|“||Players, the game'll commence in three... two... one!||”|
Joshua and Matthew both grew up playing violent video games and competing with each other. It appeared that Joshua usually kept winning against Matthew, leaving him embittered and determined to finally make a victory against his brother. Their constant gaming also shaped and encouraged their natural sociopathic tendencies, making them hostile and dangerous. On May 9, 2005, their parents, Robert and Sharon, divorced and the two made a promise to look out for one another when Joshua was forced to move to Arizona with his father. One of their favorite video games to play was Gods of Combat, a popular first-person multiplayer shooter game, which they had started playing constantly since early 2000. Because they lived in separate states, the online playing between each other became the bond that kept them together, but also a central aspect of their sibling rivalry. When they threatened and harassed other players in one of the game's mod levels, they were banned from playing the game entirely. This led to their decision to create a real-life version of the game for them to play, using a large, abandoned paper mill to stage their 'game'. They decided to target current students of their former school, Central High.
The Wheels on the Bus
Gods of Combat
"May the best man win."
Gods of Combat is a first-person shooter online multiplayer game, in which two players competing against each other have their own five-soldier army consisting of a Captain, a Lieutenant, two Soldiers, and a Pawn. There is a first level in which one player has to retrieve a key that could be used to unlock a box containing a handgun. Meanwhile, the second player is easily able to retrieve his or her own handgun from another box, but the gun is disassembled and unloaded, and the player must reassemble and load it quickly before the other player's character arrives, thus essentially making the level a time race. The death of one of the players' characters is decided through how fast they take them. Following this level is a second level in which the loser commands his character to retrieve a handgun from a third box and track down the other player's character. Details of any other levels beyond the second level are unknown. On the front cover of the video game, there is a single character wearing a stylized gas mask. Another front cover shows two characters wearing gas masks.
Joshua and Matthew targeted ten specific teenagers who went to the same high school as them aboard the school bus. They singled all of them out after determining their personalities via their accounts on social networking sites, which they felt perfectly matched the five soldiers from Gods of Combat. Using the ruse of a broken-down car on an isolated part of a highway (to ensure there would be no witnesses), Matthew goaded the bus to stop, to which Joshua then non-fatally shot the driver in the leg with a handgun once he opened the door in order to talk to Matthew. During the mass abduction, the two wore gas masks based on that from the Gods of Combat front cover, to ensure that the students they didn't target wouldn't be able to see their faces. After disposing of the teenagers' cellphones and tying them up with flex cuffs, they took them to an abandoned barn, where they picked out the ten students before releasing the rest. They also killed the adults by shooting them.
After taking the remaining students to the paper mill at gunpoint with submachine guns, Joshua and Matthew then strapped shock collars around their necks to discourage resistance and kept them in a large cage. After a while, the two would select one student each and had them play out the game. Using earpieces and also speakerphones set up throughout the mill, they taunted them and made threats to ensure their cooperation. They would watch the students from a room inside the mill that housed computer screens connected to surveillance cameras to know where they were at all times.
When Addyson Jones shot and killed Trent Walker under Joshua's orders, she used a handgun retrieved from a box, as seen in the game's first level. Later, Joshua and Matthew would use assault rifles when things didn't go the way they planned.
The unsubs are two white males in their early 20s who, judging from their behavior, suffer from an extreme gaming addiction. They are avid gamers who are specifically involved in the multi-user online first-person shooter game Gods of Combat. Like any addiction, this took over their lives and became an obsession. The video game aggravated a preexisting affinity for violence, and it subsequently blurred the lines between fantasized violence and violence in reality. They have managed to depersonalize their victims as a way of rationalizing the body count. Playing the game taught them to be methodical and dangerously strategic. The fact that they are mimicking specific and unique elements of the game will make their behavior predictable. The unsubs chose their victims specifically because they display certain traits that match the characters from the game. They are motivated and positive when the 'game' goes the way they want it to, but when they lose control, they will become blinded with utter rage.
Joshua and Matthew seem to have been based on, and were compared by Reid to the Chowchilla abductors, three men who hijacked a school bus full of children and held them for ransom. Two of the abductors, Richard and James Schoenfeld, were also brothers, just like Joshua and Matthew. The aspect of their crimes being inspired by a violent video game seems to also be based on Devin Moore, who killed three people at a police station and stole two cars. Moore's actions were said to have been motivated by the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. On a minor note, his surname is also shared with Joshua and Matthew's.
- The Moores are similar to Johnny and Paul Mulford, two brothers who committed a series of thrill killings in Season Two. They were all psychopathic offenders who abducted their victims and forced them to participate in twisted games of survival, all for their own amusement. In both cases, one of the brothers was shot and killed by Morgan when they tried to kill a would-be victim.
- In accordance to the game-play of Gods of Combat, there should be four Soldiers and two Pawns that are divided between Joshua and Matthew. However, a board in the BAU's possession shows three Soldiers and three Pawns, which would give a disproportionate amount of Soldiers and Pawns to divide between the two of them.