Newtown shooting reignites violent games debate
Lieberman, Axelrod and others raise questions about violent entertainment in wake of mass shootings
In the wake of Friday's Newtown, Connecticut elementary school shooting, the big question for politicians, pundits, and the public is what can be done to prevent tragedies like this from happening again. The loudest, most frequent calls for change have come on the topics of gun control and mental health, but the influence of violent video games has also been brought into the conversation.
One of the longest-standing critics of media violence, Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, discussed the shooting in an appearance on The Wall Street Journal's The Markets Hub. After access to guns and proper mental health care, Lieberman brought up violent games as a third issue in need of addressing.
"We've got to again start the conversation about violence in the entertainment culture," Lieberman said. "Obviously not everybody who plays a violent video game becomes a killer, but the social science is pretty clear here. Particularly for people who are vulnerable because they do have mental problems, the violence in our entertainment culture stimulates them to act out."
Time political columnist Joe Klein raised his own concerns with violent entertainment in an appearance on ABC's This Week.
"We not only have a Second Amendment in this country, we also have a First Amendment that protects Sylvester Stallone's right to fire thousands of bullets in any given movie," Klein said. "What we need to do in this society is treat people who create violent movies and violent video games with the same degree of respect we accord pornographers. They need to be shunned."
David Axelrod, former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, expressed his own misgivings on Twitter Monday night, saying, "In NFL post-game: an ad for shoot 'em up video game. All for curbing weapons of war. But shouldn't we also quit marketing murder as a game?"
It's possible that the National Rifle Association, already on the defensive over gun control in the wake of the shootings, may try to shift some of the focus to violent media. Fox News today cites an "industry source" with news that the group's scheduled Friday press conference will see it "push back" against those who look at gun control as a silver bullet solution to the problem.
"If we're going to have a conversation, then let's have a comprehensive conversation," the source told Fox News. "If we're going to talk about the Second Amendment, then let's also talk about the First Amendment, and Hollywood, and the video games that teach young kids how to shoot heads."
Outside of the gaming industry, the debate over violent games has been largely quiet since the US Supreme Court last year struck down a California law that would have prohibited the sale of violent or sexually explicit games to minors. Within the industry, it has continued unabated after an assortment of particularly violent trailers at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo.
GamesIndustry International has reached out to the Entertainment Software Association for comment.