The lights are on
In the wake of the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, members of the news media and politicians are turning their eye to the role that violent video games might have played in the shootings.
The most prominent move came from U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, who has introduced legislation that would task the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study to determine whether or not violent video games causes aggressive or violent behavior in children. Of course, the fact that literally dozens of studies have been conducted on the same topic -- and found no hard link between video games and real-life violent behavior -- isn't dissuading Rockefeller.
David Axelrod, one of President Obama's senior advisors, also got in on the action with his personal Twitter account, tweeting: "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?"
The game industry has been measured in its response to the criticism, perhaps not wanting to seem callous to the real pain and suffering so many families in Newtown are experiencing.
Here is an official statement from the Entertainment Software Association, the main industry trade organization in video games:
“The Entertainment Software Association, and the entire industry it represents, mourns the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 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.”
Daniel Greenberg, the chairman of the Independent Game Developers Association, went on Fox News to speak with anchor Neil Cavuto about the alleged ties between the Newtown massacre and violent games. As you can see in the clip below, Greenberg found Cavuto to be somewhat hostile to his viewpoints, and found himself dismissively cut off at the end of the segment.
While it's certain that Newtown shooter Adam Lanza played video games, reports regarding what types of games he enjoyed have varied. Some sources hold that he played violent games like Call of Duty and Starcraft, while others that knew him said he was an adept player of Konami's popular arcade game Dance Dance Revolution (one of the least violent games on the market). Of course, the likely reality is that, like most young men of his age, he had a wide range of gaming tastes. Still, as Lanza left few clues as to why he conducted the sickening attack, his motives and the influences on his behavior will likely always be a guessing game.
In the weeks to come, expect video games to come under increasing scrutiny. However, the landmark 2011 decision by the Supreme Court on the case of Brown vs. EMA did establish that the court considers video games protected speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution, which would make it difficult for politicians to outright censor violent games.
Sources: Bloomberg, GamePolitics, Politico, NBC News
Email the author Matt Helgeson, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.