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Friday, January 11, 2013

Violent Video Games Under Scrutiny

This undated publicity image released by Activision shows soldiers and terrorists battling in the streets of Yemen in a scene from the video game, “Call of Duty: Black Ops II.”  (Activision/AP)

This undated publicity image released by Activision shows soldiers and terrorists battling in the streets of Yemen in a scene from the video game, “Call of Duty: Black Ops II.” (Activision/AP)

Will vice president Joe Biden recommend limiting violent, shoot ‘em up video games, such as Grand Theft Auto, Halo and Soldier of Fortune, as part of his recommendations on curbing gun violence?

The games have become part of the conversation about violent crimes after the Newtown, Conn. mass shooting.

Biden is meeting with leaders of the video game industry at the White House today.

“I’m not looking to have a public book burning of video games. I want people to have conversations in their home.”
– Rob Dolan, mayor, Melrose, Mass.

The vice president is expected to submit proposals on curbing gun violence to the president on Tuesday. They could include a ban on sales of assault weapons, limits on high capacity magazines and universal background checks for gun buyers.

After meeting with Biden yesterday, the National Rifle Association said the White House was attacking the second amendment.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation this week removed from rest stops nine arcade games featuring things like machine gun battles.

And Melrose, Mass. is moving forward with its call to encourage parents to get rid of violent video games and movies.

The program rewards residents with coupons to local businesses when they turn in violent video games and toys to the city yard.

Melrose Mayor Rob Dolan told Here & Now’s Robin Young that he does not take issue with those of age playing violent games, but he wants to spur public discussion about their effect on children in the community.

“I’m not looking to have a public book burning of video games,” Dolan said. “I want people to have conversations in their home.”

What do you think about the initiative in Melrose? Join the debate on our Facebook page.


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • http://www.ohioken.com Ken Palosi

    To me video games are a large part why our children are becoming desensitized to violence. Unfortunately many adults not only let small children play violent video games, the play them with them. Some of the video games that are sold in America are so graphic that I don’t think that anyone, young or old should be playing them. Recently I was at a Christmas party were Santa Claus made a visit. Before Santa’s arrival the parents of the children present snuck presents into Santa’s bag for the kids. One by one the kids sat on Santa’s lap and opened the present that they thought was from Santa but was really from the child’s parents. One eight year old boy received a video game entitled Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The game was rated 17+, which means that it not only wasn’t intended for young children but that it was illegal for anyone under the age of 17 to even purchase it. The rating label listed the following items which the game contained: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Drugs. Are these the type of games that we should let an eight year-old child watch? Far too many parents are purchasing those violent video games for their children. And what is worse; they are playing them with their children. When parents spend time playing with their children it has a huge impact on them. What little child isn’t going to think that all that violence, gore, and mayhem is accepted behavior when they are experiencing it by playing a video game with dad!

    • Rob

      It is a retail guideline to not let anyone under 17 to purchase Black ops 2, but not illegal. There was a supreme court ruling that said any law to such effect would be undue censorship.

      • JamesAndrewMorrison

        The Mayor of Melrose is the honorable Rob Dolan, not Nolan.  

        • JamesAndrewMorrison

          You identify him correctly in the audio, but in the print above these comments, you refer to him as Rob Nolan.

          • Rachel Rohr, Here & Now

            Thank you very much for catching that! It’s fixed now.

  • Kathy

    Video games are universal today. They have them in Japan. They have them in Canada. They have them in the UK. None of those countries have gun violence levels like the US does. Why do you suppose that is? Could it be gun control laws?

    • Samuel Green

      u tell em Kathy!

  • KJ

    Fitting that Americans clamber to condemn video games as shaping a culture of violence in children in our country, with no reference to a decade plus of [ongoing] war, where we control video-game-like drones to vaporize real people halfway across the world with zero public debate.  Heaven forbid we mention that our wars might be a contributing factor?  I suppose we’d first have to remember that we’re still at war before we condemn it, though… 

    • It

      That is right. A lot of innocent children have been killed by American drones.

      • mike

        Precision drone strikes kill far fewer people than full scale military invasions. How about those of you condemning the use of drones condemn the full scale wars going on with at least similar fervor.

        • It

          I agree. I did not mean to imply that one was any worse than another. I just think it is easier to turn a blind eye when we do not have troops involved. They should both be stopped.

  • Phil

    I am a game developer. Been a computer programmer for over 30 years. The violence of computers is legendary among computer professionals. And has always been ominous. The game industry claims it’s responding to what the players want. Parents say their kids play these because that’s all that’s available. Both are wrong. Computer games are mostly (MOSTLY) created by young, geeky, men. The game industry itself has gotten into a rut, unwilling to risk the high cost of creating a new game on anything “experimental.” The same problem Hollywood has far too often. 

    As an independent game developer, I hold the game industry itself to blame. Of the billions of dollars being made on games every year, not one single major game publisher spends a single dollar on research and development of new game types or new game methodologies. The bean-counters, in the end, control what gets published, and their decisions are made mostly by looking at what sold well last year. 

    The game industry needs to wake up, shake up, and take responsibility for what it is doing. 

    My personal mission these days in computer games is to change this very thinking, and to create a stream of computer games that take play out of the violent and into the creative. 

  • Chuck_Woolery

    Why is everyone so quick to push the blame off of the parents and onto the artists that create these games? What happened to personal responsibility? This is akin to burning books deemed offensive. If you don’t want your child to play these violent video games that are created for adults, then take the fifteen seconds required to look at the label and see that it’s clearly rated for 17+. This entire issue just reeks of laziness and absentee parenting.

    • FlamingMassLiberal

      People are not to take responsibility for their own actions, lives, etc! This is why we have government officials we elect who know better, can think of us, and tell us how to run our lives which is how it should be!

      Under no circumstances should I think on my own, be responsible, or think I am to blame for anything. Blame is always to be directed elsewhere, because that is fair. besides I should not have to think or make decisions because they may be bad for me.

      Bigger, stronger, powerful, far-reaching government is what we all crave and need.  Only the government can save us from ourselves!

  • Tribeca

    FYI: There is a great number of non-violent games available for purchase, especially in the puzzle genre. Many of the biggest name video games are centered around action, much like the biggest blockbusters out of Hollywood. As a RESPONSIBLE parent, I pay attention to what my children play and I don’t expect the government to do my parenting job for me.

  • Chuck_Woolery


  • Chuck_Woolery

    That’s fine Phil, but for someone claiming to be an independent game developer you should know better than anyone that there’s dozens of popular genres for video games. It’s not all violence, and saying the industry is in a rut feels incredibly ignorant. Sure, some of the large developers like EA churn out the same garbage every year, but on the whole we’re in a period of the most exciting innovation to ever exist in the art form.

  • mike

    Holding video games responsible for the actions of the insane is as ridiculous an argument as holding guns responsible for the actions of the insane. I and millions of others were trained to kill by the military, many in recent years have, and even with professional training and often experience we don’t come home and slaughter droves of innocent defenseless men, women, and children. With 300 million people in this country the insane will always exist among us, maybe we can curtail their actions, but the past and present shows that unfortunately unspeakable acts of evil will always take place in our free society. Blame does not lie in the hands of gun owners or video game makers, it rests only on the shoulders of these terrible criminals. The media guaranteeing fame to these deranged people certainly doesn’t help.


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Aaron-Link/598033394 Aaron Link

     If shooting games make people violent why am I not in the NFL yet?

  • Wylie

    If I bought my eight year old a Saw DVD box set for Christmas and then took to the airwaves to blame any problems it caused his mental or emotional health on violent movies, I’d be rightly laughed at and told that the problem was my failure to supervise my child, not the existence of graphic media. What makes video games so different that people will tolerate such obvious scapegoating?

  • 20 something gamer

    I have a problem with society blaming the newest
    media for all of the problems with the “young people” in this
    country. The human condition is to glorify violence. From the book of Genesis
    to the war and cowboy movies of the fifty’s.


    People do not site that spree killings are down statistically
    and violent crime has decreased steadily in the last 30 years. I will contest
    that video games, violent or not, are not related to the sandyhook shooting.
    Any argument to the contrary I will counter argue that a spree killer was mentally
    unwell and can use any media, even the bible as an excuse for their violence


  • It

    In Robin’s interview yesterday she talked about listening to the Aurora 911 calls. Before you talk about the immaginary video games you should talk about the real life glorification of the monsters who commit these crimes by media chasing ratings. What good comes into anyones life by listening to those calls? That is far more sick than anything in a video game.

    • Robin Y

      Sorry to mislead you! I haven’t listened to any calls. The 911 calls were played in the Colorado hearings and I asked our guest, who’d been in the theater, his thoughts on that.

      I do though hear your point distinguishing between fictional horror and real horror.


      • It

        Thanks for your response Robin. I understand that you have not heard the calls. My very badly made point was that the 911 calls are all over the media and shouldn’t be. Instead of focusing on video games we should stop saying the murders names, showing their images and stop giving voice to the fear they created through things like these 911 calls. Having the conversation is fine, but it has to be done without the glorification of the criminal. You do better than most. However, I really hate when I hear these murders names and see their faces. If they must be referred to, they are the Newtown Killer, Aurora Killer, Columbine Killers. It is not PC to say, but this change in language would dehumanize the memory of the killers and shows their acts for what they are which is animal. I know I’m obviously in the minority on this because, for what can only be considered entertainment purposes, they just approved the Aurora Killers trial to televised . God help us.

        P.S. I like your show. It’s intelligent and makes me think.

      • Samuel Green

        Ohhhh Robin Y one day I hope you will reply to one of my comments!! Some day =)

  • J Frog

    Every day I hear about adults that were “scarred” by some event that happened in their youth.  Why is it not possible that hours and hours of violent video games day in and day out might do the same?  Or perhaps seeing a violent movie over and over might have an effect?  Or maybe Hollywood making violence “cool” (Tarantino!) might influence some youngster?  Very few are wanting to ban these forms of speech.  Some of us just want Hollywood and the entertainment industry to understand that their profits come with a cost.

    • J Frog

      BTW, not all games have to be filled with violence.  On many “Best” lists for 2012 is the game “Journey”…”The goal is to get to the mountaintop, but the experience is discovering who you are, what this place is, and what is your purpose.”…plus a Grammy-nominated musical score.


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paulo-Panganiban/100001117858073 Paulo Panganiban

    The only ones in the Game Industry I could see losing here would be Activision.

  • Drsuelerner

    Excellent program this morning with the mayor of Melrose, Ma. I couldn’t agree more about the conversations that need to occur. I am a child psychologist. Many of my clients are young folks with ADHD and other differences/delays in social understanding and behavior regulation. My sessions are very interactive and fast-paced. In my work, I use all forms of materials including Lego® and Playmobil® toys and collaborative gaming.  In response to their desire for action and thrill (aka violent games and such), I gently shift the focus with many of my students to stress the “helping” and lawful use of weapons and force. I’m talking about simple law-enforcement and helping professions in our communities that students see every day (police, fire-fighters, and such). Maybe even the Coast Guard and other helpers used in peacetime. I can’t take the thrill-seeking, action-oriented needs away from my students, but I’m shifting the conversations/focus to the workers that may have some thrill and action in their jobs but they are society – enhancing and supportive in a lawful country and peaceful world. In a sense I’m educating my students (through play) about the appropriate, socially-sanctioned use of force.

  • domc911onPSN

    if the trade in value is higher than the cost of the game sure I’ll trade it in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=528376358 Christian Evan Donaldson

    “I’m not looking to have a public book burning of video games. I want people to have conversations in their home.”  – We’re just going to bring them all to the dump and throw them away, which is completely different and not at all the same.  Have a coupon for some discount dry-cleaning.

  • Samuel Green

    @e229d0d43770b9e66e9d516badec13cf:disqus  that Mayor – Talk about a red herring! The guy means well but he is deflecting attention from where it should be. Also, coorelation is not causation. Violent people will naturally be attracted to violent music, video games and movies, that doesn’t mean that the media they were partaking in is what pushes them over the edge. Usually it’s low self esteem along with mental health issues. When a person with poor judgement feels they have nothing of any value left to lose they act out. Not because they think it will be fun like in a video game, but because they’ve lost their ability to make accurate and productive value judgements.
    BTW Robin there are toooons of nonviolent video games out there. Moreso in the indie scene than in the big name game developers though. Honestly, however, I wouldn’t expenct a parent who is buying a game as a present to be aware of how to find those indie games which usually have a lot less marketing muscle behind them. Though the game Minecraft comes to mind as a really huge game that isn’t particularly violent.

  • Inner F1re

    don’t forget to burn all books where anyone does anything bad – we wouldn’t want those malleable crazies getting any ideas!

  • Chris Evans608

    Been playing video games since I was 5 years old from games like contra to grand theft auto and call of duty… with 25 years of video game playing never once have I wanted to go off and kill people

  • Dpsmith1976

    ive just found out my kid (age 9) has been playing call of duty world at war whilst at his dads house. is this suitable? should i be stopping this? is a nine year old allowed to play this game?

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