updated 06:55 pm EST, Wed December 19, 2012
Senator believes court rulings supporting games 'do not get it'
Vague and unconfirmed reports that school gunman Adam Lanza periodically used violent video games for recreation have not gone unnoticed by lawmakers in Washington DC. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has put forth draft legislation that would require the National Academy of Sciences, in conjunction with the Federal Communications Commission, to "study the impact of violent video games and violent video programming on children," despite the fact that several such studies have already been done.
The language in the proposed bill is not particularly inflammatory. Within 30 days of signature, the government would require the completion of research in 18 months whether or not violent video games "causes children to act aggressively or causes or measurable cognitive harm to children" or "has a disproportionate harmful effect on children already prone to aggressive behavior."
In a statement reported by The Verge, Rockefeller expressed disbelief at the notion that the medium had no effect on young minds greater than that of classic literature or Saturday morning cartoons, claiming that "parents, pediatricians, and psychologists know better."
Michael Gallagher, president of Entertainment Software Association said in 2010 that "the myth that video games cause violent behavior is undermined by scientific research and common sense. According to FBI statistics, youth violence has declined in recent years as computer and video game popularity soared. We do not claim that the increased popularity of games caused the decline, but the evidence makes a mockery of the suggestion that video games cause violent behavior."
There is a rating system established for video game content by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) that uses a six-rating scale, enhanced with clarifying remarks on the type of content found in the game. For instance, first-person shooter Halo 4 is ranked mature (17 years of age and older) for blood and violence. The more profane Borderlands 2 has been given the same rating, for blood and gore, intense violence, language, sexual themes, and use of alcohol. Rhythm game Dance Dance Revolution which NBC News reports was heavily favored by Lanza, is rated E10-- suitable for audiences 10 years of age and up, for language and suggestive themes.
Electronista spoke with a staffer in Senator Rockefeller's office who told us that "the Senator believes that the intensity of [violent video games] is the issue. Couple that with the interactivity, and it's a tool to mold young minds." When pressed about why video game violence does not seem to be a factor in killings in other countries, the spokesperson replied that "the Senator is concerned with US citizens and his constituency."