Amid national riots over a police shooting, the French president blames the unrest on videogames

Emmanuel Macron addressing people from a lectern.
(Image credit: Pierre Suu via Getty images)

France is currently engulfed in large-scale public protests and riots sparked by police shooting and killing a teenage boy in a Parisian suburb on Tuesday. The 17 year-old has been named as Nahel M. and was shot while attempting to drive away from a traffic stop. The officer who did it has since been charged with voluntary homicide, but the incident and the victim's Algerian heritage have led to much anger focused on the French police and racial profiling. Thousands of arrests have been made in the days since, with speculation mounting that president Emmanuel Macron would today declare a state of emergency.

Macron did not do that but, in a statement condemning the recent violence and calling the situation "unacceptable and unjustifiable", went on to point the finger at videogames (among other things). The French president blamed parents for not keeping their children away from the riots, said social networks had played a part by inflaming tensions and being used to organise protestors, and the coup de grace was a denunciation of videogames.

The original French is in the below clip, but what Macron's saying of the rioters is that "there is a feeling some are living on the streets, like in the video games that have intoxicated them".

What game does Macron have in mind? It's left ambiguous because this is simple political convenience, another scapegoat to throw on the pile as the French authorities try to re-assert control of the larger situation. It was only last month that Macron was boasting of a 350 million Euro investment in France's videogame and movie industries sector, but at times like these games still retain something of that boogeyman power.

Readers of a certain vintage will recall the countless times games have been blamed for society's ills and even specific incidents. The US Senate held hearings in the 1990s following various moral panics about violence in games, resulting in the creation of what we now know as the ESA ratings board. Grand Theft Auto created its own controversy, placing tabloid stories about the game where you could shoot cops. Various titles like Doom and Manhunt have been linked to deadly crimes. Rarely has any causal link been shown.

The civil unrest in France has now lasted for three days, with no signs of abating, and Macron saying the government would examine "all options" for restoring order. The BBC has live coverage of events.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."