over a pint.

He went to my old school. 

But what the coroner has come out with has shocked and stunned us all. I consider this coroner’s actions to be frankly puzzling.

William Menzies went to the Altrincham Grammar School for Boys. He liked badminton, drew and liked philosophy. And like many kids these days, he liked X-Box. He liked Call of Duty. Who doesn’t? I play the damn game myself so I am not one to talk. It is a mindless story but frankly we aren’t looking into it to break new ground. It is a set piece extravaganza. It has many flaws. 

But one of those flaws isn’t that it drove William Menzies to suicide. William has so many different hobbies that it amazes me that we can sit around and pin point one as the source of his demise. It is why the Internet and indeed the gutter press is awash with “Call of Duty Causes Suicide” stories. The Mirror and Daily Mail.

And a special note here. I know some of the Anti-Melody fans still read my blog. This is your Daily Mail. The article you ran around defending came from a source that unabashedly runs a “videogame causes suicides” headline. Idiotic, stupid and mindless journalism. I grew up on stories of reporters. Hells Bells! Clark Fucking Kent is a reporter as is Peter Parker for a specific reason. Because reporters were once held as a position of integrity. Now they are glorified vultures. 

This is a headline grabber. You write something like this to push papers. You write something like this to create outrage markets and get clicks. And this isn’t the only death.

Coroner John Pollard, having deliberated over the inquests of this and three other suicides, all teenage boys and all fans of Call of Duty. Has decided to make sense of this human tragedy. He was comfortable enough in his evidence to claim that there was “no note or indication” that William was depressed. Yet was sure in enough in his diagnosis stating “the Call of Duty game seems to be figuring in recent activity before death. It concerns me greatly”.

The coroner made a “plea” to parents to keep their children away from such games when under 18. “Why, quite frankly, anybody would want to be playing them, I don’t know.”

Opinion on a game doesn’t have any role. Well, I am sure these boys ate brussel sprouts. Why, quite frankly, anybody would want to eat them? I don’t know. Chances are if William would have played this game like millions of other young people. This is just alarmist nonsense and it is fitting that the Daily Mail ran this. After all, remember Melody and indeed Andrew Wakefield. And none of the entities mentioned looked into Video Games or suicide.

97% of kids in the UK have played Call of Duty. It is the most played game of all time. As for suicide, while young people commit suicide the least in the UK, you are between 4 to 5 times more likely t commit suicide if you are male. Now what are the chances of four young men playing call of duty like any normal teenager like my brother and committing suicide? Not very high. However what are the chances of a young male suicide victim being a call of duty player? High. Also a good chance of them being right handed, straight and being in school.

We keep speaking about the potential for videogames to drive violence but we tend to find that bad behaviour is only seen within the game rather than outside and it is due to frustration rather than anything. 

And this is something that’s common among the adults who run our country. Hell we had people like MP Claire Perry who wanted to switch of the Internet to solve bullying, self harm and eating disorders despite countless people including trained psychiatrists and psychologists and educators and people with these conditions mentioning that the Internet helps these people too. This is like blaming Twitter for PTSD, not the harassers. We may as well ban notebooks because back in the “day” we bullied each other just fine using pen and paper without text messages or Facebook.

Anders Breivik’s name comes up repeatedly in such discussions. A man who “trained” for his crime by playing Call of Duty. Want to know something? I love Gran Turismo. I love cars. I was the kid who had a Lamborghini Diablo on my wall. But I cannot drive. No seriously. I never got a car from my parents and I saw a driving license as a frivolity for someone who couldn’t afford a car. I actually am working on my driving license at this point in India since I do need a license for the UK. Despite driving in Gran Tourismo and setting lap times that would qualify me as a potential candidate to be the Stig, Ferrari haven’t yet contacted me to drive one of their cars. I am going to assume it is because I had a Diablo on my wall.

Anders Breivik didn’t learn to shoot a gun on Call of Duty, all he did was play the game. His mental state is unknown and frankly I do not care, but chances are even if he saw it as practice, it really is not. Post Sandy Hook we saw the same debate about Adam Lanza. 

No one ever blamed the gun. And frankly as I have written, the dialogue about Adam Lanza spoke more about his psychiatric state and the media described him as smart and shy because smart and shy people shoot up Primary Schools.

Video Games are our generation’s rock music. If you play Iron Maiden’s the Trooper backwards all you do is kill an awesome song. If you play REO Speedwagon backwards, you may improve the music.

And it feels crass to be doing this after a death of a young man but frankly you are doing something that has harmed young men for generations. You are trying to find easy excuses for mental health issues, depression and suicide by blaming pop-culture. You detract from the real issues. In the case of Adam Lanza we can talk about Mental illness and Gun Control. In the case of Anders Breivik we have to discuss conspiracy theory and racism. Hell in the case of our charming friend Elliot Matthew we have to discuss his misogyny. 

Not a clumsy and pointless argument made by people who literally grew up when Heavy Metal was the devil’s music. How laughable is that? 

There is one game that is played a lot in the UK. A PC game. Played maybe more than even Call of Duty on it. It holds 16 CONSECUTIVE No. 1s for its yearly iteration. It is an institution in the UK.

So… Why is no one claiming that Football Manager caused his suicide?

You feel like a heel doing this because you are trying to tell someone that his attempt to make sense of a pointless death is harmful. But it needs to be done.

We don’t know what happened the day William Menzies died. To postulate blame with no evidence harms young men since the real causes still exist.


Avicenna is going home in August and is running his yearly fundraiser to raise funds for his trip there and to keep him in Fabergé Eggs. If you wish to help out? There are two ways you can do this. If you wish to donate you can either donate via Paypal.

If you cannot donate and you still want to help and you like my work? Pass it on if you think it is good.

If you are in the UK and in the Manchester region? Come Say Hello in August! I should be back after the 5th of August. I will be at Hebden Bridge on the 12th with PZ Myers along with Hera.


  1. embertine says

    Agreed, Avi. I don’t know how I feel about ultra-violent video games and how they may impact real-world attitudes towards violence, or towards death generally. I suspect it is a complex issue that varies hugely based on the personality of the individual. But I am pretty sure that playing a shoot-em-up like CoD doesn’t make young men hang themselves. I play a game where my werewolf avatar can cause meteoric death to rain from the skies onto my enemies. Not feeling very suicidal; possibly it only works on young lads?

    If this coroner wants to establish a link between these games and suicide he needs to have a bit more than just “I don’t understand these games so they must be dangerous”. This is just more shrieking linkbait from the tabloids. I don’t even think that the Mail even believes most of the things it publishes. They are just jumping on a tragedy to sell papers.

    Relating to another recent tragedy, THIS is what it looks like when someone twists a tragedy to serve a political hobbyhorse.

  2. karmacat says

    I wish the media would read more about suicide because what causes suicide is MENTAL ILLNESS. People can look fine and still be profoundly depressed. And teenagers tends to be more impulsive because their brain isn’t fully developed. So there is even more risk of suicide with very little warning. Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD wrote an excellent book on suicide called, Night Falls Fast. People always try to find a reason for suicide because they have a hard time understanding what depression or psychosis can do to a person. Because these illnesses take away a person’s hope. People can survive physical illnesses better as long as they have hope. STudying mental illness really made me question the concept of god. How could a god be so cruel as to take a person’s hope away.

  3. Holms says

    “People that commit suicide have hobby X, therefore hobby X is causative.”
    “Only sometimes, and also here are a whole bunch of observations and arguments that conflict with that claim.”
    “Still blaming hobby X. Also, more research needed!”

    ^ Modern journalism.

  4. says

    How the hell does the coroner even know these guys played CoD? It seems that the cops and coroner must be specifically looking for this crap in the first place. This is what they notice or find? Nothing else at all? They suck. Particularly when they can truly find nothing and then make pronouncements like this.

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