It happened in the wake of 9/11, when we were told that the perpetrators supposedly learned to crash planes using PC flight simulators, and is a line that has been repeated with tedious regularity ever since. Right on cue, we now discover that the PlayStation Network might have been a method of communication between the terrorists responsible for Friday's tragic attacks.
This speculation came from no less a source than Belgian federal home affairs minister Jan Jambon, based upon the fact that a PS4 was found in raids upon suspects' addresses in Brussels.
“PlayStation 4 is even more difficult to keep track of than WhatsApp," he told reporters.
Naturally, The Daily Mail picked up on this - talking hysterically of a "cyber caliphate" - but more worrying was the usually reliable Forbes, which took it to a whole other level of lunacy: "An ISIS agent could spell out an attack plan in Super Mario Maker’s coins and share it privately with a friend, or two Call of Duty players could write messages to each other on a wall in a disappearing spray of bullets."
The line that video games can somehow be exploited by terrorists has been floating around for a while.
In 2012, The Sun reported that "terrorists are using online war games like Call of Duty to plot attacks" - a story that was quickly, and enthusiastically, picked up by Fox News, of course - but it's not just the work of the tabloid press; video game paranoia comes from the very top.
Documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA and CGHQ placed agents in World of Warcraft to look for terrorists disguised as elves and orcs, who might've been using the MMORPG to plan atrocities.
The leak also contained a 66-page report by US security contractor SAIC, examining how video games can be used as a potential recruitment tool by extremist organisations.
Three games in particular were singled out - Under Ash, developed by Syrian company Dar Al-Fik, Special Force, developed by Lebanese political group Hezbollah, and The Resistance, which casts the player as a southern Lebanese farmer fighting against invading Israeli troops.
All three games - according to the report - "reinforce prejudices and cultural stereotypes while imparting a targeted message or lesson" and "twist historical context, demonize enemies, disrupt the social moral compass, and desensitize users to violence."
Somebody needs to give them a copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare...
Ironically, the US military know all too well how successful video games can be as a recruitment/propaganda tool - the report also stated that 28 percent of players who'd spent time with America's Army, a game created with the express intention of recruiting troops, end up visiting the recruitment site linked to within the game.
Back in the day, according to the tabloids, Saddam Hussein supposedly imported 4,000 PlayStation 2s into Iraq, with the express intention of bundling them together to make a "super-computer" for some unspecified - and, by implication, sinister - military purpose.
At the time, an anonymous intelligence source insisted: "Most Americans don't realize that each PlayStation unit contains a 32-bit CPU, every bit as powerful as the processor found in most desktop and laptop computers. The graphics capabilities of a PlayStation are staggering; five times more powerful than that of a typical graphics workstation, and roughly 15 times more powerful than the graphics cards found in most PCs."
Would that anonymous "intelligence source" have come from within Sony's PR department by any chance?
"Applications for this system are potentially frightening," the source continued. "An integrated bundle of 12-15 PlayStations could provide enough computer power to control an Iraqi unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV; a pilotless aircraft."
Terrifying... but on it went.
There was apparently a copy of the Delta Force: Xtreme 2 guidebook found in Osama bin Laden's compound - with many leaping to the conclusion that bin Laden trained his warriors using the mostly terrible video game.
Never mind that among other books found on site was the Guiness Book of Records Children's Edition (maybe Bin Laden was also training terrorists using domino toppling, or sitting in a bath of beans)...
Apparently, Islamic State - the West's current Islamic boogieman du jour - have even created their own version of GTA. Grand Theft Auto: Salil al-Sawarem (Sword of Swords), according to an Islamic State spokesman, is intended to “raise the morale of the mujahedin and to train children and youth how to battle the West and to strike terror into the hearts of those who oppose the Islamic State."
Al Qaeda also created a browser-based shoot 'em up, described by the Middle East Media Research Institute thusly: "The relatively primitive game features a welcome page displaying the words 'Muslim Mali', along with a jihadi poem inciting jihad against the unbelievers. Once a player clicks 'Play' a message appears saying: 'Muslim Brother, go ahead and repel the French invasion against Muslim Mali'.
"The player’s own aircraft is painted with Al-Qaeda’s black flag logo, while the French aircraft are painted with a French flag. The goal of the game is to shoot down as many French aircraft as possible. However, if the player sustains enough direct hits to be shot down, a message appears saying: 'Congratulations, you have been martyred'."
And that's not all. Supporters of ISIS have created a mod for ARMA III, allegedly, which allows them to create militant characters.
This, according to the always reliable Daily Mail, "is understood to reward users for killing Westerners and characters based on Syrian regime soldiers and the brave Kurdish peshmerga fighters who have formed the most effective resistance against the terrorists in real life", and that ISIS is "using it to recruit children and radicalise the vulnerable, distributing it free on gaming forums to those declaring their support for the terror group's self-styled caliphate."
I barely understand how the world works, and when 129 people are killed in Paris, and the country's president comes out talking of "merciless" retribution, I just want to go and live on a tiny island as far away from the rest of humanity as possible. At my age, I've given up expecting this insane, out-of-control, imbalanced, unfair, messed-up, world to change, or feeling like I can make a difference.
But I will tell you one thing: it gets right on my moobs when the media, or governments, try to implicate video games, or pass the buck onto them. When they try to make gamers into another of their boogiemen, as if there's no blood on their own hands.
We know video games aren't entirely blameless when it comes to propaganda: part of why I enjoyed Black Ops 3 so much is it was the first Call of Duty game in a while which didn't leave a bad taste in my mouth, and didn't smack of neo-con propaganda. The enemies in CODBLOPS 3 are - often - robots, and not unspecified Muslims.
But I spent the weekend playing Rise of the Tomb Raider - which was exactly the sort of escape that we all could've done with as French bombs dropped on Syria - and I resent the implication that video games had anything to do with what happened in Paris.
The hypocrisy of it, coming from The Daily Mail - which has stoked so much of the anti-refugee sentiment, and was among the first to report, with considerable glee, that some of the Paris terrorists may have snuck into the country posing as refugees - sticks in my throat.
Video games aren't perfect; they're obsessed with death, and killing, and guns, and the glory of war. But all they are is a reflection of our society, of our governments. We've reached a point where the leader of the opposition is criticised for suggesting that Jihadi John should've been tried, rather than blown up... an act which our Prime Minister describes as an act of "justified" self-defence.
To point a finger at video games over what happened in Paris, or any other terrorist atrocity - without first looking at the broader picture of why this keeps happening - feels like nothing more than an excuse, a distraction, and part of a complicated system that wants to keep us scared, and distracted, and confused. A global baggage carousel of retribution and counter-retribution that is every bit as bloodthirsty and messed-up as anything on the PS4.
Video games are a reflection of the world we live in - not the cause of it.