US congresswoman Diane Franklin said her proposed tax would help to “finance mental health programs and law enforcement measures to prevent mass shootings.”
The proposal has been met with widespread outrage by video industry experts who say it’s time to have a real, “brave” conversation about the critical impact of violence in media.
Since the Sandy Hook massacre in November in which 20 children and six adults were killed, American politicians and lobbyists have been pointing the finger at violent video games as the catalysts for the countless massacres that have occurred in the US over the last 50 years.
Following the Sandy Hook tragedy, the National Rifle Association wasted no time implicating the video game industry, calling it a “callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people.”
The statement – which Ron Curry, CEO of the Interactive Gaming and Entertainment Association called “fairly self serving” – was partly responsible for US Vice President Joe Biden’s decision to meet with gaming industry executives to begin “a dialogue” about gun violence following the shooting.
Not all game industry affiliates were happy that the industry was being included in talks.
Kris Graft, Editor in Chief of gaming website, Gamasutra condemned the gaming industry executives for attending the talks, claiming that attending the discussions was a passive admission by the gaming industry that it was in part responsible for gun violence in America.
Graft’s opinion piece was met with controversy.
Casey Lynch, editor-in-chief of the world’s largest and most popular gaming website IGN, penned a fairly stunning open letter to the Gamasutra editor, condemning him for believing that the gaming industry should be beyond reproach.
“Who do you suggest sits at the table while powerful and misinformed organisations like the National Rifle Association forcibly tear down and implicate our beloved industry, calling us ‘a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people’?,” he wrote.
“The buyers from GameStop? The studio execs from Hollywood?
“There’s nobody else, Kris. There’s just us.”
Ron Curry told News.com.au that being part of the discussion was a “responsible attitude” for the industry to take and that it would have been “irresponsible not to.”
“I’m not opposed to any research that one way or another has a critical and unbiased and critical impact of violence in media,” he said.
“I don’t think we should limit it to video games. If we’re going to have a dialogue, let’s have a wider dialogue about violence in media.
“We also need to look at it in the context of wider society. Is it just media in and of itself (that causes violence) or is there a larger social problem? Is parenting an issue? Is poverty an issue? Is there a combination of the lot?”
Professor Grant Devilly from Griffith University studied the effect of video games on aggressive behaviour in children between the age of 11 and 17 and found that some displayed more competitive, aggressive behaviour after gaming, whereas some displayed less.
The key, he said, was what state they were in before they started gaming. Hyperactive kids would be more subdued after gaming whereas placid children showed slightly elevated aggression levels.
They also followed up on a US study and found similarly, that people that played video games displayed more pro social behaviour than those who didn’t.
“What we do have a problem with is people that only play video games. They get up and play all day and then play all night – that obsessive behaviour where you’re not learning to read and write and not going outside – that needs to be looked at,” he said.
“But that’s a matter of parenting, of lifestyle, there’s so much more to it than just the game.”
“This idea that somebody goes off and kills lots and lots of people because they’ve played a video game – which I don’t even know is true – seems to have utterly missed the point.”
“There are people with mental disorders that play games, and don’t play games. Are we really going to blame games and not their mental state?”
Senior editor of IGN Australia, Cam Shea told News.com.au that it was “unproductive to point fingers and try to blame video games for all the world’s ills.”
“The evidence to support the idea that violent games lead to violent crimes simply isn’t there,” he said.
“Instead, games should be treated like any other entertainment form, starting with a recognition that game content is incredibly broad in scope.
“On the one hand, you’ve got Dora the Explorer games, on the other, the Grand Theft Auto series. One end is designed for children, the other is designed specifically for adults.
The dialogue should be around what’s appropriate content for different age groups.”
“The fact is that violent games are always going to exist, so it’s up to the industry to classify them intelligently, for retail to sell them responsibly, and for parents to supervise what their kids are playing.”
So far there has been no conclusive evidence that links video gaming to violent behaviour.
Eighteen months ago, the US Supreme Court ruled that penalising video games was unconstitutional.
In 2010, the US Supreme Court threw out a case where California law enforcers tried to ban violent video games because of their alleged links to violent behaviour.
Hundreds of scientists from both sides of the debate presented evidence to support their claims before the court ruled it had insufficient evidence to rule that video games were the problem.
However, the debate surrounding violent video games continues.