Where do we go now?
Ferguson continues to be heavily involved in video game studies. He told me about a special project that he's currently putting together that will encourage discussion about video game research
Essentially, Ferguson is looking to pull together all of the studies that have been done in the field within the last year (outside of the supposed Congress-driven research, of course), and build a special platform for discussion.
"I hope the special issue will change some of the dialogue in the field," he tells me. "Parts of the field had become mired in a kind of quasi-religious ideology where one view consisted of 'truths' and anyone who disagreed with that were heretics, i.e. 'industry apologists', even though scholarly skeptics are not invested in the video game industry."
With this special issue, which closed for submissions earlier this month, Ferguson hopes to provide a platform where scholars from all walks of life can engage in the topic. It'll include dialogue from a non-scholar taking a broader view of the field (possibly Revision3's Adam Sessler), and an exchange between Ferguson and "a person from the other side who is eager to engage in cordial discussion and debate rather than hyperbole and acrimony."
"We know that guns kill us in America, but we aren't allowed to talk about it."
But there may be newly-approved outside forces which slowly but surely shift the blame away from video games too. Around the same time that President Obama was calling for research into video game violence, he was also calling for an end to a 17-year freeze that's been in effect on federal funding of gun violence research.
Essentially, up until this point researchers were not allowed by law to gather data on how gun statistics contribute to gun violence. It's not exactly a freeze that many people know about, and even some of the researchers I talked to confessed that they had no clue about the freeze until last year. As Lazarro puts it, "We know that guns kill us in America, but we aren't allowed to talk about it."
However, it's now possible to collect data on this topic without a researcher's career being negatively affected, notes Olson. Unfortunately, as with the proposed video game research, nothing solid has actually come out of that yet -- and it doesn't sound like much will either.
In an NBC report earlier this month, NBC's reporter found that nothing has come out of the proposed gun research ban lift yet, and that the CDC -- once again in charge of putting together the research -- has not yet received any funding from Congress to date, nor does it sound like money will ever be handed out.
"I still get calls regularly from the press around the world, especially when some bad thing happens to somebody."
The overall message I got from my discussions, then, is that a lot more effort needs to be put into educating people on the topic of video game violence, and gun violence, and whether or not there is actually a link, regardless of what the press says.
Unfortunately, the underlying message is that perceptions are not going to shift substantially anytime soon. While the people I talked to would like to see this situation resolved as quickly as possible, many suggested that it could be decades before we finally see any real acceptance that violent video games really aren't as bad as the general public overwhelmingly believe. That they can actually be a force for good, culturally and economically.
"Just this morning on National Public Radio, they had Martin Luther King's daughter calling for more research, including violence in video games," sighs Olson. "So that idea is still out there, and I still get calls regularly from the press around the world, especially when some bad thing happens to somebody."