The discussion about whether playing violent video games causes real-life gun violence has been raging for years. A new report today by Media Coalition Inc. is bound to fuel that fire, claiming that the harm of violent video games has “skewed the debate and fuels misguided calls for censorship.” Although the report’s headline focuses on “media,” its content focuses on violent videogames, and the Coalition’s press release was promoted by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which is responsible for the E3 video game trade show.
In its “Only a Game: Why Censoring New Media Won’t Stop Gun Violence” report (read it here), the Coalition says “the popular notion that media causes people to kill is based on flawed research, and those who support it ignore ample evidence to the contrary.” The 13-page report was compiled in response to increased pressure by politicians and interest groups to scientifically disprove the perceived connection between playing violent video games and real-world violence.
The issue of video games being connected to gun violence gained renewed momentum last year in the wake of the tragic shooting incidents in Newtown, Denver, Portland and other locations. Earlier this year, President Obama called for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to renew scientific research into the relationship between video games, media images and violence. He also asked Congress to authorize $10 million for the research.
According the report, the governments of Australia, Great Britain and Sweden each recently reviewed the research claiming a link between violent video games and aggressive behavior and came to the same conclusion that it is flawed and inconclusive. As a result, none of these countries – despite having less stringent speech protections than the United States – have imposed restrictions on video games with violent content.
The research that has been cited to date, said Media Coalition Executive Director David Horowitz, is “flawed and inconclusive” and “has been tainted by a bias against results that do not support the popular view.” Horowitz also said that “many respected scientists have left this area of research because of the lack of provable data that could lead to publication and professional advancement.”
The new Only a Game report focuses largely on the issue of violent video games. A 2000 Media Coalition report, Shooting the Messenger: Why Censorship Won’t Stop Violence, examines at greater length the scientific claims of short- and long-term links between violent crime and all kinds of from movies and TV to music and video games.