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Violent game research bill introduced

Renewed call for study on impact of violent media draws bipartisan support in US Senate

President Barack Obama's proposed legislative changes to address the issue of gun violence in the wake of last month's Newtown school shooting are expected to be the subject of a heated partisan battle. However, one component of the plan has already drawn support from both sides of the political aisle. West Virginia Democrat Senator Jay Rockefeller yesterday introduced a bill directing the National Academy of Sciences to study the effects of violent games and other media on children, with another of his party members and three Republican Senators co-sponsoring.

The full text of Senate Bill 134 (dubbed The Violent Content Research Act of 2013) has not yet been filed with the Library of Congress, but the bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, of which Rockefeller is the chairman. Co-sponsoring the legislation are Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), and Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE). Heller and Blumenthal also sit on the 24-person Commerce Committee. Rockefeller first proposed the idea last month, during the previous Congressional session.

"The reality is we are living in an increasingly violent culture which, when coupled with mental illness, can create a very dangerous situation," Senator Heller said in a statement about the legislation. "This bill is a step in the right direction towards better understanding the effects of violence on children, and I look forward to the recommendations that result from this report."

Meanwhile, Johanns called the bill an effort to study the underlying causes of violence, saying, "Our kids are routinely exposed to movies, television and video games that glorify violence and allow them to simulate violent acts. This legislation will allow us to study what, if any, impact this exposure has on our youth, and if it encourages or desensitizes our children to the real-life consequences of violence."

The NAS study would look at whether exposure to violent media causes children to behave aggressively, and if the effect varies depending on the type of media. Specifically, it would attempt to identify any "direct and long-lasting impact" of violent content, and whether the interactive nature of games changes the impact on children. The NAS would also be directed to recommend further areas of study, with a full report submitted to Congress within 15 months.

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Latest comments (4)

Patrick Frost QA Project Monitor 3 years ago
I really wish that politicians would stop calling out movies, tv and games. They do well at first to leave it open by using words like "culture" but when they start narrowing their targets for enquiry then I'm afraid the entire premise goes out of the window.

How about the culture of fear that politicians all around the world (not all of them obviously) try and promote to which violent outbreaks are a reaction to? Pursuing a foreign policy that still includes arming people and fuelling a conflict and refusing to allow countries to abuse the same rights that the US has been able to for years before.

There is so much hypocrisy in all of this. I doubt this study is going to include looking at the White House itself.
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Aaron Brown BA Computer Science Student, Carnegie Mellon University3 years ago
We have a violent culture because we live in a violent world where violence and conflict are the basis of survival.
However, these massacres are only possible because there are policies in place that enable people to acquire the means to inflict destruction. Entertainment is not the source of this problem, its all has to do with policies backed by private interests.
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Ian Brown IT Developer / IT Infrastructure 3 years ago
Mankind has been committing horrific acts to itself and nature for millennia before film and video games existed or are they just going to ignore that part of our past?
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David Serrano Freelancer 3 years ago
"Specifically, it would attempt to identify any "direct and long-lasting impact" of violent content, and whether the interactive nature of games changes the impact on children."

A good place to start would be to just acknowledge the concern about the AAA multiplayer shooters in question is not that they desensitize players to violence, it's not that they cause players to behave violently in real life, or that they cause players to commit violent crimes in real life. The actual concern, which the industry should proactively address is what types of non-violent, but harmful behavior do the games teach and reinforce via operant conditioning in PvP environments? And the question which should concern the developers and publishers of the games in question is did their "art" have a second hand smoke effect on the 13 to 25 year old demographic? Meaning when positive reinforcement was used to encourage and strengthen the textbook definition of sadistic and antisocial behavior, did the real life behavior of players who received the highest levels of exposure negatively impact the behavior or mental health of people in their peer group? And what percentage of those people already had diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illnesses or social disorders that were exacerbated as a result?
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