The game industry comes under fire from politicians and the media nearly every time there's a shooting in a school, or any time a young person commits a notorious act of violence. In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, Joe Biden invited industry executives out to Washington to discuss games' role in violence, and more research has been proposed.
But there's been a lot of research done already to show that games do not have a direct correlation with violent behavior -- and it seems as though much of the fear comes from ignorance of games, since current lawmakers didn't grow up with games as a popular medium.
The ESRB does a pretty excellent job of self-regulating, and very few people, even in Washington, have proposed a better system. As games came under fire from not only Washington but also the NRA, many in the industry wondered whether the NRA wasn't just passing the buck.
I discussed these issues with Randy Pitchford, CEO of Gearbox Software, and no stranger to violent games, a couple months after the Sandy Hook tragedy, and around the time of the NRA's comments blaming the game industry for violent youth. We wondered 0- how much better a place would the United States be if the NRA regulated its customers as well as the ESRB does?
I've been having this internal debate with myself, what with Washington getting mad about video games. I think there was a strong suggestion, from Biden bringing out a bunch of game execs, that we are complicit in this. The NRA accused us of being responsible.
Randy Pitchford: Yeah. I saw the NRA's position. My take on Washington, on the White House position... There's no doubt that there's some noise out there that suggests that there's some relationship. I don't believe it's irresponsible to question that. And if you're going to question that, I feel a lot better about him questioning the industry then questioning the NRA. Because the NRA has already made up their mind.
Sure. But then I was thinking about this in context of games where they actually do use real weapons and then market that as an exciting element of the experience. This is a realistic weapon that you can actually own. And then we're going to put you in this world where you can actually kill people.
RP: There was a recent example of that. I think it was an EA game.
Medal of Honor, yes.
RP: I wonder how that worked out, though. I couldn't tell as an observer whether they believed that was beneficial, like net positive or net negative... It was kind of a stunt, too, wasn't it?
I don't think it was totally a stunt. It was a "here's our legitimacy" kind of thing.
RP: Oh, interesting. Though, that's a bit of a stunt too. If I remember correctly, and again, I don't have a perfect memory on this, but my memory is that the products were being offered before the game existed, which is a push-side approach instead of like...
The opposite of that is after I first saw Star Wars in 1976, I frickin' wanted an R2D2, and I wanted a Vader, and I wanted an Obi-Wan. And then Kenner said, yeah. It felt like one followed the other.