Mario and Luigi have powerful allies: The Entertainment Software Association and its lobbyists have successfully crushed a handful of state-level bills aimed at studying the effects of violence in video games. One year after the shootings at Sandy Hook, and the NRA’s attempts to throw the blame on Hollywood and the entertainment industry have been pushed back.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the ESA’s estimated $3.9 million lobbying campaign has helped stall proposed legislation in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland and Oklahoma.
The legislation is a perhaps misguided effort to deal with the tragic wave of mass shootings in the last few years, in the absence of any hope for meaningful gun control. The idea gained traction when after the Sandy Hook shootings reports surfaced that shooter Adam Lanza played games like Call of Duty and Starcraft.
Wayne LaPierre, then the Executive Vice President of the NRA, was very fond of this idea, as he was desperately looking to divert blame from loose gun control policies. Instead, he invoked rather dated pop culture references to decry a culture of violence. “Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse…Then there’s the blood-soaked slasher films like American Psycho and Natural Born Killers that are aired like propaganda loops on ‘Splatterdays’ and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it ‘entertainment.'”
The video game industry has long denied the link between game violence and real-life violence, and has pointed to studies that show no conclusive correlation. “The myth that video games cause violent behavior is undermined by scientific research and common sense,” Michael Gallagher, president of ESA, argued in 2010. “According to FBI statistics, youth violence has declined in recent years as computer and video game popularity soared. We do not claim that the increased popularity of games caused the decline, but the evidence makes a mockery of the suggestion that video games cause violent behavior.”
The next fight for the ESA is at the federal level: In December of last year, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from West Virginia, introduced legislation to study how violent video games and movies impact children. The bill passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee in July.
“Recent court decisions demonstrate that some people still do not get it,” Rockefeller said at the time he introduced the legislation. “They believe that violent video games are no more dangerous to young minds than classic literature or Saturday morning cartoons. Parents, pediatricians and psychologists know better.”
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