8 bit washington

Video Games and Gun Violence

Why is it important for the games industry to take part in the National dialogue on gun violence?

Throughout this week the games industry was pulled into the political sphere, courtesy of an invitation to the Commission on Gun Violence by the VP Joe Biden. This immediately curried a negative reaction from some members of the video gaming community, one going as far to suggest the Industry should pull a no-show. The idea being, that by not showing up they would be making a solid stand that violent video games had nothing to do with the recent rash of mass shootings that has plagued our nation. This idea is fundamentally flawed.

The video game industry is a relatively new industry when compared to the others that have been dragged into the media spotlight over gun violence. There in lies the first disadvantage, and the first reason industry leaders need to have their meeting with the commission. If there is one thing that rings true in all of American culture, it is that seniority reigns supreme, and tradition is nigh impossible to change. For an example of this look at the marijuana debate next to the alcohol and tobacco industries. Studies prove that consumption of alcohol can lead to liver cancer, and in the immediate can impair judgment. There were 13,846 fatal alcohol related crashes in 2008 (anyone with an ear on the news can recall gun related deaths are around 11,000), and yet because the founding fathers drank, its okay to do it today. Similarly with cigarettes modern studies have proven their harmful effects, but America as a society has an overwhelming nostalgia for the past, always looking back to the “good ol’ days.” When marijuana enters the scene, regardless of the countless studies their lobbyist show Washington, it faces an uphill battle with the American people and their representatives in Washington; largely because marijuana is new, and new is scary.

This whole debate can easily be transposed on the the entire gun violence debate; Video games are the new kid on the block. Regardless of how many studies the industry commissions, if video games could be attributed to 1/20 the number of deaths as guns, there would be a witch hunt for all video games. The founding fathers didn’t have Tetris, but they did have muskets. Therefore we instantly come into the debate cut off at the knees, going forward, the behavior of the industry as a whole is crucial. We must be patient, and we will have to provide mountains of evidence more than the other players in this debate, but we should be grateful we even have a voice in the debate. Games are new, and new is scary.

I applaud the manner in which the video game industry has conducted itself this week. From the letter sent by the International Game Developer Associate to the insight into Thursdays meeting between the commission and industry CEOs. We will see on Tuesday, but it appears as though the worst is over. There is still a bill on the House floor which will launch an inquiry into the effects of violence in video games that will likely be revived. We need to welcome such studies. Fear of information is for those who have something to hide. If the video game industry wants to be accepted, there are two things that need to happen. Firstly, we need to be open to studies and not just fall back on, “The first Amendment says…” otherwise we’ll be in the same place as the NRA. Secondly, we just need to be patient and wait, I would be curious to see the number of legislators who have even played video games. In this country you need to be 25 to be a congressman and 30 to be a senator, with more and more people being exposed to video games, it is inevitable that eventually we will have a congress that have at least played the very thing they blame.

Now, both of those suggestion largely come down to waiting, but I’m okay with waiting, I think it’s fine that the industry has something to prove. I’m not sure about you, but as the conversation unfolds I for one would want the opportunity to be apart it. Rejecting Washington’s invitations and touting, “First Amendment this…” “First Amendment that…” is not the way to conduct ourselves.


Image Courtesy: [Google]