President Obama Tells CDC to Research Violent Video Games
President Barack Obama held a press conference today on gun violence and how his administration plans to fight it. One of his 23 executive orders, which he signed today, directs the Center for Disease Control to study the causes of violent behavior. The president wants Congress to allocate $10 million toward the study of violent media, including movies, television and, you guessed it, video games.
Last week, Vice President Joe Biden met with executives, researchers, and representatives from the gaming industry as part of a series of summits to figure out solutions to gun violence. At that meeting, Biden told Electronic Art’s chief executive officer John Riccitiello that he has made no judgment about video games and that the president just wanted to get all of the research.
Obama’s press conference focused primarily on gun control. Obama seemed to have no intent to ban, censor, or limit video games in any way, although he did not mention whether he would take the Entertainment Software Association’s advice and simultaneously research the benefits of games while looking for their negative effects.
“We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.” Obama said. “Congress should fund research into the effects violent video games have on young minds.”
The specific order reads as follows: “Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.”
“As important as these steps are, they are in no way a substitute for action from Congress,” Obama said.
It can be very easily assumed that the call for this order stems from the a national desire to combat gun violence after a string of mass murders, like the one at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn. And the nation-wide concern for the associated gun laws in America.
But why videogames?
Video games have seemingly always had a bad rep in society, especially when these incredibly tragic mass shootings happen.
In 1993, around the release of DOOM the senate held a hearing to discuss violent video games. At this hearing they hoped to gather the perspectives of relevant groups, including key figures from Nintendo of America and SEGA of America, as well as educators and other stakeholders. Senators Joseph Lieberman, Byron Dorgan, and Herbert Kohl felt that with the holiday season approaching, the senate needed to act in order to curtail the level of violence and sex in games sold to children. To demonstrate how inappropriate games were becoming, these senators showed video footage of two games, Night Trap and Mortal Kombat.
On April 20th 1999, students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold of Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado effected the then most violent school shooting in the United States. Groups from concerned parents to psychologists criticized everything from Harris and Klebold’s favorite bands to the prescription antidepressants Harris took. Among the hobbies criticized were violent computer games such as Doom and Wolfenstein 3D.
Two years after the shooting, parents of the victims sued a number of violent video game creators. Companies named included Sony, AOL, maker of Doom ID Software, and Atari. Twenty-five companies were named in total. The lawsuit itself stated “absent the combination of extremely violent video games and these boys’ incredibly deep involvement, use of and addiction to these games and the boys’ basic personalities, these murders and this massacre would not have occurred” and sought $5 billion in damages. The case, however, was thrown out by the federal judge.
More recently, in 2011, a California bill attempting to restrict the sale of violent video games to children under 18 was struck down at the Supreme Court. In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court stated that video games qualify for first amendment protection. Though psychological studies suggest that the interactivity of video games separates them from television programs or graphic comic books, the legal system has established and confirmed precedent asserting that they are effectively the same.
Just last week, Gamebreakers own Lopez reported on an investigation on gun violence led by Vice President Joe Biden who met with executives, researchers, and representatives from the gaming industry to discuss some possible solutions to the issue. At that meeting, Biden told Electronic Art’s chief executive officer John Riccitiello that he has made no judgment about video games and that the president just wanted to get all of the research.
A few days ago I also reported on the same topic, specifically that a Massachusetts mayor, Robert Dolan, proposed launching a violent game trade-in program aimed at persuading families to get rid of their violent video games, movies, and toys by offering coupons to residents who turn in those items at the city yard.
It was also reported today that a Representative of Missouri, Diane Franklin, is calling for a sales tax on violent video games. The proposed bill states: “the term ‘violent video game’ means a video or computer game that has received a rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board of Teen, Mature, or Adult Only.” Meaning that , if successfully passed, Teen-rated games like The Sims 3, Starcraft 2, EVE Online and Tropico 4 would all be taxed 1% in Missouri on account of how “violent” they are. The tax will be used to finance mental health programs and law enforcement measures to prevent mass shootings. It should be noted here that no other form of media is being targeted by this proposal.
Similar legislative attempts were held in Oklahoma and New Mexico, both of which failed to pass.
A whole lot of discussion is being held on this topic. We at Gamebreaker want to know what you think? Is there a correlation between video games and real-world violence? Do you think President Obama made a good call on conducting this research?