Representatives from groups including Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts and GameStop met with Vice President Joe Biden January 11, 2013. The industry was well aware it would get some mention during President Barack Obama’s January 16, 2013 news conference. The first step Obama is taking is often government’s first step toward a problem: an expensive study on video game violence. Obama asked Congress to set aside $10 million so the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control can study “the effects violent video games have on young minds.”
After the Sandy Hook tragedy, reports came out that shooter Adam Lanza was an avid Call of Duty player. This brought up the ever raging debate about whether violent video games inspire real world violence. Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, who has admitted to killing 69 people, cited Modern Warfare 2 as a training tool in his bizarre manifesto. Columbine shooters Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris played Doom.
Vice President Joe Biden isn’t convinced video game violence is part of the gun violence problem, but believes the makers of these games can be part of the solution. During last week’s meeting, Biden said the game industry wasn’t being singled out. His tone wasn’t accusatory in any way, which is refreshing for gamers and game makers alike. Nonetheless, there’s an obvious image problem. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board helps the industry police itself. It classifies games from Early Childhood (EC) to Adults Only. (AO) Publishers basically avoid the AO rating, as it is nearly impossible to convince a retailer to carry AO rated games. Of course, I know I’ve seen parents in game stores upset because the clerk wouldn’t sell their tyke an M-rated game without the adult’s permission. You know, the way current law requires.
No debate on gun violence ever takes place without the National Rifle Association’s input. After officials from the NRA joined in heaping some of the blame for Lanza’s crime on violent games, it lent its name to NRA Practice Range. The free iTunes app launched with a rating of ages 4 and up. Once word spread, Apple changed that to 12 and up even though only you can only shoot targets in the game.