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Video games and gun violence: A year after Sandy Hook
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Video games and gun violence: A year after Sandy Hook

February 10, 2014 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 7 Next
 

The truth about the research

There didn't appear to be a consensus on where exactly any Congress-lead research was up to at this point, so I got in contact with someone who was directly involved in gathering information for the vice president.

XEOPlay president Nicole Lazzaro was contacted by the Office of the Vice President at the start of January 2013, and asked to gather concrete proposals from industry leaders with regards to how the Obama Administration could tackle this issue of violent video games head on.

Lazzaro pulled together proposals from inflential game industry veterans like Robin Hunicke, Earnest Adams, Warren Spector and more. From these proposals, she put together a list of 10 resolutions that Biden could utilize when deciding which direction to take with the issue.

Since that point, Lazzaro concedes that not a lot has happened at all.

"I have to admit that since that time, there hasn't been a lot of new groundbreaking research on connecting this and time," she says. "There hasn't been new legislation passed to really work on these effective gag orders."

"It's all been kind of a wash," she adds. Indeed, Lazzaro notes that there was most likely other reasons for the outcry from the White House at the time, apart from genuinely wanting to find a link between violence in video games and real-life violence -- but what could that be?

What was the real meaning behind the meeting with Biden, then?

At the very least, then, it would appear that research into a potential link between violent video games and real-life violence has been put on the back burner, with research into gun control measures very much the real focus of the White House and the CDC's future examinations.

Which raises the question: Why were video games brought so front-and-center by the White House? Biden's talks with the video game industry were given as much attention as his talks with the firearm industry, even though after the media furor subsided, the focus in closed-door meetings turned away from video games.

So why drag video games through the mud, and cause potential harm to the games industry? Could it be that Biden's meeting with the video game industry was simply a direct reaction to the mainstream media's banal headlines and reports, leading the White House to feel pressured into wasting time on video game talks?

"Yeah, I think so," says researcher Ferguson. "I think in many ways, the Lanza case is a pretty classic moral panic in action. I'm not privy to their internal deliberations within the White House -- I can only speculate -- but yeah, I'd say they were perhaps afraid of looking like they were going to go all-in on gun control, and wanted to make it look like they were taking a comprehensive approach."

"Their thought may have been to deflect any criticism that they were going after people's guns, by also going after their video games," he continues. "I think the intent was to say, 'We're not specifically going after games, we're going after everything!' I don't think it was very helpful in the end. I think they ended up doing more damage than good."

Olson is of the impression that the meeting with Biden occurred simply out of a sense of public concern. People were reading these newspaper headlines, and were genuinely afraid and upset as a result. The White House had to respond.

James Ivory, a professor at Virginia Tech whose research deals with the social and psychological effects of new media such as video games, backs up this theory.

"While I'd like to assume the White House and Vice President Biden had good intentions with the series of meetings held last January to discuss gun violence, I think the issues that got attention in those meetings were a better reflection of what the news media like to talk about in the wake of prominent shootings, than they were of the issues that need to be addresses to reduce gun violence," he says.

"I don't think it was very helpful in the end. I think they ended up doing more damage than good."

"In a week of meetings, spending two days examining media industries (a day each with Hollywood and video games) compared to only a day with the firearms industry is not how I would have recommended the vice president spend his time if he's looking for answers to gun violence in the United States."

XEOPlay's Lazzaro adds that what happened at the start of 2013 was "just the psychology of politics."

"They had to," she reasons. "As the leader of a country, you've got to react, right? You have to respond."

Regardless of the reasoning behind the meeting with Biden, the IGDA's Greenberg says that he still feels great that it went ahead.

"At the time there was a tremendous dissention in the video game community about whether we should co-operate," says Greenberg. "They claimed it was a trap. I pointed out that there were ministers being invited too, and they're not claiming that ministers cause violence. They're looking for solutions, and video games can very much be part of -- even though video games don't cause violence, they can be a solution to a violence problem."

"I don't think nothing came from that meeting -- I think a tremendous amount came from that meeting," the IGDA head adds. "For the first time in history, a politician of any level of significance at all agreed that we're not the problem -- that our image problem is the problem. That's what Biden said. Biden embraced the video game industry like that, and to embrace real research instead of this bogus research that has been thrown out by every court in the country -- that's huge. I don't think gamers or developers made enough about it, because it was a tremendous first step in overcoming this overall moral panic."


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 7 Next

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