The assault on video games


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Lawmakers Attack Violent Video Games

By NICK WADHAMS, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK - The video game industry seems to delight in pushing the envelope — and the bounds of good taste — with ever-gorier content. That has put it under renewed attack from legislators and activists who claim some titles must be kept out of kids' hands, though courts have repeatedly granted games First Amendment protections.

The opponents cite new research that they say suggests strong links between violent games and aggressive behavior. They are disturbed by games' cultural ubiquity and the always-improving technology that makes virtual gore more realistic than ever.

"Pediatricians and psychologists have been warning us that violent video games are harmful to children," said Mary Lou Dickerson, a Democratic legislator in Washington state who wrote a law now being challenged in federal court — banning the sale of some violent games to kids. "I'm optimistic that the courts will heed their warnings."

Lawmakers in at least seven states proposed bills during the most recent legislative session that would restrict the sale of games, part of a wave that began when the 1999 Columbine High School shootings sparked an outcry over games and violence. None of the measures that passed have survived legal challenge.

The game industry says legislating ultra-violent games out of the hands of children would deal a severe blow to free speech. Game companies point to the industry-imposed ratings system that gives detailed descriptions of violence in a game and labels some titles as "mature" or "adults only."

"Does it make any rational sense to you that we're going to pass a law someplace that says we're not going to prevent minors from buying `Passion of the Christ' or `Kill Bill' or `Texas Chainsaw Massacre' in a local store but you can't buy `Resident Evil?'" said Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, referring to three violent movies and a popular horror-action game.

The debate reflects a divide in the way people perceive games. Are games harmless, perhaps even cathartic, as many people who grew up playing them believe? Or are they teaching kids to be more aggressive, and in extreme cases, to kill?

To game opponents — many of whom admit they don't play video games — it's the latter. They point to new studies that purport to show a stronger link between violent games and aggressive behavior than ever.

"On average, there is a significant tendency for the studies to yield an increase in aggression by those who have played the violent games," said Craig Anderson, an Iowa State University professor and leading researcher on the effects of media violence.

There is also the inescapable fact that the military uses video games to train its soldiers. A 2003 University of Rochester study found that young adults who played a lot of fast-paced video games showed better visual skills than those who did not.

Author Evan Wright ponders the effects of video games on U.S. soldiers in the current Iraq war in his new book "Generation Kill." In an endorsement that "Grand Theft Auto" creator Rockstar Games would probably rather not get, he quotes one U.S. soldier as saying an ambush felt just like playing the game.

"It felt like I was living it when I seen the flames coming out of windows, the blown-up car in the street, guys crawling around shooting at us," the soldier says.

The next 12 months could see a flurry of new scrutiny of violent games because three controversial franchises are due to release sequels. They include "Doom," notorious as a favorite of the Columbine killers; "Mortal Kombat," with its calls for a player to "finish" opponents in myriad gruesome ways; and "Grand Theft Auto," which exhorted players in its latest iteration to start a Cuban-Haitian race war.

Meanwhile, we're in the midst of a gaming explosion. Deloitte & Touche predicts the worldwide number of "game compliant devices" other than PCs — mobile phones, consoles, and handheld computers, for example — will see a six-fold rise by 2010, from 415 million now to 2.6 billion.

For some legislators, that's a call to arms. Some want the violence in some games declared obscene.

"You can carve out some exceptions to the First Amendment when it is determined that these things we are talking about — like pornography, like alcohol, like tobacco, and so on — have harmful effects to children," Leland Yee, a Democrat in the California Assembly.

Past efforts have failed, often because of challenges from the Entertainment Software Association.

A St. Louis County law that would have limited children's access to video games was rejected in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A bill by Yee that sought to restrict the sale of games died in committee.

Nationally, proposed legislation by Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., would penalize retailers who rent or sell games with violent, sexual or other "harmful" content to minors. A version was killed in 2002 but a revised draft is making its way through the Judiciary Committee, with 43 co-sponsors.

Among games' most vocal critics is Jack Thompson, a Florida lawyer who has tried, so far without success, to argue for acquittal of defendants in violent crime cases in which he believed that games made them do it.

"There's a culpability here that should be shared by those who are training kids to kill," Thompson said.

Thompson is part of a $246 million case filed last year that accuses Rockstar Games, Sony Entertainment and other companies of causing two teenage stepbrothers to shoot and kill a motorist, and wound another, in Tennessee last year. The boys, who pleaded guilty to reckless homicide, reckless endangerment and aggravated assault, told authorities they were inspired by the "Grand Theft Auto" series; Thompson and another lawyer are suing on behalf of the victims.

Game makers have been largely silent on the issue. Rockstar and several major publishers refused to comment.

Still, the notion that games should be restricted is accepted elsewhere. New Zealand, Brazil, Germany and several other nations have outlawed some games.

In Britain, the makers of the "Resident Evil" series were made to change the color of blood from red to green, while the creators of "Carmageddon" had to make the people you run over in your car look more like zombies than average pedestrians.

Game makers counter that parents are responsible for the games kids play — and need to understand that games aren't just for kids anymore. Some evidence also exists that kids don't particularly seek out violent games and don't have unfettered access to them.

The National Institute for Media and the Family, a critic of violent games, reports that 79 percent of stores it surveys prohibit selling mature-rated games to kids. Many major chains — including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Best Buy Co. and Electronics Boutique of America Inc. — will have a carding policy in effect by the end of 2004, though the titles are available over the Internet.

"Grand Theft Auto: Vice City," the best-selling game of 2002, was the only mature-rated game among the top 10 for 2003, according to NPD Fungroup, at No. 6.

"Vice City" trailed the top title, "Madden NFL 2004," as well as two Pokemon games and "The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker," a Nintendo Co. tale featuring a kid in a green outfit who travels by talking boat and pals around with an excitable fairy named Tingle.

And the most popular computer game of all time is Electronic Arts Inc.'s "The Sims," in which the player is virtually incapable of committing any act of violence whatsoever.

American McGee, who in 2000 made the last mature-rated game for Electronic Arts, "American McGee's Alice," said game publishers try not to get engaged in the debate over whether violent games cause violent behavior.

"They look at how hypocritical our society is when it comes to judging the content or sexuality in the media," McGee said. "And they look at how these double standards or triple standards are applied to films versus games or music versus games or written fiction versus games, and it's a silly argument to get involved in."


01. I am sick and tired of people connecting Columbine to video games. Jeffrey Dahmer's favorite book was Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss. Should we ban that? After all, if a cannibalistic serial killer enjoyed it, it must have corrupted him somehow. These people have to learn that one plus one does not always equal two.

02. If these people are going to attack games, they have to play them.

03. Video games have a self-governed rating system, one that the government has praised many times over as the best rating system ever. What these politicians need to do is make parents aware of said rating system, so they can make wise decisions when it comes to what games their children can and cannot buy/play. Attacking the industry is ridiculous.

04. Go after the stores that sell M-rated games to minors, not the companies who have every right to produce those games.

05. They talk about the gaming industry "training kids to kill". Never mind that the US Army produced a computer game entitled America's Army and gave it away for free as a way to entice gamers to enlist. The reason for this marketing ploy? More and more weapons are becoming computer based, and the Army needs people who are accustomed to using computers on a daily basis to operate them. They also want young people who are supposedly desensitized to killing because of games. The idea is that number of cases of shell shock (or post traumatic stress disorder) will decrease, and more and more enlisted men will want to make careers out of the Army because they don't feel sorrow over pulling a trigger.

By no means am I saying some games aren't overly violent, but this is turning into a witch hunt of the highest order and is akin to what happened to comic books in 1954.

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Why don't you ban the parents who buy their kids the game?

That's exactly what I'm talking about! Punish the stores for selling the M-rated games to underage buyers, and put the blame on the parents for letting the kids have them.

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Never said it was new. I'm just tired of it.

The video game industry instituted their rating system because Lieberman said "either you do it, or we will" (or something along those lines). So, because they didn't want to be government regulated, the industry created their rating system, which, as I said before, has been praised by the government as being the best ever. But it still isn't good enough for them.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Just showing who what the opposition is thinking. Remember, Indianapolis is the city that passed a law banning underage kids from playing violent games in arcades, like the Mortal Kombat series.

Yeah, video games are violent, but any more so than the movies & TV kids watch? I don't think so.

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  • 7 months later...

I know I've seen a couple stories on video game violence around here, so my fault if this is similar to one of those.

Bill Holds Game Makers Liable for Violence

Washington state considers dramatic legislation.

by David Adams

March 2, 2005 - A bill under consideration in Washington state would hold videogame developers accountable for violent acts ostensibly inspired by a particular game.

Currently under review by the state legislature, House Bill 2178 would hold game retailers and manufacturers accountable for "injury or wrongful death" committed by a person under age 17, if the game "was a factor in creating conditions that assisted or encouraged" the perpetrator.

While the bill is still in committee stage and far from becoming law, its dramatic interpretation of criminal responsibility reflects growing concern and controversy about the effects of violent video games.

Seattle ABC affiliate KOMO quotes bill supporter Bill Hanson of the Washington Police and Sheriff's Association: "If you sit up and watch this and play these games over and over again... it seems that this is alright to walk up and hit a police officer over the head with a bat."

Needless to say, opponents of the bill point out that it simply shifts blame away from the person who actually commits a crime. Further, the connection between violent videogames and actual violence -- the controversy parallels a similar furor over violent films and television -- remains tentative at best.

Games sold in the United States carry ESRB rating codes warning parents of potentially objectionable material. Especially violent games are rated "M" for Mature, and are not intended for minors.


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This is akin to the bullshit the comic book industry went through after Seduction of the Innocent was published. Lawmakers are simply looking to make names for themselves by trampling on an easy target. Blame the kids and blame the parents. Leave the damn games out of it.

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Yes, let's watch someone play GTA for five damn minutes and decide it's the worst game ever. Nevermind the anti-drug messages or the fact that the game punishes you if you beat up a cop; the fact that a game allows you to do it must mean its okay to do in real life, right? Hey, NASCAR games allow you to drive pretty much anyway you want and wreck others, I guess if someone gets a ticket its because they played a NASCAR simulator. :rolleyes:

I think if video game stores actually enforced the ESRB ratings and checked ID's or parents actually read the ratings this wouldn't be as much of a problem. But neither parents or retail stores are willing to step up and take that kind of responsibility. If I ever have kids, they will never get a hold of a game that I haven't approved of if I can help it. This doesn't mean that I won't ever get them a game that they couldn't buy for themselves, but it does mean that if they want a game that's above their age range, I'd like to rent it and play it for myself first.

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Is gaming escapism?

Yes, just as Ted Bundy escaped into pornography. It is not a release of aggression. It is training for aggression.


When we were on 60 Minutes the Sunday after Columbine (we predicted Columbine on NBC's Today eight days before it happened

then why didn't you stop it.

According to the Center for Child Death Review, 1,242 kids were murdered with guns and 174 children died from accidental firearm-related injuries in 2000. Aside from stories that get covered in the news [like Columbine], there are few, if any, actual statistics that show how many children's deaths are directly linked to video games. Do the facts speak for themselves? Or is it just that nobody is really keeping tabs?

The federal government found that in the school year 2003, there were 48 school killings. The year before that there were 16, and the year before that 17. Something is going on. I submit that the video game generation is coming of age.


You just watch. There is going to be a Columbine-times-10 incident, and everyone will finally get it. Either that, or some video gamer is going to go Columbine at some video game exec's expense or at E3, and then the industry will begin to realize that there is no place to hide, that it has trained a nation of Manchurian Children.

Double wow.

Thats just some of the crap from that link A.Logan posted. Wtf? I am speechless, that just boogles the mind and heres one of my favourites

Different mediums, as they've come along, have had their share of controversy. From pulp horror and graphic novels, to movies, music and television; is this part of a cycle?

Yes, it is the last cycle. These are murder simulators. Manhunt has been called the video game equivalent of a snuff film. I am working with an Oakland, CA prosecutor in a murder trial in which the older gang members used GTA 3 to train teens to do carjackings and murders. The Army uses these games to break down the inhibition to kill of new recruits.

Murder simulators WTF, this makes my head hurt. But this is the problem with Parents views on games, Jack Thompson makes one good point that parents and game stores don't enforce the ratings on games, I've had this arrgument with several aunts and uncles, would you let them watch an 18's film No, so why let play an 18's rated game?

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I've had this arrgument with several aunts and uncles, would you let them watch an 18's film No, so why let play an 18's rated game?

I can answer this: It's because people -- despite the ESRB being the best rating system in the world -- still see video games -- all video games -- as being for children. So no one pays attention to the little white rectangle with the M telling them the game is filled with realistic violence and sexual themes.

No one wants to pay attention. Everyone wants to blame the video game generation. Well I call. I call the bluff. I want to blame the parents of the video game generation for letting TV raise us. I want to blame them for not instilling morals and a sense of responsibility in us. I want to blame them for being too wrapped up in their own lives to even remember they have children longing for hugs and kisses and love and a shoulder to cry on and an ear that's always there to listen to them. Mostly, I want to blame them for giving up on us before we were old enough to know that someone ever believed in us.

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  • 2 weeks later...

After reading alot into the bill it doens't like such a bad idea. The bill states that if a manufacturer or retailer has distributed, sold, or rented a violent video or computer game to a person under 17 then the company can have a suit filed against them. But since most parents buy these games for their children then it will show even more how the parents are all fault. The bill won't shift the blame onto the manufactuer, it will help prevent younger children from buying the game.

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The bill states that if a manufacturer or retailer has distributed, sold, or rented a violent video or computer game to a person under 17 then the company can have a suit filed against them.

That doesn't make sense. Manufactures don't sell directly to anyone but retailers, so they wouldn't ever sell one to a child.

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The bill states that if a manufacturer or retailer has distributed, sold, or rented a violent video or computer game to a person under 17 then the company can have a suit filed against them.

That doesn't make sense. Manufactures don't sell directly to anyone but retailers, so they wouldn't ever sell one to a child.

What he said.

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That is so stupid. Why not just force retailers (ALL OF THEM, the only place I've ever been carded for a video game is Wal-Mart, and I look about 14 clean shaven) to card everybody? That might, you know, actually help to solve the problem rather than allow shitty parenting to be blamed on others. Maybe it would also be productive to have the clerk point out to any parent buying a game for an obviously underrage child the rating of the game, and whether or not they would consider it appropriate to give their child a game with content of that nature.

I like Fargo's take.

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  • 2 months later...
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (AP) -- Lawmakers voted to ban the sale of violent or sexually explicit video games to minors in Illinois, a move other states and cities have tried but federal courts have repeatedly struck down.

The measure now goes to Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who proposed the ban late last year after hearing about the video game "JFK Reloaded," which puts the player in the role of President Kennedy's assassin.

"In today's world, parents face unprecedented challenges in monitoring and protecting their children from harmful influences. This bill will make their job easier," Blagojevich said, praising the House's 106-6 vote. The state Senate approved the bill earlier this month.

for more:


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