Bill would study effect of violent games on kids

Sen. Jay Rockefeller introduces measure, saying industry makes billions selling violent games to children

Last week's Newtown, Connecticut school shooting has lawmakers looking for answers, and one West Virginia senator is turning his attention toward violent video games. According to Bloomberg, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has introduced a bill that would have multiple government agencies investigating the effects violent games have on children.

“Major corporations, including the video game industry, make billions on marketing and selling violent content to children,” Rockefeller told the news service. “They have a responsibility to protect our children. If they do not, you can count on the Congress to take a more aggressive role.”

The bill calls for the US National Academy of Sciences to research the issue, and would require the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission to follow-up their previous studies on the topic with more in-depth investigations. The NAS in particular would be asked to determine if the interactive nature of games and the way they portray graphic violence are harmful to children in a way that other media is not. Findings would be presented to Congress, the FTC, and the FCC within 18 months.

UPDATE: A representative with the Entertainment Software Association gaming industry trade group provided the following statement:

“The Entertainment Software Association, and the entire industry it represents, mourns the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our heartfelt prayers and condolences go out to the families who lost loved ones, and to the entire community of Newtown.

“The search for meaningful solutions must consider the broad range of actual factors that may have contributed to this tragedy. Any such study needs to include the years of extensive research that has shown no connection between entertainment and real-life violence.”

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Latest comments (16)

Paul Jace Merchandiser 8 years ago
One of these days they will figure out that all of these "bills" are just a waste of tax payers dollars. They aren't going to turn up anything new that hasn't been shown during the last hundreds of studies on this topic.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
Even more outrageous is the NRA actually helped block a similar study about ACTUAL gun violence years ago.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development8 years ago
I can't see this being biased in any way. No siree.
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Show all comments (16)
Johnny Hsu Employee, EA8 years ago
I'd rather they just pass a bill to pay for funding to fix the roads in my neighborhood. The city asserts they're behind over $100M on planned repair and repaving work since they lack the budget.
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Why don't they just pay for an advertising campaign educating parents that there are parental controls built in to videogame consoles. Anything that prevents 11 year old kids from whining away and singing and swearing in CoD multiplayer would be great.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Charles Rodmell on 20th December 2012 9:34am

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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 8 years ago
Jay Rockerfeller does not seem to realise that the research has all been done. He should have a chat with Patrick Kierkegaard of the University of Essex.
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David C Partner, ACE Team8 years ago
They should educate about ratings (ESRB and PEGI), parental controls and why buying your 12 year old children Grand Theft Auto San Andreas is like letting them see Scarface unattended. People know it's bad to expose the children to violent movies but still think of videogames as toys.
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Kayleigh McDougall Studying BA(Hons) Game Design and Production Management, University of Abertay Dundee8 years ago
I am in agreement with everything David C has said.

I only have one more thing to add - the govt. should look at how stupid they are with tying games and kids and this shooting together to bring this new bill around.
The shooter was a 20 year old, not a child, so bringing this up now just means that they are trying to find a way to take the blame off of themselves and off what they really should be doing.
And we do have methods in place to protect children, it's just that parents need to educate themselves more and learn to stand up to their kids when they want something they shouldn't have.
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I'm more worried about the use of games such as ARMA, Warfighter or Battlefield to be used as real world tactical simulations for PMC and Drone operators that are used for real world defense (offense, carpet bombing, occupation and stirring up of trouble eg. middle east)
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Joshua Rose Executive Producer / Lead Designer, Storm Eagle Studios8 years ago
Games have a rating system for a reason.

Retail and online stores enforce this rating system viciously. A friend of mine was fired from a GameStop several years ago for not carding a 'secret shopper' who was sent into the store to attempt to purchase a rated M game. This of course was done by GameStop. The fact that he was just about to eligible for benefits after having been a manager for so long is just a coincidence.

What you can't stop is parents who use video games as babysitters for their children. Instead of doing the research on their own into the games their kids want, they blindly buy it and never give it a second thought. Just because an underage person sees a commercial for the latest CoD or Battlefield doesn't mean it was geared towards them.

Just because a child ends up with the game, does not mean it was meant for them to have it in the first place. There are many ways the kid could have gotten it... A parent bought it for him, a friends parents bought it and the kid loaned it to him, he could have bought it off the internet (with mommy and daddy's credit card), the list goes on...

All of the sudden now days, parents can do no wrong in the eyes of the general media. Politicians and activists are always blaming outward for the problems. Pay attention to your child, give him/her the love and care they need, protect them from things they should not see or experience.... Or don't have one.

In lighter news... Did anybody read that story a couple weeks ago where PETA was attacking Nintendo because Mario encourages animal abuse? Squashing turtles, coveting gold, eating vast quantities of mushrooms, wearing raccoon skins... Now that's a violent video game right there...
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Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University8 years ago
We should never be afraid to discuss the amount of violence that prevails across every form of entertainment, but this is a smoke-screen with the NRA ultimately behind it. Videogames are still, sadly, a soft target for American politicians, and the gun lobby still has huge amounts of power and pull.

The discussions in the US should be about background checks, rifle bans, and controlling the sale, profileration, ownership and idolisation of guns. What was a constitutionally enshrined practicality to defend individuals in a newly independent nation with no standing army from their former, very powerful colonial masters has become an idolised antiquity used to defend vested interests by a powerful group of people without morals. The NRA has so skewered the debate into one of escalation rather than control that some Republican state administrations are advocating the arming of teachers in school, as if the further acceptance of fire-arms in every day society will somehow reduce their use and reduce the damage they cause. What happens when one teacher snaps, and shoot their children or colleagues? Do you place soldiers in schools, or do you arm your prefects and seniors? It sounds mad, but it's exactly the kind of reality the gun lobby wants: a bigger market to sell to.

This is not the kind of tribute that those killed would want. This is not the kind of solution a sane society would produce. But when it comes to guns, sadly parts of American society and politics are insane, and the only sane reaction to an insane society is insanity.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Daniel Hughes on 20th December 2012 4:01pm

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Joshua Rose Executive Producer / Lead Designer, Storm Eagle Studios8 years ago
What was a constitutionally enshrined practicality to defend individuals in a newly independent nation with no standing army from their former, very powerful colonial masters has become an idolised antiquity used to defend vested interests by a powerful group of people without morals.
I have no affiliation what so ever with the NRA or gun lobbyists. But I fully support the second amendment, does that mean I have no morals? I believe that taking away guns from legitimate citizens only encourages criminals to commit violent crimes more often for less fear of immediate retaliation, does this mean I lack sanity?

Saying this is a smoke-screen with the NRA ultimately behind it is just as bad as saying the recent string of shootings is perpetuated and secretly backed by politicians with an anti-gun agenda. Without actual facts, your argument degrades into nothing more than a conspiracy nut rant about the "evil corporations and greedy lobbyists bent on dominating the world".
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I believe that taking away guns from legitimate citizens only encourages criminals to commit violent crimes more often for less fear of immediate retaliation, does this mean I lack sanity?
It doesn't mean you lack sanity, but I do think it means you lack insight into the evidence, because your belief is unjustified and contradicted by statistics. Violent crime rates are significantly higher in the US then they are in the rest of the Western World where guns are very restricted. I'd argue that a lot of arguments which normally end up in a fist fight might end up in a gun fight if both parties were carrying. Also, most burglars or what have you, where I'm from, do not carry guns or even any weapon at all, while in the US it's probably smart to be packed with a shotgun and an AR-15 while breaking into someones house, because chances are they'd have a firearm lying around. It's a vicious circle of deadly force.

Another often used argument in this discussion about the second amendment is to have civilians able to stand up to corrupt governments. This might have applied in the 1800's, but good luck fighting drones and nukes with your glock. Would you also support your right to own a nuclear weapon to defend yourself? It's quite the slippery slope and plenty of evidence suggest it's much better to restrict ones ability to do serious damage than to make it easily available if your goal is to reduce violent and deadly crime. There are other important factors of course, but giving everyone a gun does not reduce violent crime. And, to be honest, you have to be quite biased to believe otherwise.

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Laurens Bruins on 20th December 2012 5:38pm

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John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam8 years ago
A quick Google search threw up this table of statistics on homicide rates and firearm ownership around the world.

The US has by far the highest rate of private gun ownership in the world (88.8 per 100 people). By my reckoning, based on the statistics in that table, they have 4.95 homicides per 100,000 people per year in total, and 60% of those involve firearms.

That's incredibly high for a wealthy western nation. The countries that have a higher rate of firearms homicides than the USA are mostly places like Brazil, Columbia and Mexico, which have massive problems with drugs cartels and gang warfare. That's not a list you want to be on.

By comparison, the UK has a relatively low rate of gun ownership (6.2 per 100 people). We only have 1.06 homicides per 100,000 people per year, and only 6.6% of those involve firearms. Most other western countries have a comparable murder rate. The USA's murder rate is 3-4 times higher than all other first world countries, as far as I can see. Something is obviously badly wrong there.

Now, I'm not saying that's all down to gun ownership, it's clearly not. At least part of it is a cultural problem. Switzerland also has very high levels of gun ownership, for example, and 72% of homicides there involve a firearm, even higher than in the USA. But their overall homicide rate is similar to the UK - so you're no more likely to get killed in Switzerland than you are in the UK, but if you are killed then it's ten times more likely to be with a firearm.

The difference is that in Switzerland most men are conscripted into the militia by the time they're old enough to own a gun, and receive proper firearms training as part of that.

Given that the US Second Amendment talks about people's right to bear arms only in the context of a "well regulated militia", not for hunting and home defence, if you're not willing to give up your guns entirely, maybe the answer is to say that if you want to keep a gun in your home, you have to join the National Guard and spend a certain amount of time training with it each year, so you know how to handle and store your gun safely and get some respect for it?

Proper background checks with no loopholes and tougher rules on how you store your gun, to ensure criminals and mentally unstable people don't get hold of weapons so easily, would also help.

It's also worth bearing in mind that while a gun might make you feel safer, statistically you and your family are apparently more likely to get shot by your own gun (whether by someone else stealing it or due to suicide, accident or domestic violence) than you are to use it to defend your home against an intruder.

That's what seems to have happened in Newtown - the mother bought several guns, apparently legally, and one of her sons took them from her, shot her with them, then went on a rampage, killing 26 other people. This kind of thing happens far too frequently in America.
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Well, what do you know. NRA blames ..violent video games like Kindergarten killers for part of the gun culture violence.
I understand the US economy is ailing, but arming every school through arms is a unexpected local economic stimulus that is abhorrent.
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Benjamin Crause Supervisor Central Support, Nintendo of Europe8 years ago
There have been many studies already investigating the link between aggressive games and violent games. Especially the first ones were useless because of data size and methodology. Recent studies are far better and most disprove a direct link that would even remotely allow that a gamer would turn into a killer. There is actually one more item that proves that violent games are neither causing or supporting aggressive behaviour: the gamers themselves or specifically their number. How many people bought the call of duty games or medal of honour? If we takes the average for our data sample and compare it among modern countries how many of all those killer game players turned into violent beings? Let me help you: none!
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