The Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has taken a stance against the recent high profile criticism of the sale of violent video games in North America. Following an interview on Fox News Sunday, she stated that Democrat legislation on the matter ought to be based on scientific evidence, and that shaming action taken at this time would be in defiance of such principles.
On the popular morning interview show, host Chris Wallace lampooned the investigation by Democrats into the links between video game and real world violence as something that “we don’t need.”
“I mean, we know that these video games, where people have their heads splattered, these movies, these TV shows — why don’t you go to your friends in Hollywood and challenge them? Shame them, and say, ‘knock it off?’”
It goes without saying that few significant studies have actually been made since the campaign against video games began in earnest, though several previous studies have been quoted in defence of video games as well as against them. In response to Mr Wallace’s question Mrs Pelosi herself made reference to the figures of mortality resulting from guns in Japan, the country ‘with the most violet games’. Mrs Pelosi may well have mentioned the violent themes in anime and other media in Japan that often has to be heavily localised before it can be legally shown in America. Despite all this, Mrs Pelosi informed Mr Wallace that Japan has ‘the lowest mortality from guns. I don’t know what the explanation is for that; they might have good gun laws’.
This is not the first time that video game violence has entered national debates following such tragedies as the Newtown Shootings. One of the perpetrators of the Columbine High School Massacre was a young man who regularly worked on custom made levels for ‘Doom’, a shooter known for its high level of gore. Having said this, alternative debates have always accompanied such incidents. Goth singer Marilyn Manson, for example, was heavily criticised after the Columbine Massacre, even appearing on Michael Moore’s ‘Bowling for Columbine’ to answer such criticism. If real life violence was blamed on any mention, reference or expression of violence in the general media, Mrs Pelosi’s ‘friends in Hollywood’ would indeed have a lot to answer for, and evidently would have had a lot more influence on global media than the most sceptical of us would have ever thought possible.
Mrs Pelosi herself represents California’s 12th district in Congress, an area which includes 80% of San Francisco, and a bustling gaming industry besides. Arguably she has her own reasons for supporting the industry in this debate, though one could easily point to the number of violent games developed overseas that retain a popular following in America. One could also refer to Arnold Schwarzenegger, a much more widely known ‘friend’ of Hollywood than Mrs Pelosi and a man famous for his contributions to the violence in media, who has nonetheless come out in protest against violence in video games.
Others have taken Mrs Pelosi’s statistics further. Washington Post journalist Max Fisher concluded that countries that play violent video games ‘also tend to be some of the world’s safest’, although they are also some of the world’s most developed countries. The conclusion one may take from this is that video games actually have little to do with gun crime, or that perhaps, as Mrs Pelosi has stated, further scientific study is needed before anyone is ‘shamed’ or turned into a scapegoat.
Although the holes in the debate against violent video games are fairly evident, certain issues may warrant governmental attention. An issue many have touched on is the sale of violent video games to minors. This is of course an important point, and depending on the results of the studies currently being made, perhaps all that is called for is the recognition by parents that the age ratings on the front of video game boxes actually mean something.
Regardless, Mrs Pelosi’s need for defensive protests is perhaps evidence of how a debate sparked by tragedy has shamelessly been turned into a political tool. It is hardly appropriate to disregard scientific enquiry when considering the potential for an entirely new law, particularly given past instances when such laws failed to gather significant support. The impact of violent media on real life is an old topic, and further investigations and explanations are features that ought to be explored. Any ‘shame’ surely ought to rest firmly on the heads of those who would disregard such investigations based on assumptions that they themselves already known better, though evidently the real world is more confusing and immoral than most video games would play it out to be.