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2014 UC Santa Barbara Shooting & Internet Gaming Disorder

Written by Dr. Andrew Doan & Brooke Strickland on .

Shootings around the country seem to be happening at an alarming rate. There are more and more innocent people being killed every day, at the hands of people that are very disturbed and see no other way out. In 2014, Elliot Rodger was one of those individuals that felt the need to go on a shooting rampage at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He claimed that his act of violence was one of retribution and that he was paying back humanity for the loneliness, isolation, and rejection that he felt for years. He killed 6 innocent people, and then he killed himself. He made a video before it all happened where he says that he hates women, and he will take revenge on them for the rejection that he faced. 

In the video he made before the massacre, he was quoted as saying, “All you popular kids. You’ve never accepted me, and now you’ll all pay for it. Well, now I will be a god compared to you. You will all be animals. And girls, all I’ve ever wanted was to love you and to be loved by you. I’ve wanted a girlfriend, I’ve wanted sex, I’ve wanted love, affection, adoration. You think I’m unworthy of it. That’s a crime that can never be forgiven. If I can’t have you, girls, I will destroy you.”

Before his death, Elliot wrote a 141-page manifesto that clearly showed a smart and articulate young man (1). His manifesto clearly documented Elliot’s gaming addiction as well as his problematic pornography use. He began playing video games as early as age 6, and it soon became excessive. When combined with depression and lack of acceptance from peers, excessive gaming can cause behavioral development delays and ultimately, significant anxiety both socially and developmentally. At age 10, he says he became emotionally attached to his Nintendo console and at age 11, he was introduced to beautiful girls online. He felt his childhood slip away after that and felt traumatized when he learned about sex. He didn’t know what to do with his sexual desires and having not been accepted by girls in real life, began feeling anger towards them. He dove deep into online games, playing World of Warcraft for hours with no supervision. This became his only social interaction. At age 16, he realized how addicted he had become and became suicidal. When he heard about other people his age talking, he was quoted as saying, “When I heard them talking about their awesome lives and their parties, I had a breakdown right then and there. I realized how much I’ve been missing out in my life, and I cried in front of everyone. I felt like I would never have a life as good as theirs. I told everyone that I wanted to commit suicide."

Elliot quit playing the game for about 18 months and then picked it back up again at age 19, where he also developed online fantasies about women. He cyber-stalked some of them on social media, and then was quoted as saying, “I had never been a violent person in nature, but after building up so much hatred over the years, I realized that I wouldn’t hesitate to kill or even torture my hated enemies if I was given the opportunity. I often fantasized about barging into their rooms while they had sex and slashing them to death with my knife."

Psychosexual factors and pathologic gaming behaviors often go hand in hand. Here, we see Elliot struggle to connect and establish meaningful relationships with women in real life and instead used pornography as his sexual outlet. His Internet gaming disorder was clear by the way he describes his preoccupation with video games, how he escapes reality by playing them, as well as his difficulty to stop playing. 

Mental health professionals and colleges/universities should be aware that the signs of internet gaming disorder can often lead to violent outcomes. Identifying these students that are showing symptoms of this disorder is one of the keys to cultivating young adults that are mentally-sound, while also creating a healthier school atmosphere. 

1. The Manifesto of Elliot Rodger. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/05/25/us/shooting-document.html Accessed November 9, 2015.