NJ governor joins violent game debate

Chris Christie insists Newtown response looks at games, mental health, and substance abuse as well as gun control

The violent video game issue is getting some traction in American politics after the Newtown school shooting. In an appearance on NBC's Today Show this morning, Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told host Matt Lauer that he might be open to legislation increasing gun control, but only in tandem with other issues.

"All you're focusing on right now is gun control," Christie said. "What about the violence in our video games? You and I both have children. We don't allow those games into our house. We've made that decision because we think it desensitizes our children to the real effects of violence."

Christie also brought up substance abuse and mental health issues as factors that lead to violence and should be addressed along with violent games and access to guns.

While the Republican Party at large has struggled of late, Governor Christie's political profile has been on the rise. In the run up to the 2012 election, Christie had to repeatedly turn down calls to enter the presidential race. This week he is featured on the cover of Time for his handling of the Hurricane Sandy aftermath and castigation of Republicans stalling relief efforts in Congress. When asked about the possibility of him assuming a greater leadership role in the Republican Party, Christie downplayed the idea, saying his job was to be governor of New Jersey.

"The only reason why you get this attention is if you're doing your job well and you're being an advocate for the people that elected you and that's all this is about," he said. "It's not about me trying to take control of anything other than take care of the people who elected me."

Christie is just the latest to raise concern over violent games following December's mass shooting in a Connecticut elementary school. Democrat Senator Jay Rockefeller introduced a bill to have government agencies research the effect violent games have on kids, while executive VP of the National Rifle Association Wayne LaPierre said gory games were more concerning than guns, referring to them as "the filthiest form of pornography." Such concerns are being reflected in places like Southington, CT, where residents are having a collection drive to gather and destroy violent games and movies.

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Latest comments (15)

Andrew Animator 5 years ago
We've made that decision because we think it desensitizes our children to the real effects of violence."
You could argue Road Runner cartoons have the same effect, or wrestling, or virtually any television program aimed at children.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew on 9th January 2013 4:02pm

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Alex Bunch Proof Reader, ZiCorp Studios5 years ago
And some American's wonder why the rest of the world views them as completely fruitcake :-(
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.5 years ago
500 million violent video games have been sold since 1996. Did we all suddenly become violent murderers?
400 million guns are registered in the US. Are we all suddenly violent murders?

The numbers speak for themselves.

Time to start blaming the killer for his actions.
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Funny thing. Canadians play the same games we do and in fact make a good number of them these days.

But they don't shoot each other.
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Andrew Animator 5 years ago
Based on their logic it's hard to imagine why games developers aren't all homicidal maniacs.
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In Holland, we had a member of parliament (Christian Democrats) propose a ban on violent games in 2010. Everyone had a good laugh and then went on to serious business.
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Jason Sartor Copy editor/Videographer, Florida Today5 years ago
@Jeffrey Kesselman: I suggest you come out from under your rock:

"There have been 99 shooting incidents as of Monday, compared to 69 the same time last year (a rise of 44 per cent.) The number of gun victims has risen from 76 to 121 (a 59 per cent increase)." That was through May 28.
Headline: Two killed, 23 wounded in shooting at Toronto party
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Dave Wolfe Game Developer, Cosmic Games5 years ago
@Jeffrey I've read (but been unable to confirm) that Canada also has the same number of gun permits per capita as the US, although the US still has more than twice as many guns per capita.

I'm glad the governor mentioned mental health, which I think is a far larger part of the equation than video games or even guns. For all the mass shootings where the drug history is available, all the perpetrators were mental health patients taking psychiatric drugs. These drugs are known to cause violent behavior in a small percentage of patients..
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Bryan Robertson Gameplay Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto5 years ago
I suggest you come out from under your rock
The point isn't that there are zero shootings in Canada, it's that shootings per-head of population are much, much lower in Canada and many other countries, than they are the US.

As an aside, those high-profile shootings in Toronto were the result of gang activity targeted at specific individuals, not shooters opening fire on random people without motive, which are two very different problems.
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Bryan Robertson Gameplay Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto5 years ago
The fact remains that there is no evidence that video games cause people to be violent.

Violent crime has, in fact, been falling since the invention of video games. That doesn't mean that video games are responsible for a reduction in violent crime of course, but if they do cause people to become violent then clearly they're not very good at it.

The only reason video games are even being mentioned as a cause is because scapegoating videogames is an easy way to sell papers and get viewers. It's also a very effective manner of diverting people away from the debate on gun control. And because the majority of people don't understand that correlation does not imply causation.

The fact that younger shooters have played video games isn't particularly significant, given that a very large proportion of people in their age group also play video games. If the majority of young shooters have also eaten chicken, does it imply that eating chicken is responsible for mass murder?
You also can't leave out the abstraction scale - games getting more and more realistic each year.
Realistic or not, video game violence is not comparable to real world violence. Video game characters are not real, they do not have thoughts, feelings, wants, families.

I think most video game players that have killed thousands of video game characters would still find it very difficult to hold even an unloaded gun to a real person's head. Why? Because people have empathy for living creatures, they don't have empathy for video game characters for the aforementioned reasons.

The counter argument is based on nothing more than "they must cause violence, I mean, look at them, it's just common sense innit"
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Bryan Robertson Gameplay Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto5 years ago
Our brains aren't computers. They are similar to computers in some ways, but they are not computers. Our brains are also similar to ant hills in many ways, but they're not ant hills.

While it is true that inputs to the brain change its state, it does not automatically follow that the input from violent video games changes its state in such a way as to cause someone to be violent. Which is what is generally assumed to be automatically true when the "inputs change the state of your brain" argument is made.

This incidentally is very similar to the following argument:
1) Video games as a medium affect people emotionally.
2) ?
3) Therefore video games affect people in such a way as to make them violent.

Which assumes that 3, automatically follows as a result from 1, which it doesn't.
And where do you think empathy or the lack thereof comes from? Go ask the Jews if they felt any warm empathy from the Nazis
Human beings can certainly display a lack of empathy towards their fellow human beings. My point is that video games are not an effective manner of reducing your empathy towards other human beings, because killing video game characters is not even remotely comparable to harming a real human being.

As I say, anyone who thinks that killing a million video game characters even remotely compares to the act of even just threatening a single human being, never mind actually following through, is either so utterly lacking in empathy as to be a fundamentally broken human being, or they've just not thought the issue through at all.
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Bryan Robertson Gameplay Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto5 years ago
Studies have repeatedly shown no meaningful correlation between video games and violent behaviour.
As I said before, violent crime has actually been falling steadily since the invention of video games.

If video games cause violence, then they're really not very good at it at all, however much people might want that to be the case.

If people want to infringe on freedom of speech and censor violent video games, then the burden of proof is on them to show conclusive proof that video games are, in fact harmful.

The only reason we're even having this discussion right now, is that video games make a convenient scapegoat and blaming them is an easy way to sell papers, just as blaming comic books was not that long ago. And because unfortunately, most people are easily convinced by arguments like "person who did bad things took part in <popular common scapegoat activity>, therefore <popular common scapegoat activity> is clearly to blame!"

Also, just to come back to this for a second.
And please, let's not compare eating chicken to playing Manhunt or other similar video games. One is eating the other is a simulation for hunting people down and murdering them.
If Manhunt is a simulation for hunting people down and murdering them, then Grand Theft Auto is a flight simulator.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 5 years ago
Mass murders have been happening since there were human beings attempting to live within rock-throwing distance, so attempting to find direct causal proof one way or another is a losing proposition unless you can go back in time and ask Cave Tribe A why the hell they annihilated Cave Tribe C, but walked past Tribe B without laying a hairy finger on them.

The mental health issue seems to be a prime factor here along with the accessibility of types of weaponry and the lack of sensible means to keep those who mean to do harm away from "tools" that allow them to do so in a rather rapid manner. The only sort of common sense solution I'm hearing is calls for some sort of mental health screening, but even then, it seems that both sides want potential NEW owners of guns to be screened and not those who already own them.

I'd love to find out how you get people who own firearms to take a mandatory test to see if they're in fact, mentally capable to safely keep them. I'd probably suggest that gun owners who are deemed "sane" should be the ones to break the news to the ones deemed "not so sane" by any "official" testing, as I'd hate to be the bearer of bad news to someone who's not about to give up anything they consider sacred without a fight. Medication would be a good solution.... except that adds potential side effects to the mix. In the US, we have a ton of ads here for antidepressants with all sorts of warnings about "suicidal thoughts" and "strange dreams" and the like... Yikes.

As I noted elsewhere, Andrew Kehoe (look him up) never played a video game at all, but he killed a few dozen people back in 1927 using quite a bit of planning some would call "crazy" today. Charles Whitman went up into a bell tower and killed a bunch of people and video games were a few years away. And so forth and so on, et cetera, et cetera...

The debate continues, i guess...
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Bryan Robertson Gameplay Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto5 years ago
I don't claim to have absolute knowledge of the future. If strong, conclusive evidence eventually shows violent video games to be a problem then I will re-evaluate my stance. However, the fact remains that at present, decades of research on the subject have shown no conclusive link between violent video games and violent behaviour, and violent crime has been falling steadily since their invention.

As always in science, it may well be possible that in the future our current understanding will be shown to be incorrect. It may well also be the case in future that in the future, Wifi access points are shown to cause cancer, however it's my understanding that at present no such link has been discovered, despite significant research into the subject. Unfortunately that doesn't stop hysteria about Wifi routers in public places, just as lack of evidence in favour of video games causing violence doesn't stop hysteria about video game violence.

If we are to take action against violent video games, or even to blame them, we should do so based on actual sound scientific evidence, and not blind hysteria.

I do not claim to speak for my industry, I am simply an individual that happens to work in games. I have no real stake in violent video games, beyond the fact that I like to work on games that I like, and I happen to like video games of a mature nature. If they disappeared tomorrow I wouldn't be out of a job, I'd just be making different games. My position is based on the fact that I'm a strong believer in freedom of speech, and in making policy decisions rationally, based on the available evidence, rather than on logical fallacies, populism and hysteria.

I don't believe that the solution is as simple as "ban guns", the real world is a complicated place and many factors are at play here, amongst them may be poverty, lack of social mobility, ease of access to weapons, lack of access to mental health and other forms of healthcare. All of which are arguably more prevalent in the United States than in other western nations, where violent crime is much less of a problem.
Here is the definition of simulate: To have or take on the appearance, form, or sound of; imitate.
Your original wording could be interpreted that Manhunt is a killing simulator, in the same way that a flight simulator simulates flight. i.e. That playing Manhunt is realistic enough to teach you how to kill in real life.
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Matt Hewitson Senior QA Technician, Crytek UK5 years ago
@Andrea, try and keep an open mind and read through some of the studies linked via:
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