Online gaming has taken world by storm, but as passions continue to ignite, revenge has become a sad part of it. Referred to as "swatting," players who are often hundreds of miles away from their opponents, find their addresses in phone directories and various services to track down unlisted numbers.
Utilizing programs which disguise their own numbers as coming from their enemies instead, swatters can trick emergency dispatchers into believing the call is coming from the victim's phone or address while concealing their own location.
One recent incident involved a caller who reportedly shot co-workers at a Colorado video game company and was holding hostages. This caused dispatchers to send a SWAT team which eventually found no criminals...just a confused victim.
Another gamer was reported in Florida where the pranksters claimed their father was drunk with a machine gun and threatening their family. Adding to that horrible list, a third occurrence at Long Island, NY proclaimed the victim as having killed his mother and was armed to attack anyone that tried to respond.
Initially targeting celebrities, revenge-hungry players have opened up a new world of retaliation and merged virtual reality with their victim's own lives. As their "opponents" are stormed by officers and SWAT teams during live-streams, perpetrators can sit down, grab a bowl of popcorn, and watch their creation unfold before their very eyes.
With an estimated cost of $100,000, sixty officers were sent in April to the hoax in Long Beach, New York. Investigators would soon learn the caller was upset over losing a game of Call of Duty when he called dispatchers using Skype.
In Bradenton, Florida, at least 15 officers showed up at the house of a professional gamer on Aug. 31 after a caller posing as his young daughter phoned in a report that he was armed and drunk. Instead, they found the celebrity playing live-streaming Minecraft over his Twitch.tv account, an online network dedicated to video games.
Most dispatchers take reports very seriously, with officers often being placed on the edge when dealing with this supposed "threats." Capturing headlines years ago when celebrity homes were being reported to cops, the pranks have become an internet phenomenon with "copycats" searching for ways to exploit their next victim. One juvenile was arrested already in the connection with targeting Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher in the past.
Apart from being extremely difficult to catch depending on the tactics used, what is being considered by some to be a "prank" also results in some very serious implications for its victims. Many of the people who are swatted could potentially become seriously hurt when officers assume them to be armed, and as a crime which can be performed anywhere in the world, the possibilities are endless.
Passion V.S. Pride
The reality is that war games, or any game in general can be incredibly addictive. When competition is placed into the limelight, some players will do anything to "win," even when that outcome doesn't even take place in the virtual world. As the video game merges with their addictive personalities, these players may have a difficult time separating emotions from their consoles.
Regardless of the addiction, swatting is not a victimless crime and education about the consequences of this must be understood by youth to prevent the trend from rising. From knock-out games to fabricated testimonies, hatred is often the biggest factor fueling these types of crimes and condoning or promoting these reckless acts only leads to more.
Apart from the monetary waste, lies the emotional trauma which results from semi-automatics being aimed at these victims instead of fighting actual crime. Although the manpower and lives ruined from this phenomena has steadily grown, one thing is for certain, swatting is probably going to continue until someone gets seriously hurt, and that's the sad pill some of these undeserving players may have to take.