Adam Lanza had a Steam account. That much has never really been in question; since we know he was a PC gamer, and had a PC built for 3-D “first-person shooters”, it’d be practically unthinkable that he never installed Steam.
[Quick explanation for those who don’t know what Steam is: Steam is a program that handles both content distribution (buying and downloading games) and “matchmaking” (finding opponents for competitive games). It was created by Valve, a game developer most known for the Half-Life and Portal series. The platform is so ubiquitous among gamers that for Lanza to not have an account, especially during the years we know he was playing PC games (when Steam had no practical competition), would be comparable to someone having an iPod, but never installing iTunes. Technically possible… but very, very unlikely.]
Unfortunately, I so far had had no luck finding what that account was. Part of the problem is that Steam doesn’t function like a forum or other sites in the case; Steam users can change their name whenever they want, and their unique ID (a series of auto-generated numbers) isn’t easily available unless you already know the account you’re looking for.
Now we do know. A reader of the blog, Cole Scott, did some great work (which you can read the details of here) and sent it my way; all the credit for finding this goes to him.
Adam Lanza’s Steam account
(unsurprisingly, the profile is private)
Lanza’s Steam ID was: STEAM_0:0:17907142
This was located by searching for records of players for various Steam games with the username “Smiggles” which we know the shooter used in other communities. While there is no way to search through a private user’s whole history on Steam, there are websites run by the same people who own gaming servers, and they can publish stats for anyone who plays on their public server. (Basically, “here’s what this player did while he was connected to our server,” similar to the “community ban list” page reported last year.)
Of course, since a Steam user can change their username whenever they want (and there can be duplicates,) finding the username Smiggles isn’t sufficient by itself. However, the additional information about the user, recorded by the website “PsychoStats” when Lanza connected to their “CounterStrike Source: Zombie Mod” servers five separate times between December 2008 and October 2009, leaves little doubt that this was Lanza:
The first table shows that a name change was recorded; though nine connections were received from that Steam ID (which is unique to each user) the user did not always have the same username. In addition to “Smiggles,” the account also connected under the name “Pedobear”.
Pedobear is apparently a reference to an internet meme about a cartoon bear that is a pedophile. (wikipedia has a more lengthy explanation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedobear)
This wouldn’t be the first time the word “pedobear” has appeared in the investigation. From the Connecticut State Police’s search of Adam Lanza’s hard drive (the one he didn’t smash):
…so, we know that the shooter had a specific interest in the “pedobear” character/name.
In addition, PsychoStats recorded the user’s two IP addresses as “18.104.22.168” and “22.214.171.124”.
Now, geo-locating an IP address is not an exact science. For instance, when I click on http://www.ip-adress.com/ip_tracer/ it shows that I am in Olympia (about 60 miles away from where I really am.) You can click the link and find out how close they get for you. The point is, it’s more of a ballpark, but it will get close.
Tracing the IP addresses logged for the Steam account in question shows that it came from Connecticut, specifically from the city of Trumbull:
…note the proximity to Newtown, where Adam would have been connecting from; that’s about 15 miles. The IP (126.96.36.199) is also consistent with that listed from Nancy Lanza’s account with Charter Cable (188.8.131.52):
Finally, there are no connections from this Steam ID after December 14, 2012 (which of course would disprove Lanza’s use of the account.) All of the gaming sessions recorded occur in 2008 and 2009:
Other sites (for other servers/games) show connections from that Steam user between 2008 and 2010:
So, the shooter played more video games than we knew, which we already suspected. So what? Why does this matter?
It matters for the same reasons that the CSP investigated Lanza’s other gaming accounts. Steam has community functions; it is its own social network, with “friends,” instant-messaging, groups/clans, and forums.
I don’t expect that Lanza shared anything directly related to the shooting with anyone online, whoever his “friends” may have been. But he could have. So that possibility is supposed to be ruled out as completely as possible.
Indeed, we can see that the Connecticut State Police recognized that this was a necessary part of their due diligence in conducting their investigation. In the official report, there are copies of the search warrants they sent to Nexon America, the developers of the Combat Arms game he played:
….as well as the search warrant sent to Blizzard, the developers of World of Warcraft, demanding all of their files regarding Adam’s account(s):
So the reasons why these accounts have investigative value have already been explained by the Connecticut State Police.
There’s no search warrant for Valve, though. That’s the problem. Whatever he said, posted, or did on Steam is just sitting on a server, locked behind a private account.