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Sunday, January 13, 2013

VP Biden Talks With Gaming Industry About Violent Video Games

By Kaylen Duarte

Video game companies are fighting renewed calls for regulation of violent video games, the New York Times reported.

With the Newtown, Conn., massacre spurring concern over violent video games, makers of popular games like Call of Duty and Mortal Kombat are rallying Congressional support to try to fend off their biggest regulatory threat in two decades.

The $60 billion industry is facing intense political pressure from an unlikely alliance of critics who say that violent imagery in video games has contributed to a culture of violence. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. met with industry executives on Friday to discuss the concerns, highlighting the issue’s prominence.

No clear link has emerged between the Connecticut rampage and the gunman Adam Lanza’s interest in video games. Even so, the industry’s detractors want to see a federal study on the impact of violent gaming, as well as cigarette-style warning labels and other measures to curb the games’ graphic imagery.

This isn’t the first time legislators have targeted the gaming industry as a cause of real-world violence. The issue comes up every couple of years, and usually ends when game company lobbyists rally the “freedom of speech” banners.

When California introduced new legislation in 2005 prohibiting the sale of “violent video games” to minors, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the act unconstitutional. The official court ruling, which you can read here, stated that video games are protected under the First Amendment and that “California’s claim that ‘interactive’ video games present special problems, in that the player participates in the violent action on screen and determines its outcome, is unpersuasive.”

But Friday’s New York Times article cited links between violent games and notorious gunmen like Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in the 2011 Norway attacks and “played Call of Duty six hours a day to practice shooting.” And though “no clear link” has been found connecting the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting to video games, the Times made sure to point out Lanza’s interest in World of Warcraft “and other violent games.”

Most gamers like myself feel compelled to defend the inclusion of violence in our favorite games. We point to cases like this one of a 4-year-old who surprised his father when he chose to have his Grand Theft Auto character fight crime and drive injured citizens to the hospital instead of beating hookers with a baseball bat.

There’s no question that it’s a sticky subject. There should be a dialogue about violence in video games, but before that can happen, we need to clarify just what makes a video game “violent” and acknowledge that not all violent games are created equal. Lumping together a fantasy MMORPG like World of Warcraft, an FPS like Call of Duty and an arcade-style fighting game like Mortal Kombat because they all involve pressing a series of buttons to attack something is not the way to go.


  1. Is it the industry's responsibility to cut back on the amount of violence in video games? I certainly think so. They may just seem like video games but I think that anything we do repeatedly affects how we think. If we watch enough jelly sandwich ads, we may eventually want a jelly sandwich. It can't hurt to cut back on the violence.