Death Games

From school shootings to Squid Game

What is it with all these school shootings? Recently there were two in Serbia, another one in Pakistan, and a month ago an attack in Brazil — already the second or third one there. Also Russia, Germany, Denmark have all had school shootings recently. Not content with just shootings, Germany and the UK have had several school stabbings too. Even peaceful Finland seems to have had at least three school shootings since 2008. And of course the United States has at least one every other day.

While I do believe that some of those events are either false or not exactly what they seem — Sandy Hook and Nashville, for instance, were pretty strange — it is not very conceivable that they are all fake, all over the world, even in poor countries that would lack the money or organization for such type of “false flag”. So we must assume that mass shootings in schools are, unfortunately, a real phenomenon of modernity.

But why?

Bullying in schools is not new. It existed at my time too, but no one back then would have dreamt of taking a gun and shooting up his classmates. It just wasn’t part of the mental landscape. Most people have little imagination and take their cues from the media or movies. It was only as school shootings became a “thing” after Columbine, that many unimaginative youngsters started to copycat such events.

Obviously, SSRIs seem to play a part, too. Most mass shooters were taking those drugs, which appear to affect our perception of reality, and, in some cases, conduce to suicidal or even murderous thoughts.

Could violent “shoot-them-up” video games be a factor too? There was a discussion about this in the 1990s, but for some reason no one talks about it now. I guess video games make too much money today to be questioned. And I wonder if social media, which has increased the reach and the impact of bullying, plays a part in all that too.

But one thing that seems interesting for me is the huge number of recent movies and series dealing with the idea of mass murder as a sort of competitive game. It seems to have even become a genre in itself, like the zombie movie or the super-hero movie.

“Hunger Games” was not the first of those films — perhaps that was the Japanese “Battle Royale” — but it was one of the most popular, selling this idea of a “game” in which peasants kill each other for the entertainment of the upper classes. The earlier “Saw” had a similar concept, only it was a lone psychopath organizing the games.

“The Squid Game”, the recent Korean series which became a phenomenon in Netflix, likewise tells the same tale: poor, indebted people killing each other, while rich people watch and bet on who will win.

And a new Japanese series that just came out in Netflix, “Alice in Borderland”, is almost like an even more violent and surreal copy of “Squid Game”, showing a group of young people who are sent to a parallel universe to take part in competitive games where people have to kill or die in the most gruesome ways.

I am not sure why such stories have become so common and so popular, but it seems to me that they reflect the current zeitgeist.

One of the current themes in such movies is the idea that life is just a “game of survival”, and that you must kill in order not to be killed. Some characters even say that they prefer this new world of deadly games to the life they had before, and refer to the old world they left behind as boring, depressing or uneventful.

Now, I guess that warriors or soldiers might have felt this way (at least before bullets and bombs start raining on their head), but what is different here is that these characters are not killing or dying for a country, a king, a religion a or even an ideology, not even for money — but just for a few points in a nihilist game. A meaningless victory, soon to be forgotten in the rivers of Time.

In some ways, it seems very similar to the mentality of school shooters. What do they intend to achieve? Fifteen seconds of posthumous fame in a newspaper? Perhaps this would be still remotely possible in the 1990s, but in an age where shootings happens almost daily, who even remembers the name or face of the last school shooter? It seems a supremely stupid, random, and evil thing to do, so why even think of doing it? If you hate life so much, why not just kill yourself? Many governments now are offering euthanasia for people suffering from depression, and even children can apply.

Yes, this really seems to be about finding the most evil thing imaginable — hurting innocent children. I am not sure if I believe in supernatural demonic influences, but there seems to be something evil in the air that is leading people to all kinds of bad stuff that didn’t happen normally before. Such kind of horror wasn’t common, at least, not outside of wars or revolutions.

At a time when the schools themselves have become more about brainwashing than teaching, not to mention constant bullying and violence, I don’t really understand why more people don’t homeschool. Even when not having actual shootings, many schools these days in the U.S. have shooting drills every six months, which seems traumatizing enough. Actually, just normal public school is traumatizing enough for many people. I guess school shootings are in some ways also the result of forcing public schooling on everyone.

There must be something terribly wrong in a society in which such violent events happen so frequently, just as there must be something terribly wrong in a society where movies selling random wholesale murder as a fun game have become so common.

Are the movies just portraying reality, or influencing it? Has murder become a nihilist game because of its promotion by the media? Or are those movies just a reflection of a scary new way of life, where everything, even murder, is gamified?

Now, I do agree that “Squid Game” was fun to watch, and there is a morbid interest in some of the other series or movies with such themes. Still, after watching one of those recent violent series, I had a nightmare. Like in those series, there were violent games in which people had to kill each other to survive. The only difference was that, in my dream, no matter what happened to them — falling from great heights, or being chopped into pieces — people just wouldn’t die, or would respawn immediately after death, like in a video game. So there was no escape. Everyone would keep torturing and killing each other, for all eternity.

There is a known name for such a place: Hell.