In the wake of President Barack Obama’s press conference, in which he unveiled a series of measures intended to curb gun violence in the aftermath of last month’s devastating Newtown school shooting, his administration has called for more research into the effects of violent video games on children.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is to be given $10 million to generate a study of video game violence and what impact it has on America’s gun crime.
“Congress should fund research on the effects violent video games have on young minds,” Obama said. “We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science.”
Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty will be two major franchises that will come under scrutiny, due to both their popularity and level of violence that is portrayed. However, some industry experts were quick to point out that such a study is nothing more than a wild goose chase and that the government’s focus should “be elsewhere”.
“There’s no conclusive evidence that games make people more violent, there are more t.v. shows about murder and violence that are far more graphic than video games out there,”” said Casey O’Donnell, an assistant professor of games research at Michigan State. O’Donnell says there haven’t been any studies – thus far – that prove a connection between violence and video games.
Karen Weathington, a mother of five children, including three boys, claimed she noticed a change in their behavior when playing certain games; “I have a 12-year-old and he likes to play all those games and they’re all rated ‘mature’, when they play fight and wrestle, it’s the mocking of slicing someone or with a gun. As a parent, it kind of concerned me, should i take the games away?,”
The answer to Karen’s question is a fundamental ‘YES’ – of course she should take away an ‘M’ rated game from her 12 year old son, who clearly isn’t old enough to perhaps yet grasp the concept of right and wrong, why did she even buy it for him in the first place? These are the kind of people that are giving the video game industry a bad reputation, ratings on games are there for a reason, the same as they are on film’s – it’s not a gimmick and it’s not to be taken with a pinch of salt either. Just because a product is popular on a global scale and is critically acclaimed, does not mean it’s perfectly acceptable for children under the age rating to play it.
The Entertainment Software Association has also waded in and released a statement on President Obama’s gun violence proposal.
“ESA appreciates President Obama’s and Vice President Biden’s leadership and the thoughtful, comprehensive process of the White House Gun Violence Commission. We concur with President Obama’s call today for all Americans to do their part, and agree with the report’s conclusion that the entertainment and video game industries have a responsibility to give parents tools and choices about the movies and programs their children watch and the games their children play,” said the organization in its statement.
“The same entertainment is enjoyed across all cultures and nations, but tragic levels of gun violence remain unique to our country. Scientific research and international and domestic crime data all point toward the same conclusion: entertainment does not cause violent behavior in the real world.”
“We will embrace a constructive role in the important national dialogue around gun violence in the United States, and continue to collaborate with the Administration and Congress as they examine the facts that inform meaningful solutions.”
Video games will, unfortunately, always be a scapegoat for violence in society due to their huge popularity and global reach. What troubles us, is how quickly the Obama administration were to jump on the bandwagon and throw $10 million at an agency that is historically best known for controlling serious disease outbreaks – are we calling ‘M’ rated video games a ‘disease’ now?
I’m sure that money would be better served in actually taking semi-automatic weapons off America’s streets through more rigorous government programs and background checks for potential buyers, rather than targeting an entertainment industry which only simulates what is depicted in real or fictional scenarios.