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IGDA's open letter to Vice President Joe Biden
IGDA's open letter to Vice President Joe Biden
January 10, 2013 | By Frank Cifaldi

We've gotten a lot of feedback (constructive and otherwise) from yesterday's article in which we took the stance that the video game industry has no place meeting with Vice President Joe Biden to discuss gun safety policies.

In so doing, we argued, we'd be admitting that there is a direct link between gun violence and video games, and that we're somehow not doing enough to address this.

No matter where you stand, it's an issue worth talking about, and we're glad to play host to the ongoing discussion.

Here, reprinted without commentary, is the International Game Developers Association's open letter to the Vice President, sent just this morning. In it, Anti-Censorship and Social Issues Committee Chairman Daniel Greenberg is asking for more studies that take a fairer approach to studying the effects of imaginary violence, including any positive effects it may have.

January 9, 2013

The Honorable Joseph Biden
Vice President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20501

Re: Task Force on Shootings Policy Recommendations

Dear Mr. Vice President,

Thank you for your call for information to inform policy recommendations on America’s problem with gun violence.

The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) is the primary membership organization serving individuals that create video games. We are a non-profit organization with more than 100 chapters in major U.S. and international metropolitan areas and over 30 special interest groups and committees. The IGDA is committed to advancing the careers and enhancing the lives of game developers by connecting members with their peers, promoting professional development and advocating on issues that affect the developer community.

The Need for Science
Unlike some industry groups, the IGDA does not seek to impede more scientific study about our members’ products. We welcome more evidence-based research into the effects of our work to add to the large body of existing scientific literature that clearly shows no causal link between video game violence and real violence.

We ask that any new government research look at the totality of imaginary violence. Instead of simply trying to find negative effects, we ask that any new research explore the benefits of violent video games, too. For example, recent research shows a steam valve effect in which violent video gameplay helps release stress and aggression before it can lead to violence. Others studies have indicated that recent declines in real world violence can be attributed in part to potentially violent people spending more time looking for thrills in video games instead of on the streets. Psychologists tell us that playing with imaginary violence is healthy and can help children master experiences of being frightened. This is beneficial and can even be life saving. We can supply links to this research and spokespersons on these issues. The IGDA supports good research and we ask for more science, not less.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Constitutional protection of video games in 2011, finally extending to video game developers the same legal protections enjoyed by authors, filmmakers and musicians. We are grateful that our artistic works are finally beyond legal threat, and we do not take our newly-recognized First Amendment protection for granted. We understand that our rights, like all rights, are limited. We may not make games that are libelous or pose a clear and present danger to others. The government has a valid role in protecting people and especially children from products that are genuinely dangerous. While scientific study has shown that imaginary violence in video games does not cause real world violence, the game developer community recognizes that we have responsibilities along with our rights.

Game developers have been engaged in active and passionate discussions about our role in society and our responsibilities for decades, often facilitated by the IGDA. One way that game developers choose to recognize our responsibilities is by creating games with richer, deeper meanings in the lives of our audiences and by offering a wider range of experiences available than ever before. For example, some violent games add non-violent options and solutions based on problem-solving and player creativity. Other games offer greater rewards for mercy and compassion. Many popular video games offer tough lessons in making better choices through interactive storylines that let players experience the consequences of their actions. And some game developers have responded to real world violence by creating games designed for conflict resolution, anti-bullying and aggression reduction. The government can help this process by supporting this unique, cutting edge research into harnessing the power of video games to help solve our nation’s problem with violence.

Unique Artistic Medium
As creators, working in one of the most popular new forms of art and entertainment, we recognize that video game development not only allows us to express ourselves, but the games we make allow players the chance to express themselves as well. Due to the unique nature of interactivity, video gameplay is not a passive, one-way experience, but an active experience that can be exponentially expanded in multiplayer environments. Governments should not be seeking ways to constrain this emerging medium so early in its development by scapegoating video games for societal ills. The U.S. government did irreparable damage to the comic book industry in the 1950s by using faulty research to falsely blame juvenile delinquency and illiteracy on comic books. The comic book industry never recovered in sales to this day. Censoring violent comic books did not reduce juvenile delinquency or increase literacy, it decimated the production of one of the few kinds of literature that at-risk youths read for pleasure. Censoring video games could have similar unintended consequences that we cannot currently foresee. Ironically, comic books are now used as part of the solution to illiteracy, even by the government. It may seem counter-intuitive, but video games, even violent video games, could be part of the solution here, as well.

Our hearts go out to the victims and survivors of mass shootings. We support your efforts to reduce real-world violence. But we would not want to see those efforts diverted toward non-causal sources and away from meaningful change to real dangers. This is an important effort, and we look forward to working with you further.


Daniel Greenberg
Chairman, Anti-Censorship and Social Issues Committee
International Game Developers Association

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David Marcum
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In the first part Daniel Greenberg makes a claim that video games do not modify players real world activity in a negative way.

In the following Responsibilities section he claims that the industry is taking steps to modify real word activity in a positive way. Then goes on to ask the government for help on this front.

How can we have it both ways? It is not possible for games to affect real world activity unless it does so for the better? How is violence somehow exempt but other activities not?

I think this reply is REALLY rhetorically deficient. This is the best response we have?

Lyon Medina
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In a situation that has so much grey area to begin with, I think it is yes.

Tom Baird
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Can you show the quotes?

The first part (The need for Science) talks about the positive scientific results, and requests that merely studies looking to post blame, not be the only consideration. I can't find anywhere that he claims that 'video gamers do not modify players real world activity in a negative way'.

I took away that he wants a more rigorous amount of study on the subject, both for good and bad, before any sweeping judgements are made, and to be able to truly gauge what kind of behaviours we affect, and how we affect them, so that we can focus on eliciting the benefits while avoiding the drawbacks.

Edit: He also took a shot at the NRA, with 'unlike some industry groups', although I think trying to muzzle research deserves a shot at the very least, but I still can't find where he claims that Games do not cause negative behaviour.

Matt Wilson
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You've summed up my feelings on the subject perfectly, David. It seems like we have the power to improve, expand, and broaden our player's minds.
Yet when it comes to gun violence, well, a computer seems to be a magic box that has no ability to impact our players in a meaningful way.

Violence in video games is a discussion that's been brewing for years, just like misogyny in the industry. It is, however, I think not a discussion we need to invite Joe Biden or the NRA to the table for.

David Marcum
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Quote: "We welcome more evidence-based research into the effects of our work to add to the large body of existing scientific literature that clearly shows no causal link between video game violence and real violence."

MAN do I wish links worked in the comments section!

Tom Baird
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So the first link demonstrates that people that believe in Catharsis are prone to playing violent video games. At no point does it study the effects of video games, that was simply the end choice. Catharsis was being studied, not video games.

The second link offers suggestions without backing research. It doesn't mention if video games cause violence, but rather emphasizes discussion with your children about the effects of violence and make sure they have a clear understanding of real and fake violence.

a causal link means that 'Video games incite violence'. Can you show me a study of a Causal link between video games and violence? It's easy to see that violent people are attracted to violent media, but he used very specific words, and a causal link specifically means that playing video games will very specifically cause that person to become more violent towards others.

Unless you can find a link that shows a study that demonstrated that playing violent video games made that person act more violently in real life, no causal link has been demonstrated.

Edit: He also doesn't say one doesn't exist. He is stating that the current amount of research that has been done is not showing that causal link. More research means it could swing either way.

Matt Robb
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He stated that there is no causal relationship between video games and violence.

He also stated that the story experiences detailed in games can be used to teach lessons that may provide alternatives to violence.

These two statements are not contradictory. Violence is a natural part of living creatures. We as sentient beings learn alternatives to violent reflexes to solve problems, whereas a wild animal relies entirely on fight-or-flight.

The more experiences and concepts (read: Education) you can get from examples set forth by media and directly from other people, the fewer you have to learn the hard way through direct experience.

Seeing a violent situation in media with unpleasant consequences can act as a deterrent. Seeing a non-violent resolution to a potentially violent situation in media can act as a deterrent. Seeing a violent situation in media without consequences really just trains you on new methods to express natural urges, it doesn't inherently make you more violent, as violence is the natural state.

David Marcum
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So then... a causal link is the bar? There is no responsibility we have to the greater public than what our games force people to do? There is nothing outside of that? Either there's a causal link or no effect at all? What about contributory causation?

Michael Rooney
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@"So then... a causal link is the bar? There is no responsibility we have to the greater public than what our games force people to do? There is nothing outside of that either there's a causal link or no effect at all? What about contributory causation?"

A causal link should always be the bar. Otherwise you are wasting resources on solutions that don't affect the problem.

Wouldn't contributory causation be a causal link?

David Marcum
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Michael - Yes. That's my point.

Matt Robb
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I was just responding to your implication of a contradiction.

There seems to be this weird assumption that, because violence is portrayed in games (and movies, TV, etc), and because violence occurs in other aspects of life, that there's an automatic causal connection.

Violence is all over nature. Violence is all over human history. Obviously violence doesn't need any media assistance to occur. If anything the overall trend since media became widespread has been a steady reduction in violence. The most violent parts of the world are also those with the least access to media.

I do believe that portrayals of violence in media can affect the *style* of violence that occurs, but I have my doubts that increases the *frequency* of violent acts.

Tom Baird
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If it doesn't cause violence, it can't be considered as a cause of increased violence, and so we should not be involved in discussions on reducing violence, and any legislation limiting the medium for the sake of reducing violence is not going to do anything, because we were not part of the cause in the first place. If there is no causal link (i.e. video games in no way cause violence, and a contributory cause would still be a causal link), then we are not relevant to this discussion on gun violence and should not be looked at as a solution.

We may be(and it looks like probably are) an outlet for existing violent people, in which case we have a HUGE chance to actually do good, by putting more research into how we can curb violence, and how we can positively affect people through interactive media. If we act from our gut, and act guilty without legitimately being guilty of causing violence, and get legislated as if we incited violence, we will never know what we could have done for these people that are using violent media as an outlet to violent behaviour. We can find games that are morally low, but so far we can't find any way that they incite violence in the real world. We can however find some games that reduce the violent capacities in people, and so if we act too quickly we could end up throwing the baby out with the bath water.

It doesn't mean we shouldn't have any personal moral integrity, and that we should all just rush for the basest of desires. This was all in argument of your claim that he was being contradictory. He was not.

Currently we are being pointed at in a very accusatory manner by many parties, and there is 0 evidence to support their accusations. Comic Books were looked at as an example for what can happen if we were to cave, and take on the guilt. We can do better if we can continue to freely grow as a medium and learn how we affect people before jumping to unreasonable, and unsupported restrictions on the medium based on gut and not evidence.

Edit: Why did you bring up Contributory cause in the first place. Granted I skimmed the two articles, but I didn't see it mentioned there either. Do you know of any research showing it to be a contributory cause? Or was it just muddying the discussion by adding new terms for the same thing (the word cause already implies that it contributed to something, why add it in like it makes a difference)?

David Marcum
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Tom -- I, in no way, think we should be regulated by anyone but our own conscience. But I look around me and see very little sign that we are even looking at the possibility that we have any responsibility for what we produce.

"Can video game affect people in a negative way?"

"Of course not! We can however do the converse."

"How is this possible?"


Daniel Accardi
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@ David - the negative effect/positive effect.

I'm not totally sure, but I think there's some kind of logical fallacy in presuming that a relationship has to have multiple facets - that if games have a positive effect, they must have a negative effect. To precisely word the issue, the IGDA letter states that there IS a causal relationship between video games and violence, and that relationship is negative - video games are more often shown to reduce rather than incite violent activity. The letter doesn't state that there's no way video games could cause violent activity; it simply says that empirically, they don't, or haven't yet in any valid research environments.

Tom Baird
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This is going in a loop now.

He never said we could not affect people negatively. He said that the current body of research suggests that we are not affecting people negatively(and in fact in some cases enforcing positive behaviours), and that more research is needed. That's a HUGE difference.

Your entire argument about there being a contradiction is entirely fabricated, and not part of the open letter in any way. There is a huge difference in talking about what we know so far, and talking about what is absolute fact.

David Marcum
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Tom- "Why did you bring up Contributory cause in the first place. Granted I skimmed the two articles, but I didn't see it mentioned there either. Do you know of any research showing it to be a contributory cause? Or was it just muddying the discussion by adding new terms for the same thing (the word cause already implies that it contributed to something, why add it in like it makes a difference)?"

Really? Why are you accusing me of attempting under-handed tricks? I included it because usually when these discussions occur contributory causation is not even considered. Do I have a study to prove causation? no. Do you have one that disproves it? We can both search out studies to support our position. And I have no desire to argue an argument that will not end. Especially when accusations of me being disingenuous are being used.

Matt Robb
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I'm sure video games have a variety of effects, both positive and negative. I just don't believe video games incite violence. I believe they can reduce violence because they can have an educational effect.

It's not a zero-sum situation.

David Marcum
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"We welcome more evidence-based research into the effects of our work to add to the large body of existing scientific literature that clearly shows no causal link between video game violence and real violence."

And I addressed the imagined "steam valve effect" earlier with a broken link (because this comments section isn't as good as it could be). People will argue and have argued that the link shows no causality claim. True.

Here is the opening paragraph.
"The Greek philosopher Aristotle had many original and enduring ideas, but he didn’t get everything right. One idea that’s been pretty much debunked by modern psychology is catharsis. Catharsis is the notion that we can purge our negative emotions by acting them out or witnessing them in our arts and entertainment—and that such purging is a healthy thing to do. Not true. Indeed there is evidence that indulging our anger and aggression can increase—not decrease—those destructive emotions."

Here --
I could find these all day, but I've got work to do.

Robert Williamson
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I don't think it's correct in assuming that because there are positive effects to something that there must be negative effects too. Not everything in life functions in a yin&yang fashion.

Matt Robb
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That's a valid point, though I think we need to take care to differentiate between play-as-stress-relief vs more dangerous urges.

I suppose one could make the argument that games may act as a gateway to the escalation of a psychosis that a person might otherwise be able to resist if they didn't have the game to act as a stepping stone. That's highly subjective and impossible to prove in any meaningful way. From what I understand from an amateur perspective, these psychoses tend to build on themselves over time just from the random inputs of life, of which games can be one but are by no means required. Regardless, this works back around to a need for better mental healthcare.

Steven An
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You need to think with more precision.

If violent games do not cause violence, that does not mean other types of games can't cause other types of effects. Maybe a non-violent but hateful game can indeed cause violence. Violent movies don't cause violence, but propaganda films made by the Nazis (drink) can.

Please, think harder and more rigorously.

Paul Marzagalli
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It strikes a reasonable chord for me: it defends the art form as a whole, while specifically addressing the usual talking points that get raised in these matters. I support engaging with Biden simply because he should hear to his face that the government needs to be a more honest partner in these dialogues (which, in my opinion, they haven't been). That means an open-ended dialogue, not a series of meetings building toward doing "something." I don't support the idea of treating the industry as a monolithic entity, but I am fine with elements of it engaging with politicians. The dialogue that comes from that is constructive in the sense that other developers can see it, process it, and make of it what they will in their own endeavors.

Michael Rooney
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ECA has a good one tooooo

Michael Wenk
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I think the problem here is it doesn't matter at all whether video games has any affect positive or negative on gun violence. It is all about perception and politics. There are enough people that either hate video games, guns or both and those people will find a way no matter what to express that. The science is irrelevant, because even if it were proved completely and indisputably people would find some way to express their hatred.

I personally think any participation in this, even sending an open letter will be perceived as admitting guilt. I think the best solution for the games industry is to ignore/deny involvement in public and lobby in private.

Coray Seifert
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Down with the haters!

This is a great job by Daniel Greenberg and the IGDA to take a stand for our industry and our art form. I think this is perfectly stated and is a great way to both open collaboration with the current administration in a productive manner while still letting them know in no unclear terms where we stand. BRAVO!

sean lindskog
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I think we can stand up for the creative rights of video games, and at the same time have a meaningful dialog about violence in games.

I understand Michael Wenk's point above - there's some truth that politics and biased uneducated opinions are a serious concern. But I think we should aspire to rise above that, rather than be dragged into an "us vs. them" mentality.

Laura Stewart
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*Hoists the Hater Flag.*

1. The letter is weak, poorly structured, drones on and is unquotable. Agree with the NRA (or NOT), that press release they gave blaming the games industry a week after Newtown... Was riveting. Quotable. And reset a significant portion of the national debate away from the gun industry.

2. The games industry isn't going to get far crying out for a weapon that it's opponent has spent decades systematically removing from the battlefield. The NRA ensured that medical federal agencies are almost completely constrained in studying gun violence. It lies completely in their power to prohibit federal studies on gun imagery. More science would be nice. But starting out with that as your talking point means that it could be negotiated away or targeted.

3. Please counter the NRA's Kindergarten Killers. The NRA framed the debate with a select list of video games that put a face on our industry. You can't counter that with "Many of our games are nice."

4. The letter is all defense and no offense. It's time for the NRA to take an arrow in the knee. How dare they insinuate that parents with violent video games are more responsible for mass shootings, or any shootings, than parents who allow their teenage children access to actual guns. Because Newtown happened because someone didn't lock up her guns in a gun safe. Make the NRA explain why having a copy of Grand Theft Auto in your console should be regulated, but not that you have a loaded Bushmaster lying around where little fingers can play with it.

By the Nine Divines....

Sean Monica
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As correct as a lot of your statements are, the letter is actually very well for the situation. Any more aggressive and you cause the other (who here has all the power and money) to shut down most forms of communication. I think that you're defiantly right and we need a stronger stance however this letter is a great way to let them know we are trying to communicate and keeping the talks open. Biden is already known for blowing people off and rejecting anything that goes strongly against him. Point being is that we need to keep him informed of facts and sympathize with what is going on, tis the world of politics.

tony oakden
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Everyone is avoiding talking about the elephant in the room. Or in this case the herd of gun wielding elephants stampeding through all the most popular games. A quick look through any mainstream games mag, or publishers website reveals a of gun culture every bit as fanatical as the NRA. How can we tell them to regulate guns when our games glorify in the use of guns? When the only way for a person to interact with an environment is by using a gun? I don't think computer games cause violent crime, but it's difficult to make that case when our product uses them so extensively.

Kevin Fishburne
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Probably because no one's ever been killed by a polygon, even several hundred of them artfully stitched together to resemble a gun.

Christian Nutt
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Dunno. I super-duper love action melee combat in games, but I don't consider myself into "sword culture" because I love playing Bayonetta.

Ian Schreiber
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By that logic, should the porn industry be held accountable for people having sex?

Justin Sawchuk
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Outrageous everyone should cancel there membership with the IDGA after this stunt, if we are not going to get people who will stand up to the totalitarians we better kick to the curb sooner rather then later.

Dimitri Del Castillo
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With advocacy like Greenberg's it's no wonder why everyone thinks they can still bully the video game business around. His four outlined points are flimsy, apologetic, and don't address the fact that violence and conflict are mainstays in games because they are intrinsic elements (risk-reward) in gameplay. Lets take a look at his talking points (paraphrased):

1. "Shrinks say video violence is good for you!": While this maybe true (according to who's numbers you look at), no one should be selling video games as a surrogate to real violence. If all this video game killing is so good for us, then by extension shouldn't we rehabilitate murderers with violent video games too?

2. "We're protected by the 1st Amendment! (for now)": When in doubt, cry free speech, because politicians never rally from both sides of the aisle to create poorly thought out, knee-jerk legislation to impress their constituencies. It's obvious that free speech protects video games, it protects the press and movie industry etc. etc. Keep bringing free speech into it and the Red and Blue teams will eventually see an opportunity to make a move to limit that speech in order to gain a few brownie points with the public.

3. "We offer real world solutions to common problems!": Sure! If by that you mean my little brother discovered that you could get your money back from a dead hooker in GTA. I know a lot of people like to think they are making games that have "tough moral decisions", but really your gameplay is as risky as your save habits. What to do? Paragon or Renegade? Why not F5 and try both! Bottom line is I don't expect game designers to make games to set my moral compass to, and in the same breath, resent the hell out of designers that think they have some profound message hammered into every facet of gameplay. Rules of consequence vary wildly from game to game and even the most well construed and thoughtful circumstances can be construed as trivialized representations of their real world counterpart like any depiction of war in a game setting. Just stop with the morality in gaming, it doesn't belong there.

4. "You can't oppress us, we're artists!": Really? Doesn't this belong back up in the free speech category? I think Dan was up late and running out of gas, but no, this hardly has legs enough to run. Yes, the industry employs tons of artists, and there is artistry in the making of a game. But come Greenberg, This business is 40 years old and does billions of dollars of trade every year. It doesn't need to hide behind any feeble claim that we are some endangered tradition that needs an NEA grant to stay afloat.

Greenberg sold us all short because the facts are is that the video game business employs the most devoted and talented people in any field outside of rocket science and cancer research. I've worked with some truly amazing folks that took gigantic pay cuts to work on games instead of some other field just because they wanted to work on games.

But why should Greenberg feel any need to represent the people that work on games when all people ever do is put the product before the people. I worked on Saint's Row, so people should judge me for working a (satirically) violent video game?

It's nonsense that the people who speak for the video game industry at the national level are such knuckle heads who continue to make it sound like were some upstart in the market.

Paul Marzagalli
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This wasn't meant to be Thomas Paine writing "Common Sense." It was an open invitation to the government to begin a dialogue on these matters. I imagine it was softly worded because the goal is to begin a discussion, not an argument. As an initial outreach, it does what it should: it is quietly constructive and displays a willingness to talk while establishing its basic view on matters. The harder words come later once the engagement of views and ideas begins. This was an attempt to get to that point, not a full-blooded rhetorical defense, and should be judged as such.

Ken Williamson
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@David Marcum positive and negative affects are not equal. By that I mean, movies and books have very positive effects on readers, and negative effects are moderated by the consciences of those viewing/reading them. Games are playing in the same arena - gamers are not a bunch of non-critical robots who react without thinking to any input. Games can (and do) have positive effects without necessarily engendering the negative. That's the story of all creative fields.

These claims against violence in games have been made for decades now, and without solid evidence. Games are an easy scapegoat for much more serious issues, and that is the real danger here. Public attention and money is wasted on a witch hunt that has been had more than several times in the past, and the outcome will be the same. If the US wants to stop these mass killings, it is going to have to look closer to home. Games are not the issue, no matter how many quotable quotes the discussion offers. It's actually offensively obtuse to suggest it for any thinking person.

For the record, I'm not interested in extreme violence in any of my media, and avoid it as a personal choice. But I'm not myopic enough in my feelings about it to blame it for things that demand serious, rigorous, and brutally honest solutions. I started out years ago making the same erroneous assumptions being made by those blaming games for real world violence now. Of course violence in games has a real world effect - it just has to, right? Then I read all the available data, time and again. My initial assumptions were wrong, and so are those of the people claiming it yet again this time.

P.S. That doesn't mean there isn't room for healthy debate about what games should be including in their content, but that's a different discussion.

David Marcum
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I agree that the U.S. has a much bigger problem than video games. It has a culture of narcissism, selfishness, and sociopathism. We glorify things that we ought not. We glorify killing, misogyny, and encourage xenophobia. Does any of this sound familiar? Do I need to list the titles?

You say, "Games can (and do) have positive effects without necessarily engendering the negative". And I agree. But which games are we talking about? The games that seem to be created for Beavis and Butthead do not fit into that category.The American Psychological Association warns parents that "studies show that seeing a lot of violence on television, in the movies, and in video games can have a negative effect on children" -- and that's based on years of media-related research (not only video games). We can say whatever we want about their positive effects, which I agree are many, but the positive effects do not preclude the negative. The question is: Can we afford to have the negative effects? If we don't start treating the kids we serve with respect, someone will force us to. I don't want that to happen. I think it would be a crime. But as you say, this has happened before.

We are the authors of our culture. Culture engenders attitude. Attitude engenders action. (Just ask the APA.) Look at ancient Roman culture: people no less intelligent than we are, but people (coincidentally, of prosperity and leisure) who developed a base culture in which the spectacle of live murder and spilled human blood in the Coliseum was celebrated and looked upon as an entertainment. And now we glorify it in movies, books, and video games. In games, we get rewarded for it.

WE are the authors of our culture. It's an awesome responsibility. What are we going to with it?

Matt Wilson
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I haven't seen one of the latest ones, but I remember EA's Need for Speed games being prefaced with "remember - don't try this kind of driving in real life" warnings. Is that offensively obtuse? To whom, the developers at Black Box or the player?

Kujel Selsuru
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Video games like every damn medium are a reflection of the culture that produces them, America has an unusual love of violence and that is reflected in the games they produce and consume. The violence doesn't stem from the games poeple play, it stems from them and their culture. They play a lot of violent games cause they love violence!

Did anyone else noticed that as video games became more excepted in the mainsteam culture they became more violent and more realistic? When gaming was the nerd's domain violence was not only less but more fantsiful and/or satirical. War is a way more common theme but that is not because of the medium, it's because the non-geeks buy this stuff and there are a lot more of them then us and thus have more spending power!

Why look at yourself and try and actully improve when you can blame and linch someone else?

Mark Dygert
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The industry examines trends going on in society and builds games that will cater to those trends. I don't think society became fascinated with the middle east and conflict because a bunch of video games came out about the subject. Instead video games are a reflection of what society is fascinated with.

If gardening was big, we would see all kinds of games about it.

David Marcum
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"Instead video games are a reflection of what society is fascinated with. "

Mark Dygert
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David, sure that's kind of impressive but what is Zynga doing besides circling the drain while Activision is counting its billions from Call of Duty? When games like farmville get as much launch attention as COD Black Ops2, then we know we have a handle on the violence.

Until then the war games are way more popular because that is what society is into right now. Which isn't surprising given 9/11 and all that has followed. It also doesn't help that every few decades some decides we need a war and the only way to fix the economy is with war spending.

Mark Dygert
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Video games don't turn people into violent human beings, violent human beings are attracted to violence wherever they find it.

Mark Dygert
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Dear government,

If you don't like games about war, don't go to war so much!

Please stop creating violence that causes our society to fixate on it. If you do this then maybe we can finally make something else. See we have a dirty little secret, we follow trends we don't set them, even if we really want to you think otherwise, we don't.

Sorry for the confusion, now stop blowing people up so we can finally leave alone their polygonal counterparts.


Ian Schreiber
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If only the hawkish politicians hadn't played so many violent video games in their youth. Oh, wait...

Ramon Carroll
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Actually, politicians play violent games today. They just tend to use real people as their avatars.

Mike Griffin
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I've been poking around the games industry for 15 odd years and -- despite terrible real-life happenings -- this discussion returns in strong cycles, during which I can't help but bring up the same 3 points:

A person's inherent character traits, that person's upbringing and moral/ethical compass, and ultimately media content ratings.

Much like product-labeled warnings for mature and violent lyrical content in music albums.
Much like product-labeled warnings for mature and violent theatrical content in films.
Much like product-labeled warnings for mature and violent gameplay content in video games.

They exist for a reason.

As a society, we are provided an opportunity to express ourselves via multimedia in a range of colors and tones, both visual and audible, and both moral and ethical. Artists and creators have stories and perspectives to share, spanning a broad spectrum of emotional timbre.

We rate the relative level of maturity for that content, and hand this over as hard guidelines for retailers and storefronts, and more importantly to inform consumers of what the proposed content may contain.

How many millions of parents -still- don't abide by ESRB ratings, much like the millions of parents who -still- allow their under-age children to view R rated films and listen to violent or vulgar music?

Perhaps they're simply uninformed, they lack the time to review the content, or they believe, "Well, I've raised my boy/girl properly, so surely this M-rated 'video game' isn't going to leave negative lasting impressions on my kid - right?"

I'm a firm believer in the concept that truly disturbed individuals will unfortunately be truly disturbed individuals irrespective of their exposure to X amount of media classified under Y degrees of maturity, because it's a trait that's ingrained in the person -- whereby no amount of "steam valve" stress release will ever truly cure that person of an inherent propensity for malice.

It's up to people surrounding that individual to recognize their problems and act to control or direct it.

However, I'm convinced that software ratings and the associated maturity level of game content still do not get respected enough, understood enough, by mainstream consumers.

Watching my 10-year old nephew destroy people in Black Ops II over the holidays, in which he was fluently speaking of "headshots" and how to "tea bag" fallen foes, was disturbing evidence. And we're talking well to-do and affluent parents. They simply, and innocently, can't get their heads around the idea that a video game -- any video game -- could affect their child negatively.

"All of his friends play it online, and we're pretty sure he knows the difference between real violence and make believe violence," they told me. Pretty sure?

How many tens of millions of parents take such a casual approach to buying media for their kids?

"Oh don't worry, he knows the swearing and all the talk about guns, ho's, and money on that album are only there for show. He just likes the beats."

"Relax, she understands when a room full of people are getting shot in that movie that it's all special effects and make-up! She just loves the hunky actor!"

How many such write-offs occur every day? How many breaches of content ratings happen every hour?

Granted, curious kids will always find ways to smuggle illegal "adult content" into their lives -- whether it's porno, a few beers, or a violent M-rated video game. That's developing human nature.

But how often do parents knowingly and willingly purchase and bestow upon their kids a range of mature media content, presuming -- without certainty -- that they've equipped their young adults with the moral and ethical compass to draw the line between the perpetuation of virtual or actual acts of violence and depravity?

In this equation we're discussing, so much begins (and ends) in the home.
The government should be investigating studies of parental responsibility with regards to media exposure and content ratings.

Ironically, parents themselves are so overwhelmed by violent, cynical or depraved media that they are likely becoming more and more desensitized to its impact on their own lives, and thus the impact on their offspring.

"Hey, it's not like my kids haven't seen this kind of stuff before on the 6 o'clock news, right? It's a tough world out there."

A whole generation of parents allowing dubious media and entertainment to raise their children during downtime, presuming the child's apparent savvy awareness of content acquisition makes them just as capable of differentiating fact from fiction.

Most of this stuff begins in the individual, their own nature, and goes on to be modified, sculpted and cared for by adults in the home. For better or worse.

A particularly nasty album, film or video game may indeed influence or add color to a broken individual's thought patterns, but they do not lay the foundation of overtly negative behavior.

You're born and raised with that. Or not.

Mark Dygert
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"It's up to people surrounding that individual to recognize their problems and act to control or direct it."

In the case of Newtown, his mom took him to the gun range and taught him how to use her AR-15. Their actions need to be appropriate...

Matt Cratty
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Add a clause asking him to put just as much effort into tv, movies, books, comics, etc...