As we've noted, recent events have pushed the discussion of video games (namely the violent ones) back to the forefront. Even the President has chimed in, authorizing the CDC
to perform a study to determine if any link exists between violent media (including video games) and so-called "gun violence."
While most gamers (and indeed, most people who can put two and two together without adding a bunch of rhetoric into the equation) have come to the rather sensible conclusion that violent games do not create violent people, the floor is still open to debate, most likely for the next several years. The sheer number of violent video games sold has failed, over the course of many years, to be matched by a comparable escalation in violent crime. If you're a gamer, you've probably thrown this argument into the debate a number of times and wondered why more people, especially those who active work to censor violent games, haven't arrived at the same conclusion.
Well, if so, here's your answer, courtesy of California State Senator Leland Yee
, whose last effort to censor video games was shut dow
n by the US Supreme Court.
"Gamers have got to just quiet down," Yee, D-San Francisco, said in an interview Tuesday. "Gamers have no credibility in this argument. This is all about their lust for violence and the industry's lust for money. This is a billion-dollar industry. This is about their self-interest."
You got that, gamers? No credibility. None. Beat it. If we want to talk about video games, like grown ups
, we'll do it without you. We'll just talk to senators and the CDC and concerned parents' groups and the NRA
. But we won't be talking to game developers. No way. And certainly not gamers, whose opinion amounts to nothing in a debate of this (periodic) importance.
You know who else won't be included in this conversation until absolutely necessary
? The Supreme Court. Because if anyone's opinion is invalid, it's the highest court in the land.
Yee, a former child psychologist, believes the court set the standard too high for any study to firmly link the cause and effect of violence.
Yes. This court, which stated that any effects caused by violent video games were too small to be distinguished from effects produced by other media, needs to butt out. Fortunately for Yee, the Supreme Court rarely offers an opinion until asked directly, unlike the millions of gamers who spout off in every forum imaginable.
Yes, Yee is right about the industry being self-interested. It does have a lot at stake, especially if some sort of government regulation results from this renewed attention. Pleasing a government censor is a lot harder than pleasing an independent ratings group. One has a political motivation to save humanity (mostly "the children") from "violent media." The other has an interest in preserving its autonomy by doing its job properly and giving each game a rating that reflects the content. In other words, one is more willing to kill the end result of $30 million in production costs in order to score political victories while the other wants to make sure mature content doesn't end up with a family-friendly T slapped across the front of the case.
Elsewhere in the article, you can find thoughtful comments from the very people Yee feels should just shut up
. Kris Graft, editor-in-chief of Gamasutra, feels the violent video game problem is one of perception.
"It's not all about shooting people in the head and guts everywhere, but that's what the public perception is, and probably rightfully so," said Kris Graft, editor-in-chief of the San Francisco-based site Gamasutra, which along with its print magazine sibling, Game Developer, covers the video game industry. "There is plenty of diversity in video games, but I don't think it's being highlighted enough."
So does Kate Edwards of IGDA:
"It's important to point out that some of the most popular video games in history are all titles such as 'Wii Sports,' 'The Sims,' 'Super Mario Brothers,' the Pokemon series and 'Tetris,' " said Kate Edwards, executive director of the trade group International Game Developers Association. "So while the games containing more violence get the attention, they're not a reflection of the game industry as a whole, just as a single genre of film, TV or literature doesn't represent that medium as a whole."
Edwards also welcomes the CDC's study, stating that it will add to the "large body" of existing studies that have failed to show a link between fake violence and real violence.
But Yee doesn't want to hear from these people, who are rightly concerned because they have an investment in this industry and who feel this added attention is doing harm to not only their careers, but also to the games they love.
The people who should
be keeping their mouths shut, or at least, sitting in the back with their hands folded until called upon, are those who know nothing about video games beyond scare reels put together by like-minded individuals and anecdotal "evidence" cobbled together out of headlines like 'Adam Lanza played Call of Duty' and 'Hans Breivik said Call of Duty taught him how to use guns
.' Without a broader overview of the history, the industry and the culture, they're operating with a damaged data set culled from all the worst humanity has to offer and linked together by a single, gossamer strand of self-identifying as "gamers," ignoring the millions of other self-identifying gamers who are indistinguishable from others who have never played a game in their lives, united by the much thicker linkage of never having committed a violent crime.