Need for Speed: Toronto

Toronto feels a little more tense than normal. Elevators are dropping. The Leafs are dropping. The Raptors are… well, have dropped a long time ago. Crime in the city is spiralling out of control — or at least the media would like you to think that. Buses are driving into buildings. Motorists are fighting cyclists. And teenage street racers, spoiled douchebags going 140km/h in their parents’ Mercedes, are crashing and killing people.

Here’s the thing. In that crash, investigators found a copy of Need for Speed: Most Wanted for the XBox 360 on the front seat of a suspect’s car. Naturally, as Clickable Culture noted, the finger of blame was pointed at the game. The link was later downplayed by the investigators, as it should be since a videogame was not behind the wheel, but that didn’t stop them from considering using the title as evidence in the upcoming court cases. Nor did it stop the media from making the connection.

A lot of the criticism is that a street racing game like Need for Speed: Most Wanted inspires street racing. You can call NFS’s makers, EA, a lot of things, but you can never accuse them of being on the forefront of culture, being inspirations for it. EA regurgitates fads and trends and culture (both from within the game industry and outside of it) more often than a decadent Roman in a vomitorium.

Street race (rice) culture has been around for years. It was around before EA’s bandwagon games and before Juiced and SRS and Midnight Run. It was around even before the TV show Fastlane and the movie The Fast and the Furious. So when you consider that timeline, which is more likely: a video game that came out months ago inspires, out of the blue, some moron to race his parents’ Mercedes down a city street; or, some moron kid that thinks street racing and rice culture is cool and was likely to speed anyway would be interested in a game that reflects his preconceived interests? Correlation is not causation.

I would bet that amongst football players, you’ll find a higher percentage of EA Madden players than you would amongst non-football players. That, however, does not mean that Madden caused them to play football. It reinforces their interests and it can further them (what I know about football plays I learned from NFL Blitz), but a single videogame isn’t going to turn anyone.

Prosecute the driver, not the passenger.

Thankfully, Toronto police can make the distinction between a game and reality.

“A game is a game,” Toronto Police’s Det. Paul Lobsinger told CTV Toronto. “And when you get behind the wheel of a car it’s not a game anymore. And when something tragic happens in a huge crash with a lot of smoke, there is no reset button. You can’t start over with a new car and a new life.”

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