The Right Opinion

'Dialogue' Required for Violent Video Games

By L. Brent Bozell · Feb. 22, 2013

The Obama administration’s assault on the Second Amendment in reaction to Newtown is not a serious solution. It’s a Band-Aid on cancer. The NRA’s call for armed guards in every school also misses the point. When is anyone going to get serious? The problem is violence, a violence of monstrous and horrific proportions that has infected America’s popular culture.

The Hartford Courant reported on Sunday that during a search of Newtown grade-school killer Adam Lanza’s home after the shootings, “police found thousands of dollars worth of graphically violent video games.” Detectives are exploring whether Adam Lanza might have been emulating the shooting range or a video game scenario as he moved from room to room at Sandy Hook Elementary.

In California, 20-year-old Ali Syed went on a carjacking and shooting rampage, killing three before turning the gun on himself. Syed was a loner and a “gamer” who spent hours holed up in his room, Orange County authorities said. “He took one class at college, and he did not work, so that gives him most of the day and evening, and most of the time in his free time he was playing video games,” reported county sheriff’s spokesman Jim Amormino.

After Newtown, President Obama and other officials insisted the country needed a “dialogue” about “gun violence,” but there’s been remarkably little exploration of the role of video games and even less of movie and TV violence.

Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia requested a study from the National Science Foundation and was disappointed that Obama’s State of the Union only focused on gun control. “While I recognize the potential constitutional issues involved in tackling media violence, mental health parity and gun control, I am disappointed that mental health issues and media violence were left out of the president’s address,” Wolf said.

The NSF report acknowledged that a link between violent media and real-world violence can be contentious, but explained, “Anders Breivik, who murdered 69 youth in Norway, claims he used the video game ‘Modern Warfare 2’ as a military simulator to help him practice shooting people. Similarly, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who murdered 13 fellow students in Colorado, claimed they used the violent video game ‘Doom’ to practice their shooting rampage.”

No, Virginia, not everyone who has ever played a violent video game is an assassin in training. “However, a comprehensive review of more than 381 effects from studies involving more than 130,000 participants around the world shows that violent video games increases aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure), and aggressive behavior.”

As researcher Brad Bushman of Ohio State University stated in a “PBS NewsHour” story on violent video games, “correlation doesn’t imply causation,” but the correlation is disturbing enough. Does it make sense for policy makers to go around suggesting that gun makers be held liable for school shootings, but fail to suggest the same for say, Microsoft Game Studios, which makes “Gears of War” series, spotlighted by PBS as especially bloody?

Neither gun makers nor video game makers mean for their products for mass shootings, but politicians like Obama have singled out the gun makers and gone soft on their entertainment-industry campaign donors. Somehow, Democrats isolate the inherent evil of a gun almost as if it’s self-shooting, while denying our violent media has any influence on these under-21 shooters.

Even the mildest restrictions on the sales of violent video games – like a California law forbidding minors from buying games rated M for Mature (“Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up”) – were rebuked by the Supreme Court.

In 2010, Obama appointee Elena Kagan mocked the law and the entire controversy by insisting that the game “Mortal Kombat” was “an iconic game, which I am sure half of the clerks who work for us spent considerable amounts of time in their adolescence playing.” But “Mortal Kombat” was a pioneering ultraviolent game when it debuted in 1992, with scenes of decapitations, electrocution and ripping out the still-beating heart of an opponent with bare hands.

I wonder if Justice Kagan would still argue in public that these games are blameless, and the Adam Lanzas of the world are never influenced by these “iconic” works. She actually suggested, “You could look at these games and say they’re the modern-day equivalent of Monopoly sets.” No one ever practiced for a school shooting by buying hotels for Park Place and Boardwalk. But Kagan was hailed by USA Today’s Supreme Court reporter as bringing a “practical twist” to the high court. The kids aren’t playing “Monopoly” any more. Three of the four top-selling games on in 2012 were “Halo 4,” “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” and “Assassins Creed III” – rated M, M and M.

The people who want to conduct a Newtown “dialogue” really need to broaden their gabby horizons.



The7Sticks in Montebello said:

And may I ask just exactly what titles are among the alleged "thousands of graphically violent video games" that were found by the police? And Modern Warfare 2 doesn't count since the game was already part of the Adam Lanza narrative, seeing as how he was apparently trying to train himself like a Marine whether with or without the game as a training simulator. I had read that among the "graphically violent" games he played were StarCraft (rated T for Teen, or the video game equivalent to PG-13) and Dynasty Warriors (also rated T for Teen, all according to the ESRB website.) Until you can give me specific titles other than Modern Warfare 2 that can be violent enough to motivate a killer to kill, I don't see why I should believe this narrative that video games kill people.

And BTW, as violent as Mortal Kombat may be, there are no guns in Mortal Kombat, are there?

Friday, February 22, 2013 at 10:59 PM

Bounder in MS said:

Another witch hunt. How about we stop looking for scapegoats, stop treating criminals as victims of society and hold them accountable for their actions? Those who commit crimes should be help responsible for them.

Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 4:07 AM

Dick Belmont in Fergus Falls, MN said:

Many years ago there was an arguement about heavy metal was creating disturbed youths, or was the real problem that disturbed youths were drawn to heavy metal music. Are the violent video games causing the problem or are the disturbed people naturally drawn to them?

Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 10:34 AM

India in GA said:

Video games don't make (sane) people kill people.

Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 6:53 PM

Colin in WI said:

So you acknowledge that games have a rating system (M, T, E, etc.), conveniently provided for us by the ESRB without any government intrusion. Stores like Gamestop already use this rating system to ensure they don't sell M-rated games to minors without parental consent. So, the only way a child can get Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed games, their parents have to be willing participants in the sale of said game.

So even in your bizarre world where the evils of human nature can be blamed on inanimate objects, what exactly would a federal law regarding video games, overwriting the already-in-place ESRB system, do to prevent all these murders that the interactive medium are OBVIOUSLY the cause of?

Also, that California law was hardly a minor restriction. If stores suddenly face possible criminal charges for selling M-rated games to the wrong person, they likely would simply stop stocking them on shelves. And, as you noted, most of the best-selling games are rated M. What do you think that would do to the video game industry, and all the jobs created therein? And why am I explaining on a conservative website why government regulation is almost always bad for the economy?

Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 12:32 PM

Peter in Illinois said:

The temptation after each of these tragedies is to discover some nuance or hidden truth that was previously missed. The truth is not hidden in this matter, we are simply hiding from it. The basic human problem is moral. This moral deficiency is manifested in as many ways as there are for a human to express themselves. No exchanging of freedom for security and order will ever solve the basic human dilemma. This problem lies outside the authority and influence of any government. Pursuing tighter control will only lead to the criminalization and marginalization of citizens who are not morally deficient in the way that these narcissistic mass murders are. It is the responsibility of society to open a discussion on this (or any moral matter) and pursue solutions that leave the freedom of each individual intact. Any other solution on principle is against freedom and must lead towards tyranny and more of the atrocity and evil that it so desperately seeks to contain.

Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 9:01 PM

Rod in USA said:

It does more than increase aggressive behavior: Violent video games de-humanize the victim making it less objectionable to take another person's life.

The reduction of religion plays a role as does the increased governmental dependence.

It is so much easier (read "lazier") for government to go after the symptoms and tools (read: grab the guns) than to solve the real problem.

Monday, February 25, 2013 at 2:07 PM

Rod in USA said:

*Does it make sense for policy makers to go around suggesting that gun makers be held liable for school shootings, but fail to suggest the same for say, Microsoft Game Studios, which makes "Gears of War" series,...*

In a word, **NO!** Video game makers need to curtail the graphic violence. Societal moral decay is the issue in Newtown, not the access to tools.

Monday, February 25, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Rod in USA said:

*No one ever practiced for a school shooting by buying hotels for Park Place and Boardwalk. * **NICE**

Monday, February 25, 2013 at 2:18 PM