Did video game obsession play a role in College Station gunman’s rampage?

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by Drew Karedes / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on August 14, 2012 at 11:16 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 15 at 10:19 AM

HOUSTON—The stepfather of College Station gunman Thomas Caffall said he was wrapped up in a world of video games, and the obsession went so far that Caffall had lost a sense of reality.

The details of Caffall’s fondness for video games have some asking if they could have played a role in sending him over the edge.

A Houston psychologist says that is very possible.

“People can spend vast amounts of time, almost getting lost in the video world, and in a sense losing touch with reality, or blurring the distinction between what’s real and what’s in their fantasy,” said Dr. John Vincent.

Vincent is director for the Center for Forensic Psychology at the University of Houston. In his experience, the majority of people who watch and play video games do so without any problems.

However, he has seen exceptions; especially with how real modern-day video games can feel.

“The better the game, the more real they feel,” he said. “You are in the position of using high-powered weapons and killing people by the hundreds. Those can be extremely powerful, extremely compelling images.”

While some studies have linked violent visual media to increased aggression, Vincent said the warning signs are difficult to spot in a reliable way.

“How much of the video game can be held responsible for that process, we’ll never know. I wouldn’t be surprised (if) it were part of the puzzle,” said Vincent.

Houston native Tim Fey regularly plays video games, including the violent ones. He said he does not want Monday’s deadly outcome in College Station to give those games a bad rap.

“There are a lot of situations where you can start playing video games for a while and it can affect your life a little bit. For the most part, I don’t think it could cause you to do that,” he said.

Vincent said there are some potential red flags that can be spotted. He said one of them is when someone becomes increasingly reclusive and cuts himself off from others.

Caffall’s stepfather, Richard Weaver, said the 35-year-old was recently estranged from his own mother and did not want to work.

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