Home Politics Debate over violent games reaches state legislatures

Debate over violent games reaches state legislatures

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Adam Lanza, the young gunman responsible for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, was supposedly an avid video game player.

It was recently reported that Lanza spent hours on end with the military shooter game Call of Duty, prompting some to wonder what role, if any, these virtual images of violence played in pushing this troubled youth over the edge.

For Republican State Rep. Debralee Hovey, there is more than a mere connection between gore in video games and mass violence. The Connecticut congresswoman, whose district includes Newtown, aims to impose a 10 percent sales tax on games with a mature rating.

The bill, currently in front of the legislature’s finance, revenue and bonding committee, would skim an extra $6 from innocent, typically non-sociopathic video game consumers. Extra funds gained from the tax would benefit the Department of Mental Health and Addiction “for the purpose of developing informational materials to educate families on the warning signs of video game addiction and anti-social behavior,” the bill reads.

This legislation seems to largely reflect a sentiment held by many of Hovey’s fellow Republicans, many of whom tend to advocate gun rights.

In the wake of the Newtown tragedy and during the extensive discussion on gun violence that followed, many in the pro-gun camp worked to propagate the idea that the virtually rendered images of firearms were just as damaging, or perhaps more so, than their real world counterparts.

When speaking to msnbc, Tennessee Sen.  Lamar Alexander echoed this belief. When asked about his opinion on universal background checks, the Republican instead decided to take a jab at the gaming industry.

“I think video games are a bigger problem than guns, because video games affect people,” Alexander said.

However, it should certainly be noted that hindering the sale of video games is not expressly a Republican initiative. Sen. Christopher Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, agrees with the assessments of Republicans like Hovey and Alexander. In a speech, Murphy blamed the virtual killing common in a game like Call of Duty as the catalyst that sparked Lanza’s rampage.

“I think there’s a question as to whether he would have driven in his mother’s car in the first place if he didn’t have access to a weapon that he saw in video games that gave him a false sense of courage about what he could do that day,” said Murphy.

The panning of the gaming industry in lieu of other violent media is not unfounded. The truth is that anti-social types like Lanza are often drawn to violent games. Furthermore, there has been significant research studying the particular way in which violence in video games can exacerbate aggressive thoughts and behaviors in ways that television and movies can’t.

All research aside, Hovey’s bill has yet to come to a vote. If it passes, it will be interesting to see what affect it will have on the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB). The board has always had a policy of voluntary compliance, but if taxes become involved, it is hard to say whether video game publishers will still play ball.


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