Senate Committee Recommends Vote on Bill to Study Possible Violence/Video Games... Again

Despite numerous studies saying there is no link, including studies done by the FBI and Secret Service, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has recommended the bill requiring a study into links between violence and video games be put to a vote.

Back after the tragedy of Sandy Hook, there was a movement to launch serious studies into the possible links between violence and video games.  Joe Biden was one of the main proponents of this movement, aimed at finding out once and for all if there is a link between the two.  

Since then, while the Senate debated whether or not to fund a study, the buzz has died down a great deal while a couple of other government agencies have revisited their own studies finding no actual link.

Naturally, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has decided to ignore those studies and recommend S. 134 be put to a vote on the Senate floor.  S. 134 would require the National Academy of Sciences to launch a formal study into the question of whether there is a link between violence and video gaming.

Problem is, that study has already been done... Several times

For starters, studies like what the Senate is potentially going to vote on funding have been done before, even by the government.  Both the FBI and the Secret Service have done their own studies looking for links between violence and video games, and both studies showed no discernable link between them.  

Does the Senate not trust the FBI and Secret Service to properly examine possible threats to both personal and national safety?

The issue of inherent bias

On a second point, the study is started with an inherent bias, as Senator Jay Rockefeller (the congressman who originally proposed S. 134) has already stated clearly that he believes there is a link. This means any study started by this bill will have the basic understanding that its funding is coming from a belief towards one side of any experimentation, promoting a possible bias.

How about questioning whether a Senate-mandated study will actually be taken seriously when for the study to happen at all requires the Senate to ignore the previous government studies?  

There is no assurance at all this study will be treated any differently if it comes to the same conclusions as previous ones.

Okay... but why else?

Let us look at what little actual information there is on the subject.  

Sales of video games have been steadily rising (despite portestations about lack of profit from game publishers).  Instances of violent crime have been steadily decreasing.

Countries with more spending on video games like South Korea and France, have significantly less violent crime.  If anything that would suggest the exact opposite of what this proposed study would be investigate.

There have also been numerous studies showing that video gaming actually gives many positive benefits.  These studies are ignored by the Senate committee, with the discussion entirely focused on the potential (if prior information is ignored) harm the games could cause.  

Focusing only on possible negatives while completely ignoring proven positives is deliberately close-minded.

That all does seem pretty obvious

This discussion stopped being about facts the moment existing studies were actually undertaken and the results of them ignored.

Prior studies were done by the government organizations whose jobs it is to keep us (and the President of the United States) safe.  It was absolutely in their best interest, in the interest of actually doing their jobs, for those studies to be accurate and unbiased.

With all of this said, I would still support the idea of a Senate-funded study if they could apply a guarantee to it: if this study says there's no link between video games and violence, will you please stop coming after our games for political reasons?

Published Aug. 5th 2013
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  • Corey Kirk
    Featured Columnist
    Actually I did research for this subject in a paper I wrote for my university. From my research, I found that there is a connection between short term aggression and violent video games if observed within 15 minutes of the subject playing the game. However, any and all effects are negated by normal social interaction with anybody or anything. Also, there is NO link to connect violent video games with violent crime. It simply doesn't exist and this type of study has been done since the 70s.

    Instead of focusing on violent video games, we should be focusing on the mental stability of the people playing them. Our mental health system is the real problem for shootings like Sandy Hook.
  • Jamie K
    Featured Contributor
    Incidentally, that final study they "revisited" is from 2002--that's 11 years old! Since technology and games evolve, it's not really such a horrible idea to have another government driven study if it is unbiased. I think a lot of people would agree a game that will be coming out for the next-gen consoles, and a game that came out in 2002 aren't identical.
  • Wokendreamer
    Featured Columnist
    Not identical, no, but the violence is similar. 2002 had already seen games people have condemned for their violence, such as the first several Mortal Kombat games.

    As I said in closing, I would be fine supporting another study in video games, but I'd want it to actually be conclusive, rather than simply being discarded in six months for the sake of a political talking point.
  • Jamie K
    Featured Contributor
    As much as I love games, and am an advocate for them, there are actually studies that do prove possible links, as well. I completely agree that video games are often manhunted after incidents like Sandy Hook, but that's how society reacts to things. It's the same often for guns. It was the same after 9/11 for airports. People just want to believe there is some kind of action they can take to make the problem go away, and the world perfect. But this world will always have violence (doesn't mean we should stop trying to fix it of course).

    You also have to take into account the question of what age are we talking about for studies? Younger children are more susceptible to being influenced by games. They learn partially from their environment. This is why all the videos and cartoons our children watch are education--they are learning from them.

    I'm not particularly arguing that video games are the cause of violence, far from it. I'm more saying that there is probably equal weight to both sides.
  • Wokendreamer
    Featured Columnist
    There are studies to account for rises in short-term aggression, particularly in young children, but there isn't a study I am aware of showing a link between violent video games and actual violence or long-term aggression regardless of age. If you know of one, I would honestly like to read through it. I'd rather be wrong than ignorant.

    The Secret Service report I linked in the article goes over 37 major violent attacks, including Columbine, and finds no similarity between any of the attackers at all.

    I do not think violent video games cause violence, or even encourage it. There was violent crime long before video games came along, and the worst crime has ever gotten in the US was during the early 80s, where video game graphics were limited more to Pong or PacMan than anything graphic.

    Any sort of inherently competitive media is going to provoke responses and behavior in the short term, and moreso when we are dealing with young children, but to quote former FBI profiler Mary O'Toole, "It's important that I point out that as a threat assessment and as a former FBI profiler, we don't see these as the cause violence... we see them as sources of fueling ideation that's already there."

    The problem is not the video games, the problem is with people. If parents are concerned with their children playing violent games, they should talk to their kids about why, not blame the games.

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