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Opinion: Meeting with Biden is a mistake for the game industry Exclusive
Opinion: Meeting with Biden is a mistake for the game industry
January 9, 2013 | By Kris Graft




If you're meeting with Joe Biden about gun control, you're stating that you are part of the problem, and therefore, you are part of the problem, says Gamasutra Editor-in-Chief Kris Graft.

A couple weeks ago, an industry friend of mine told me that the office for Vice President Joe Biden was reaching out to so-called "game industry leaders." Very nice! Biden is taking an interest in this medium, a medium that not so long ago won a huge victory in being recognized as a protected form of free speech. Wonderful.

But no, this outreach by his office had nothing to do with learning more about the art and craft of video games, or what this industry can do for the country's economy, culture or creativity, or its potential to boost an interest in math, technology and science in the U.S.

No, this outreach, this long-overdue acknowledgment of this dynamic, burgeoning, creatively driven, highly-academic, highly commercial and cultural, billions-dollar industry was to get an answer for this question:

What will the leaders of the game industry do to help reduce the occurrence of mass shootings in the U.S. of A.?

If you're among the "game industry leaders" entertaining this question in the court of the Vice President of the U.S.A. and his task force on gun control and violence, you, my well-meaning friend, are stating that you're part of the problem, and therefore, you are part of the problem.

Here is what I've learned, on good authority: In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook, Biden wants "concrete proposals" from game industry leaders on how to help alleviate the death and destruction brought on by the use of firearms in mass killings.

So now I read in Reuters a confirmation that representatives for the video game industry are meeting with Biden and his task force, right alongside the good ol' National Rifle Association. (UPDATE: The ESA confirmed with us that its CEO Mike Gallagher will be taking part in the talks on Friday.) You, video game developer, and your work, represented right alongside the powerful gun lobby -- a group that, in the wake of Sandy Hook, proposed to put more guns in schools. A group that said you're all part of a "shadow industry." Lovely company, right? Well, here we are.

Mac and cheese and semi-autos

This week I read that Walmart, retailer of mac and cheese, bologna, and semi-automatic weapons, was refusing to meet with Biden about gun control. At least Walmart had the guts to refuse to meet with Biden. You know why they refused to meet? Because by entertaining Biden's inquiry for "concrete proposals" to curb gun violence, the gun-toting Walmart knew that in a way, it would be admitting guilt and accepting responsibility for mass shootings. It wasn't until pressure from the media that Walmart caved and said "Ok, we'll meet." But Walmart obviously understood the implications of attending this meeting.

Not some leaders of the game industry, who are apparently so happy to receive any kind of acknowledgement that games might have an influence on society and culture that they will happily lap up positive or negative attention from this Vice President like a neglected lapdog.

Walmart is attending, and should be there -- they sell guns. The NRA should be there -- they... really, really love guns. Mental health advocates should be there -- they can offer their expertise on how to prevent maniacs from going on shooting sprees. Family members of victims should be there. These groups have a stake and a responsibility in shaping gun policy. Representatives for video games, movies and other forms of protected speech have no reason to be there. By being there, you're admitting you're involved in, or had the power to stop, what happened in Aurora, in Happy Valley, in Newtown.

If any of your colleagues in the game industry did things differently or made different games, do you -- you industry leaders, voice of your peers -- believe they could have prevented any of these tragedies?

Everybody knows what Biden is implying when inviting the game industry to "participate" in these talks. He's not asking the game industry to gamify not-shooting-people. He's saying that he believes the answer to the above question is "yes," and by taking him up on his request in any capacity, you give this obvious, implied (and thoroughly incorrect) notion credibility.

Make a statement by refusing to meet

Look, I don't know what our game industry leaders are going to propose, or what they will say. But what should have been done is give Biden's office a polite "No, this issue has nothing to do with us," then cite the numerous scientific studies that show no link between video games and real-life violence, and also attach that little thing called the First Amendment, which hey, is right there above the Second one. Send a link to the ESRB's website while you're at it. The end. No meeting required, as this "issue" has already been quite thoroughly addressed.

And consider this: Whatever this "concrete proposal" turns out to be, it's part of Biden's preparations for his State of the Union Address, expected later this month. This proposal will be given to the VP, and he will construe it however he likes before Jane and Joe America, who are now just as familiar with the obscure, non-commercial game "Kindergarten Killer" as they are with the billions-dollar Call of Duty, thanks to the mainstream media and NRA.

Regular readers of Gamasutra might know about my views on this shallow fetishism of violence and guns in video games and their marketing -- it's old and overdone. I've said it before and I'll say again, I'm actually quite the fan of violence in my media. It's a powerful tool that I think is often wasted or dumbed down in video games. But I would never imply that they need to be reviewed, deconstructed and explained to the American people by the Vice President in the context of gun control laws or as the cause of mass shootings.

When I've expressed my anger -- yes, I'm mad about this -- that we're even entertaining Biden's request, I've heard a couple times, "Well, we need to keep Biden in check," or "It's important that we meet so they know what we can do about this." The game industry can make a much bigger statement by outright refusing to partake in these talks, and raising a shitstorm about it. Again, look at Walmart and how much press the company got for simply (initially) refusing. A statement could have been made, but that ship may have sailed.

Getting the game industry in on these meetings is just typical political peacocking that perpetuates this notion that video games are the source of society's ills. The game industry has no obligation to explain mass murders any more than Salinger should explain the death of John Lennon, or than Harvey the dog should have to explain David Burkowitz' serial murders.

Reality of a gun culture

We live in a gun culture: We won our independence through force. Our Second Amendment is the right to bear arms. We've been at war for the past several years. That's just a fact. It's our gun culture that breeds this fascination with firearms and the popularity of violent, shooty video games. It's not the other way around, and I think that people outside -- and apparently inside -- the game industry have lost sight of that.

Here's a reality check: I'm a father of young children (and incidentally, the owner of a big M97 shotgun and former holder of a hunting license). Remember fire, tornado and earthquake drills? Well, kids today have another drill called a "Level 3 Lockdown." My nine-year-old explained that if a "bad guy" breaks into the school, there are two bigger boys whose job it is to push a large piece of furniture in front of the classroom's locked door. Everyone else stands far from that door and hopes that the bad guy can't get in.

My friend has a daughter of about the same age. The door to their classroom opens outward into the hallway, so a large piece of furniture won't do the job. Instead, in a Level 3 Lockdown, they are to throw their heavy textbooks at the perpetrator if he comes in, then they're to bolt out the window and run to the nature preserve behind the school. These routines were in place well before Newtown.

That's reality today. "Leaders of the game industry": Do you really want to place this unwanted, undeserving and misdirected burden on the shoulders of your colleagues, just to get an audience with a man who never really understood or cared for your art?


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Comments


Ian Bogost
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Yes.

Ardney Carter
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Yes to the title or yes to the last question posed in the piece?

Ian Bogost
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Yes to the piece.

Nicole Lazzaro
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I am proud to have responded to Biden's call. I respectfully disagree. We should not sit silent and let non-industry groups make our agenda. I think games can do a lot to teach our government about motivations and system design to encourage behavior.

Many talk about limiting access to guns and games to reduce violence. The NRA blames games and the games industry blames the NRA. When that "game" gets old they blame the mental health care system.

This old argument has reached a stalemate. Who wants the government to take away their toys?

What we needs is a fresh approach and leadership. We must ask the question what can games do to help reduce violence? Then let's make games that do this in the virtual world and in the real one.

If game developers don't help the government rethink their approach who will?

I polled game developers and others and was delighted to get over 100 ideas to share with Biden. Highlights of the concrete proposals I forwarded to Biden are on my blog: http://bit.ly/UH3Tuj

Let's enlarge the conversation about reducing violence, not narrow it.

It's your move.

Game On!

\o/
Nicole

Nicole Lazzaro
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Ok Mark, What platform would you propose?

Justin LeGrande
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@Mark Taylor

Do you have any proof that if gun control measures are enacted, your friends and family, meaning "our troops" in the military and paramilitary, will suddenly be ordered to slaughter the populace? Because of course they would be at least somewhat involved in such a plot- it wouldn't all be the work of some shadow group of android mercenaries committing genocide.

So yes, where is your proof? Or IS that what you're proposing? That the government is hiring shadow assassin groups and seasoned criminals to slaughter the citizens? ...Maybe you're even suggesting that the government is orchestrating incidents such as the Sandy Hook massacre to deflect responsibility for such events, then swooping in like Superman to "save the day"?

You have... quite an uphill battle ahead of you, trying to claim and prove something like that...

Michelle Sorger
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@ Justin LeGrande

History tells us that evil dictators do not evolve in a vacuum. They rise to power over time. Often coincident with their rise is an insidious disarming of the citizens whom they seek to control. Slowly over time, using popular opinion and crisis as catalysts, people see their gun rights eliminated and guns confiscated. Suddenly obsessed with their new found power, dictators have committed some of the most horrendous human atrocities imaginable against unarmed people. I don't want to play the "point" game by going through the countless examples. I will leave it to you to study history.

The second amendment is not about using guns for sport. It is, however, all about preventing dictatorial control of the government.

History also shows us that super stringent gun control laws in no way prevents high profile mass shootings....does Norway ring a bell?

Zack Wood
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Well, by meeting with him they could try to explain some of the things you're talking about. It's an opportunity to meet with the Vice President, after all.

Frank Cifaldi
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Thanks for reading, Zack.

Jacob Alvarez
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Or Pogo the Monkey? Either way, same effect.

E Zachary Knight
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Thank you. The gall that Biden had in even including the games industry is detestable. The idea that someone(s) in the games industry have taken him up on the offer is equally detestable.

Matt Robb
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Well, *somebody* has to show up to tell him it's detestable or he'll never know.

E Zachary Knight
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Email, phone, fax, text message, courier pigeon. All acceptable forms of telling someone to shove off.

Ernest Adams
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Call me detestable, then. I was quite happy to give him my opinion. It had nothing to do with games, but why refuse the opportunity?

Matt Robb
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I dunno, there's a certain pleasure to doing it in person in an official capacity.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

John McMahon
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@Andrew, you are attacking someone because they talked about Clint Eastwood's "empty chair" speech in relation to game development?

I know people have very strong opinions on political figures, but name calling? That doesn't address the person's post nor treats them with any respect.

And if you can't treat someone you disagree with with some level of respect, then, in my opinion, you are not really interested in hashing out a thorough discussion on the topic.

Lance Thornblad
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It would have been detestable had Biden NOT included the game industry. After all, it stands accused and it wasn't the VP that made those accusations. It was the NRA and they are included. The conversation should not be one-sided.

Thom Q
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It's disgusting. Throw all academic research in the wind, and compare the games industry with the NRA..
What might be even sadder is that I have yet to hear any resistance from the bigger publishers or studios. The quick pleasing of the crowd is worth more to them then to properly inform people.. Then again, what else is new...

E Zachary Knight
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Aggression is not the same as violent. Short term increase in aggressive behavior is not the same as long term increases in violent behavior.

http://www.pbs.org/kcts/videogamerevolution/impact/myths.html

Thom Q
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Corvus, i m not going to cherry pick on a study to back up my case, but as E Zachary Knight pointed out, aggression is not the same as violence.
I've been following studies on the subject of violent video games & films causing violent behavior for about 10 years. A very large majority agrees that game & movie violence does not cause violent behavior.

Thom Q
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Corvus, you're right about that. It's just sad that it needs to happen again. This has been an issue since the 90's. And I sincerely doubt that the people that are going to sit down will even do that. Plus the fact that they are being bundled up with the NRA is quite disrespectful.

Matt Robb
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@Mark Taylor
"Of course the governments will only point to the violent elements, when the point is to create a PC fantasy that the players cannot distinguish from reality."

On what level is anything in Borderlands 2 indistinguishable from reality? Even the art style is designed to distance the product from realism. It's like any other form of entertainment, it reflects the interests of the consumers, it does not determine them.

Matt Robb
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There have to be a ton of better examples than a series as over-the-top as Borderlands. It's anarchy-in-practice.

And you keep saying a "PC fantasy that the players cannot distinguish from reality". What does Borderlands have to do with political correctness? And how is it indistinguishable from reality? The lack of consequence in the game has to do with the anarchistic setting.

Daneel Filimonov
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@Mark Taylor: Borderlands 2 is specifically (like the majority of most - nay - all games) set in a "fantasy" or "alternate" world. I'm sure these words are familiar to you.

The content of the game is rooted from the imagination of the developers based on an INTENTIONAL awkward, sadistic, chaotic, or what-have-you interpretation of a "Mad Max"-type world. Gearbox isn't stupid, their intention of making a violent game is clear and you can plainly see customers are OK with this because they have been desensitized by violent games of the recent decade alone (not including older titles such as DOOM and the like). The only ones complaining about the violence are the vocal 0.01% like you who have little to no intention of seeing the game as little more than murder-sprees or violent propaganda. Nor are people like you willing to critically see past the graphical aspects of a game, instead condemning such games to be perverse in intention, rather than seeing them as outlets of creativity and sources of entertainment.

Pessimism can only go so far before it simply becomes an annoyance.

Rebecca Richards
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@Mark Taylor

Hey, buddy. This is Gamasutra. MRAs like yourself can go play on Reddit with the little kids while the grownups are talking.

...loling at anyone calling anything in Borderlands politically correct...

Jacob Germany
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Mark Taylor: A 13 year old girl electrocutes a guy on a whim? Strange definition of whim, since she was killing the man who murdered her parents in front of her. Maybe you'd understand some of the motivations of the characters better if you paid more attention to the game's plot?

Jacob Germany
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Touche

Jacob Germany
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Of course, I was being nice and not even pointing out that "Flesh Stick", the man electrocuted to death, was instrumental in her world perspective and subsequent murderous temperament. I personally picked up the (very obvious) moral of the application of violent trauma creating a cycle of violence that can, to put it bluntly, bite you in the ass.

Which is, again very obviously, directly applicable to the very real situation the United States finds itself in concerning the liberal use of violent in regions that are further destabilized, with the violence escalating and serving to harm the original perpetrators. A lesson, unfortunately, the leaders of the United States have difficulty learning concerning the increasing and increasingly lethal threat of terrorism.

I say this not to apply a far-too-stretched metaphor, but to draw a pretty obvious and simple parallel that I saw just while running around doing said quest and otherwise shooting stuff and sorting inventory. The basic tenet of "violence begets violence", karma, the golden rule, et cetera.

But, no, it's also cool to oversimplify it so as to sensationalize a game that is almost a parody of itself and creates for itself a sensationalized atmosphere. So, you know, whichever.

Brian Buchner
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@Rebecca Richards A bit ironic of a response, don't you think?

Jacob Germany
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I was "nitpicking" because I was pointing out that you were oversimplifying the game to make your case sound bolder. I'm unfamiliar with the other two missions you mentioned, but I haven't played more than half the game. However, the one I recognized was severely oversimplified and showed that you are either being disingenuous to advance your point or you really weren't paying attention to the missions, in either case making it dubious as to whether you are right in calling the game "amoral" as you do.

The game isn't the most revolutionary change agent for our culture to advance, but it's hardly the demonized piece you seem to portray.

Daneel Filimonov
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Now that's just being a hypocrite. If you haven't paid attention, then you have no reason to call out on someone who hasn't finished the game and yet DID pay attention.

Jacob Germany
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@Mark Taylor I thought you'd try to criticize that. I never said I finished the game. I never even commented about your original point. I simply had a problem with how you were oversimplifying an example, otherwise demonizing an example to prove your point. That is either intentionally or unintentionally disingenuous. Instead of owning up to it and saying "Hmm, I never caught that. Well, the rest is still true", you "score" my comment as if it's a competition or an Olympic event (or a game review?).

I had a problem with your oversimplification, and was pointing it out so you could either explain it or admit a simple mistake, retaining most of the credibility of your statement. Because someone who otherwise misleads intentionally should lose their credibility. That's all.

As it is, until I finish the game, I'll stick by my assumption that it's much deeper and less "amoral" than you've claimed, as I'm not sure you paid enough attention to the game apparently to know the story behind the other two missions, and I personally never encountered anything in Borderlands 1 or 2 that was excessively offensive. (Both games tend to be filled with content that intends to confront a player with satire and cartoonish drama, though not necessarily "offend")

Samuel Garcia
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The issue and politics is actually more complicated than the article suggests. Yes, the NRA supports guns in schools, but what the article did not say is that it supports guns in hands of police officers in schools. And that is to say, when you look at the history of guns in schools outside the United States, particularly in the terror-laden Israel, the teachers are armed with guns, and the total mass shootings there totaled 4, and in the same time span, the United States with its weaponless schoolteachers had 28 mass shootings in schools. The statistics don't lie.

There is also three ways the meeting could end(at least that I could think of at the moment):
1. The government would strictly regulate the amount of guns/weapons/violence in games. People will object.
2. If the NRA is more pro-gun(actually, pro-violence not guns, there is a difference) influence than it actually is, then it will convince the government will actually not regulate the amount of guns/weapons/violence in games, and the public will still object.
3. Nothing happens, and people will still object.

It is a lose-lose-lose situation for everybody involved.

Matt Robb
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Population of the United States - 315 million
Population of Israel - 8 million

28/315 = ~0.08 shootings per million people
4/8 = ~0.5 shootings per million people

Following your logic, adding guns to schools would increase the problem 0.08/0.5=6.25 times worse. Nice try though.

Luis Guimaraes
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Would also be interesting compare 1st and 3rd-world school/public shootings and suicide rates.

Luis Guimaraes
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But it seems everybody is purposefully (or passively being led into) unlinking mass shootings from suicides, and linking it to "violence" instead, because it's easier to blame "violence" on something specific, therefore twisting it as a weapon. People have agendas. People that are willing to prey on and parasite the suffering of the victims' families to get what they want.

And they don't need their stuff to make sense, just the target recipient for the message believe in whatever they hear. They couldn't just go for the front page now, take a print screen of the title "Mobile publisher Ngmoco guns for the console gamer" and edit ":" after the third word, then make "news" out of it.

The difference from a suicide and a shooting followed with suicide is that the whole world knows about it and it joins History books. Look up a timeline of mass shootings and it'll look like a wave, they usually stack together. Less shootings, less talking about shootings, less TV shows bringing psychologists to explain how the shooter is a victim, less shootings.

The reason for mass shootings is that everybody talks about them.

Rami Ismail
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Never mind.

Samuel Garcia
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Matt, that's a bit of simplification. There are more factors than just population. Israel is always under emergency. The United States isn't. Remember 9/11? That happens every day in Israel. But terrorists and criminals don't attack the schools in Israel. Why? Because the teachers are armed. What do they attack? Places where there are unarmed civilians.

As the article pointed out, we live in a gun culture. Back in the 1950-1970s, students brought guns to school, shotguns in their *unlocked* trucks. How many mass shootings have you heard about during that era? The only time we ever hear about a mass shooting is in the 1990s, the first one, which was Columbine.

So did the level of crime increased because more gun control laws were passed. There is a mistaken notion that gun control laws will prevent bad guys from accessing guns. Does the Mafia obey the law? No. But good citizens will obey the law, and turn in their guns. So who are disarmed? The good guys.

This concept also applies in games. In an RTS, if I had one measly infantry unit (which will represent the mass shooter), would I attack the defenses (which will represent the armed authorities like the police) or a crowd of armed infantry units(which will represent armed civilians) or vulnerable unguarded, peaceful resource depot (which will represent a school)?

The last option, of course! The infantry unit did not stand a chance with the first two, but the last was unguarded.

I'm neither going to blame games or guns or laws. They are just things. It is the people and their hearts that need to take responsibility.

John McMahon
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@Samuel Garcia, there's a huge difference between what we hear is happening (or has happened) in the world and what is actually happening or has actually happened.

Your point about Columbine is off. Mass shootings have been around for a long awhile.

Samuel Garcia
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@John Mass shootings in schools, sire.

@Mark The point was that the US does not experience much levels of violence like Israel does. in a daily basis

Craig Stern
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Great article!

...except for this bit:

"It's our gun culture that breeds this fascination with firearms and the popularity of violent, shooty video games. It's not the other way around"

Games do not exist in a hermetically sealed chamber, influenced by culture but not influencing culture. Rather, games are a part of culture. We influence the things people think about (see e.g. the Tetris Effect). It's a cop-out to claim that games never promote gun culture--and more to the point, it's so clearly false that I think it undermines our position to advance that as an argument. The better argument would go something like "Yes, some games feed into gun culture, but their influence is so attenuated that the free speech concerns involved far outweigh it."

Lyon Medina
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@Craig
I was looking at that statement too. Because if you look at the Pokemon effect on children it can create a lot of issues.

Yes I know Pokemon doesn't lead to gun violence, but there were a lot real world issues that occured because of the Pokemon fanatacism.

I know this also based off a card game but it relates to people doing very strange things for no reason.


http://www.destructoid.com/alert-fox-news-ten-year-old-mugs-a-you
nger-classmate-for-his-pokemon-cards-69471.phtml

Matt Robb
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@Lyon, the example you show is a single anecdote. The fact that they were Pokemon cards is rather irrelevant, one kid wanted something another kid had a bullied him into giving the items in question over.

Lyon Medina
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@ Matt

Of course its a single Anecdote. I could list more, but that is not the point.

I am trying to prove the point that gaming as simplistic as it is can have un-intended circumstances. The Pokémon article proves that a child can mug another young child for something he has. Doesn’t mean all children that play Pokémon will do that, just that things like that do happen.

For instance one more article.

http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/local&id=5480557

Just because this happened does not mean it will happened every time someone plays this game. Only that it has happened before.

Matt Robb
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The article proves that person A can use force to steal from person B. The game in question is nothing but a material object with perceived value. The fact that it was a game is not relevant.

Lyon Medina
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Any person can steal from anyone else, and the game is relevant because it was the focus of the crime. When you walk up to someone do you first think” I wonder what ways I can steal from or kill this person?” I know I don’t and that is what I am trying to say.

That because of a simple card game a child stole from another child in a very dramatic way.

There is no better relevance than that.

People steal for a lot of reasons, and it can happen to people that have never seen the card game of Pokémon, but in this instance it did happen because of that one reason.

The child took the time to prepare (premeditation), get the fake gun (involvement), and hold the other child at gun point with a realistic fake gun (intent).

This was not emotional crime; this was a real world issue that fanaticism is dangerous in any medium. That includes gaming.

David Navarro
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"It's a cop-out to claim that games never promote gun culture"

As far as I can tell, the availability of FPS games in Europe has not resulted in calls for a 2nd Amendment-analogue, or for easier availability of guns. For games to feed into a gun culture, it seems a gun culture needs to be already present.

Craig Stern
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David, there is a difference between feeding into a preexisting gun culture and causing a gun culture to spontaneously emerge where none exists. The fact that video games have not single-handedly caused gun culture to erupt across Europe is not relevant to the discussion of games' role in culture within the United States.

Michael Rooney
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@Lyon: That's a total bullshit argument (sorry for the language but it's true). For the game to be important you'd have to prove that children stealing valuables from each other were isolated to games. That's total hogwash; kids bully and steal from each other every day and have done it for a LONG time.

That anecdote had nothing to do with proving games promote irrational behavior; it only proved that children generally act irrationally when there is perceived inequality.

Lyon Medina
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@Michael Rooney

You could make your point with out cursing, but hey you at least apologized.

I dont know how to explain it any better Rooney than stated above. Its not the games that make us use violence or create violence in us, only that games can be the focus of violence from fanatacism. Please I am not tyring to devalue your point, but understand mine.

Violence will always be around, this is a sad truth, but that doesnt mean we should say that games can never be the cause of it because they can be. The same as Movies, Speeches, Music, Books, and anything else that has a certain level of following behind it.

So again, let me be as clear as possible.

"""Games do not create anger or violent tendedacies, but games can be the focus of crimes and real world issues."""

If you skip over everything else I have said before make sure just to read that. That is my whole point of view on the subject.

Michael Rooney
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@Lyon: Your justification could essentially be said of anything.

"[Doughnuts] do not create anger or violent tendedacies, but [Doughnuts] can be the focus of crimes and real world issues."

"[Trees] do not create anger or violent tendedacies, but [Trees] can be the focus of crimes and real world issues."

"[French Canada does] not create anger or violent tendedacies, but [French Canada] can be the focus of crimes and real world issues."

If it's generalized to just about everything, why single out games?

Lyon Medina
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Exactly my point, people want to come to the defense of gaming because it is really enjoyable medium that has a lot of fanaticism behind it. If there are issues regarding any subject they need to try to be resolved in one form or another. Regardles if its from Donuts to Zipper Shirts.


I love games Michael, but there are issues we as a society have to look at when games becomes to overly protected because of all the enjoyable memories we have with gaming.

We as a culture have together and realize games are not for everyone. People who are prone to being violent should not play violent video games. You and I are sane individuals who can look at a violent video game and determine that we are not going to cause bodily injury or harm to another person because of that game.

I would never rob a person at gun point to play Halo, but some people can get to that point.

http://www.destructoid.com/man-tries-to-rob-modern-warfare-3-at-g
unpoint-fails-hard-215498.phtml

http://www.wfmz.com/news/news-regional-lehighvalley/Man-teen-accu
sed-of-stealing-XBox360-phone-at-gunpoint-at-Easton-home/-/132502
/17311792/-/5kqpga/-/index.html

http://kotaku.com/5037346/guy-with-gun-only-ps3-can-save-my-famil
y

Video Games are not without problems. Or in many cases social issues that thankfully are being controlled or many times being looked down upon. They have issues that have to be recognized in order for it to be respected as a proper entertainment medium.

I am not trying to single out games, I am only establishing that it happens in games too, and we need to be aware that it does so we can do a better job of managing it. It’s the decisions on how we choose to approach these subjects today that will influence the next generation of how we see Video Games as.

May that be; A Hobby, a Toy, a Fad, a Culture, or an Era, the list goes on and on. We as the first Generation have the duty to make sure that games are given a fair shake in today’s society. That means accepting the good and the bad and trying to create solutions to the problems that may plaugue other mediums as well..

Michael Rooney
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@"Exactly my point, people want to come to the defense of gaming because it is really enjoyable medium that has a lot of fanaticism behind it."

That's not why I am defending gaming. I am defending gaming because your argument can be generalized to any single thing known to human kind and you are choosing to point the finger at gaming. If you chose to point the finger at scrap-booking, an activity I hold no love for, I would have the same point in it's defense.

@"I am not trying to single out games, I am only establishing that it happens in games too, and we need to be aware that it does so we can do a better job of managing it. It’s the decisions on how we choose to approach these subjects today that will influence the next generation of how we see Video Games as.

May that be; A Hobby, a Toy, a Fad, a Culture, or an Era, the list goes on and on. We as the first Generation have the duty to make sure that games are given a fair shake in today’s society. That means accepting the good and the bad and trying to create solutions to the problems. "

... but you are singling out games. A kid steals another kid's game, and you single out games. A kid steals another kid's milk, which is many times more frequent and historically consistent as long as I've been alive, and would you single out milk? Does milk cause major societal issues that need introspection?

You are mistaking correlation (a kid stole something he wanted badly that happened to be a game) with causation (a kid saw a game and wanted it so bad he stole it).

Lyon Medina
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I honestly don’t think you see my point that the energy that is behind people's love for games can cause a unhealthy fixation to "must have" a product or cause real life issues. I am not trying to devalue your point. (Because it is a really great point)

"... but you are singling out games."

Again, I am not trying too, but for the sake of the discussion where people ask if games create violent behavior patterns. I have to discuss games specifically.

If you want I can get into American Football Fanaticism if that would better help illustrate my point and all the extreme fanaticism that erupts from that?

Correlation is based on a science that if it happens enough times the same way it must be true. I am basing my opinion that it has happened before, we need to prepare for any future occurrences.

Michael Rooney
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@"I honestly don’t think you see my point that the energy that is behind people's love for games can cause a unhealthy fixation to "must have" a product or cause real life issues."

I am fully aware that this is your point. My point is, and always has been, that the energy behind people's love for ANYTHING can cause an unhealthy fixation to must have that thing. You keep replacing "anything" with "games". That is damaging to progress as it veils the problem with something else to blame (games) rather than what is actually to blame (children being jealous/violent/whatever).

"Correlation is based on a science that if it happens enough times the same way it must be true."

Wat?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation
#Examples_of_illogically_inferring_causation_from_correlation

Lyon Medina
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Michael I am not going to keep going around in circles.

"You keep replacing "anything" with "games". That is damaging to progress as it veils the problem with something else to blame (games) rather than what is actually to blame (children being jealous/violent/whatever)."

I am not blaming games, I am saying *[({"fanatacism"})]* for games is. Games can be a "part" of the cause, because of social problems of the *[(users)]*. Which does not need a history of playing video games to be present in order for them to commit the crime(s).

*Edit
Yes, there is a differeance between that of causation and correlation.

Michael Rooney
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I think you are not getting my point. The problem is people desiring things and taking bad action on that desire. You are turning the problem into people desiring games.

If you do not understand why these are not the same or why mislabeling a problem as a problem's subset is damaging to fixing the problem, this discussion cannot continue.

Lyon Medina
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“If you do not understand why these are not the same or why mislabeling a problem as a problem's subset is damaging to fixing the problem, this discussion cannot continue.”

I honestly don’t know how to properly gauge what your not reading in my posts, or in general ignoring what I say. I really don’t want the circle to continue man where I present articles and statement after statment stating my issue, and you bring it back to “Why are you focusing on games?” but what I will do is review what I have said.

Michael-
“That anecdote had nothing to do with proving games promote irrational behavior; it only proved that children generally act irrationally when there is perceived inequality.”

My Response-
“I don’t know how to explain it any better Rooney than stated above. It’s not the games that make us use violence or create violence in us, only that games can be the focus of violence from fanaticism.

"""Games do not create anger or violent tendencies, but games can be the focus of crimes and real world issues."""
Michael-
“Your justification could essentially be said of anything.”

My Response-
Exactly my point

Michael-
If it's generalized to just about everything, why single out games?

My Response
I am not trying to single out games, I am only establishing that it happens in games too, and we need to be aware that it does so we can do a better job of managing it.

Michael-

@Lyon Medina" Exactly my point, people want to come to the defense of gaming because it is really enjoyable medium that has a lot of fanaticism behind it."

That's not why I am defending gaming. I am defending gaming because your argument can be generalized to any single thing known to human kind and you are choosing to point the finger at gaming.


This is my updated response to this specific statement.


Yes, it is can be generalize, but it doesn’t make it any less true. What is true for movies, television, toothpaste, Keyboards, Cell Phones, can be made and argument for games. This does not make this any less true that it can be applied elsewhere. I used a bear analogy a couple of days ago so here is another one.


Just because a bear is in the forest, the zoo, or roaming city streets it is still very dangerous animal that needs to be handled appropriately.


How that applies, is where Fanaticism shows up and creates issues, doesn’t mean we should simply treat it differently in topic to topic.

It’s an issue, and should always be looked at appropriately. Fanaticism if left unchecked can lead to violence.

Michael-
"You keep replacing "anything" with "games". That is damaging to progress as it veils the problem with something else to blame (games) rather than what is actually to blame (children being jealous/violent/whatever)."

My response-
“I am not blaming games, I am saying *[({"fanaticism"})]* for games is. Games can be a "part" of the cause, because of social problems of the *[(users)]*. Which does not need a history of playing video games to be present in order for them to commit the crime(s).”

Updates response-
People steal regardless of fanaticism being there or not, what is different is that when someone steals a game, they steal something that is not a primal need. They are stealing for personal gain. It’s not like stealing loaf of bread where it’s life and death situation. No they are stealing someone else because they want to personally gain something that they do not need but want to have.

http://www.destructoid.com/alert-fox-news-ten-year-old-mugs-a-you
nger-classmate-
for-his-pokemon-cards-69471.phtml


"I think you are not getting my point. The problem is people desiring things and taking bad action on that desire. You are turning the problem into people desiring games."


"Things" can include games. Yes the reason why they take those bad actions can include a rationaliztion of needing that object. Which in this for instance is a video game, a card game, a win, a satifaction of being the best. Games can create problematric situations, To your qouted words "that the energy behind people's love for ANYTHING can cause an unhealthy fixation to must have that thing."

My issue is not the anything, but the realization that anything can be a problem, and I want the Video Games on a higher standard than everything else. I want the culture of gamers to not be so fanatical that they dont see issues glaring at them in the face when it comes to their own medium.

If you stole a game from somebody that makes you a thief. If you got into a fight over a game where you threw punches at somebody, that makes you violent, or at the very least emotionally explosive.

Gaming is not the answer to why there is violence, but it is sometimes apart of the equation.

Casey Loe
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I appreciate the sentiment, but refusing to meet with the Vice President would play right into the hands of the industry's opponents by making the game industry appear to be intransigent and suggest it's hiding something.

Additionally, I think there are small concessions the industry could make to cooperate with this process. For example, they could discourage the use of real gun brands in games, which is seen as a valuable marketing tool for gun manufacturers. A step like this would focus attention back on the gun industry, where it belongs.

E Zachary Knight
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Self censorship is never the answer. Self censorship would be admitting, despite all facts to the contrary, that video game play leads to violent behavior. That is a mistake.

Matt Robb
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Going to align with Zach on this one. Self-censorship in this sense is a slippery slope.

Also, from what I've observed, brand names on guns matter to the people who are collectors and legitimate users. The people who are going to flip out and kill people use whatever they can get their hands on.

John McMahon
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Um...doesn't the industry already self-censor itself? When was the last time we had a game released with an Adult rating?

We already censor ourselves so games can be sold by as many retailers as possible. We already censor ourselves by removing content based on the publisher's desires.

E Zachary Knight
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John,

You are correct. Self-censorship for the sake of retail space/publisher concerns is also bad and should be done away with. As game developers continue to pander to the whims of people who do not care about the artistic nature of the medium, we will continue to flounder in the eyes of the public.

I wish more games were released with AO ratings. I wish retailers such as Gamestop and Steam would allow such games. I wish that console manufacturers would allow such games. But we have an uphill battle to do away with self-censorship.

Kumar Daryanani
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Refusing to meet with the Vice President would allow anyone else at the meeting to simply point at the Games Industry and say "Oh look, they're not here, obviously they are the problem and they know it, that's why they can't show their face here", and then there would be no one to call out the BS and buck-pushing.

If the games industry is perceived to be part of the problem by some, then by being at the table to participate in the conversation it is possible to allay fears and explain our position. For one thing, we can point to all the other games that are not about shooting people in the face, and say "At least that's not the only thing we produce, unlike some other people at this table."

E Zachary Knight
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If the only purpose in being there is to defend ourselves, then what is the point? Why participate in something that is just going to devolve into a witchhunt?

What you are saying we should do can easily be accomplished with very public statements including all the information that this article suggests sending to Biden.

Michael Rooney
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@zach: What is the point in defending oneself? That seems like a pretty stupid question to ask. Wouldn't you rather have a chance to stop a witchhunt than be a victim of it?

E Zachary Knight
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Michael,

It isn't a stupid question to ask. I would rather avoid a situation in which I know I will become the target for abuse. It is counter productive to be in such situations. The games industry has been to enough of these "discussions" to know to avoid them. Nothing productive comes of it.

Michael Rooney
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You are making a big assumption thinking that you can avoid being the target of the abuse. Especially considerring games were put square in the metaphorical crosshairs. Or are we to assume that politics follows a perfectly just world?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-world_hypothesis

E Zachary Knight
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I am not saying that we can avoid being the target of abuse. It has already been proven that we can't. However, we can avoid situations where the bias is clearly stacked against us in favor of situations where we retain greater control of the dialogue.

Michael Rooney
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So we should invite Joe Biden to dinner with us?

Matthew Burns
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Good article.

GameViewPoint Developer
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My gut reaction was the same as the authors but on reflection, what's really happening here? what's happening here is "leaders" from a multi-billion dollar industry which regardless of studies one way or another obviously is a part of modern life and culture are meeting with the vice president to discuss the possible effects of their industry on that culture, and I don't see any issue with that. I'm not an American, but any input, any discussion, any debate which might even in the tiniest fashion help lower gun deaths in the States has got to be worth the effort.

Matt Robb
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Except this fellow was supporting talking about it. Never said we'd have to change anything.

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Michelle Sorger
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Exactly @Mark...render peasants unable to fight back against an oppressive government, justify it, AND then lie about it. Holodomor: http://www.ukrainianmuseum.org/ex_080527holodomor-genocidebyfamin
e.html.

History repeats itself time and time again in part because of loud-mouthed, short-sighted thinkers who claim benevolence, but in reality are stuck on ego and self-righteousness.

Kujel Selsuru
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Biden is probably looking for scapegoats sadly, it's an old political scam and sadly some of us are falling for it. Video game violence does not contribute to real world violence, ease of access to weapons does though.

Ian Schreiber
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It's quite possible. I don't see too many people in the comments suggesting otherwise. The thing we all seem to disagree on is, given that this has a good chance of being more about political posturing than looking to solve real problems, what is the game industry's optimal response?

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Matt Robb
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Well, if they were going to do a mass shooting without a gun, that leaves what, bows?

Of course, mass murders have been around for millenia, they've steadily become less and less common in the long term.

Matt Robb
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My only real point was that forcing the people to use an inferior weapon might reduce their kill count, but it wouldn't have an effect on the number of incidents. You have to look at root causes for that, and neither guns nor games are a root cause.

Lyon Medina
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I agree Kris that this sounds bad because its says to the American people that "Video Games" are "a problem".

As a Gamer I know how much that "statement" is a problem, I have played violent games my entire life, starting with Mortal Kombat for the Genesis, and I have never had a issue where people have said I was too violent.

Maybe scatter brained, but never too violent. I think this needs to be focused to a campaign by us gamers to set the record straight, and if you look at it now gamers are starting to outweigh non gamers in terms of voice. We need to use that and help build Gaming as a respectful form of expression and entertainment


Lyon Medina
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Great point! And I agree to a certain extent Mark, I think connectivity and the parent's should be more of the focus when it comes to mimicking.

I have three nieces and a nephew and I always try to be the good example. I would also never, I say again never, allow my children to have things on their face book (or whatever would be popular at the time) that I think would be inappropriate. Fathers and mothers play a major role in that. (So does upbringing and moral values)

I agree though that things like that do need to stop and parents should be the first responders to that kind of social mimicking.

Be it Gangsterism or any other form of major social disobedience.

Nicole Lazzaro
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Lifting the Congressional ban on CDC and NIH research on how to reduce real world gun violence, in my mind would do more than anything. That said game designers are system thinkers, many are gun owners, and NRA members. We offer a unique perspective on what the government can do to reduce gun violence. To win, the conversation must be more than about the content of games.

I've posted 10 recommendations for VP Biden on my blog and offer a sample of the many heartfelt responses people inside and outside games have made.

Take a look. It's your move. http://bit.ly/UH3Tuj

Game On!

\o/

Geoff Yates
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Let me get one thing off my chest the US will never modify its gun laws. Its exactly same issue when you were asked to go Metric. Imperial system is too ingrained and would cost billions (over burden your already extensive country debt).

You could never in hundred years get all the guns out of the system. Simply put black market products would evolve even more. You will not change a nation's life philosophy either.

Your problem needs to be tackled differently whether the Video Industry can help I don't know. The invitation is probably (and again simply) motivated by political lobbyists to assist Biden in the selling of the whole concept to the citizens of the US. As you can probably guess I'm not a US citizen (Australian).

My wife is a Teachers Aide she works with seriously disadvantage kids to give them some level of normalcy in their education. They routinely practice lock down modes because it helps with all types of school incidents not just gun toting weirdos.

Personally, I'd rather be invited and turn up to a meeting than not being invited at all. At least the Video Game Industry can say well we attended and voiced our opinion. If you don't than you could be on the receiving end of unexpected outcomes.

However, I did like the article it was well written and I certainly appreciate the point of view. I think you guys have a very serious problem to resolve and unfortunately I don't have any better ideas except I hope you can lessen the chance of these incidents happening in the future.

Ernest Adams
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What in the world brought the NHS into this discussion?

Rebecca Richards
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@Ernest Adams

I think Mark Taylor is a Freeper that found the site by mistake. I'm not even sure he plays video games, let alone contributes to our industry. Best to treat him like the troll he is.

Matt Robb
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My big issues with anything like this is people pointing blame at all the wrong places and forming solutions accordingly. Throwing video games in the mix is just another scapegoat. The games reflect reality, but I can't say I know of a game that includes a school shooting in the mix. The more realistic the games get, the more they go military or action movie and further from civilian criminal violence. You could make the GTA argument, but the realism there is sorely lacking.

Matt Robb
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Idiots at the NRA try to pass the buck to anyone and everything instead of putting up a logical argument why they aren't to blame, whether they are or not.

That said, video games have been a scapegoat for violence since the first weapon was rendered on a TV screen, just as movies have been since they first portrayed violence. People try to turn it into a chicken-and-egg debate, but we all know violence predated any of it.

Ian Schreiber
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@Matt Robb / Jeferson Soler: I think you've collectively made a strong case for why the game industry should attend the meeting. If the NRA is intent on pointing fingers at the game industry, and the NRA is at the meeting, it behooves us to be there to deflect any such accusations.

trout trout
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Great article. On one hand this strikes me as a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. An invite form the white house is maybe not something you turn down. But, I agree that in this case it makes a bad association. Tough call. Do we actually know WHO was asked to participate? What game industry leaders were asked? And shouldn't TV and Movie leaders also be there???

Ian Schreiber
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Great question, and I think that does make a huge difference. Biden might not realize the different implications in inviting, say, Jane McGonigal versus inviting CliffyB, but that would probably lead to a radically different outcome :)

Ernest Adams
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What about those of us who, though perhaps not "industry leaders," have plenty of opinions about what should be done to reduce the gun homicide rate that have nothing to do with video games? Should we shut up just because we're in the game industry? Hardly!

I passed on quite a number concrete proposals. None of them had anything to do with video games. And I'm certainly not going to turn down an opportunity to have Biden's ear on the grounds that I ought to keep my mouth shut for the sake of the game industry.

Frank Cifaldi
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If the Vice President wants to talk to you for reasons other than asking you how video games need to change to stop people from murdering children, you should totally go for it Ernest.

E Zachary Knight
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If that is what you did, then you were acting as nothing more than a concerned citizen. Something that could have easily been done under an open comment event. The problem lies, as Frank put it, in assuming that the games industry should be represented and taking specific action.

I applaud you for not assuming the role as a representative of the games industry, although that was the only reason you were able to get a seat at the table.

Ernest Adams
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NOBODY has the chops to call themselves a leader of the game industry. We have no leaders; we are way too anarchic for that. But such people as turn up the table can certainly put the game industry's point of view, which is: this problem is about guns, not games. If we don't show up, that message won't get heard.

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Ernest Adams
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There is exactly one factor that has a straight-line correlation with gun violence, and that's guns. Not mental health or economic conditions or crime or video games or torture porn movies or anything else correlates so closely. Any attempt to shift the blame to them is a smokescreen to hide the truth: every single incident of gun violence involves a gun. It is an inescapable reality. That is the point the game industry needs to make, over and over and over.

Michael Rooney
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@"There is exactly one factor that has a straight-line correlation with gun violence, and that's guns."

That's framing the problem incorrectly. You shouldn't compare gun violence to gun ownership. You should compare violence of all types to whatever. If there are no guns and everybody walks around blowing each other up with fertilizer bombs or beating each other to death with sacks of oranges do you consider it a victory? Of course not, SO DON'T USE GUN VIOLENCE AS A METRIC; use violence, period.

Michael Rooney
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@Jeferson: Just because I might not have been clear. I wasn't implying that gun ownership = gun violence. My point is that less gun ownership doesn't mean less violence. You shouldn't compare gun ownership to gun violence, obviously more guns would correlate to more gun violence; just like more of any weapon proportional to others would probably increase violence with that weapon. My point is just that violence as a whole should be viewed if we want an expectation of the impact limiting guns should have.

My point was just that more guns correlates to more gun violence is rather tautological. A more interesting statistic would be if more guns correlates to more general violence, or if guns just take the place of other weapons.

Lance Thornblad
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@Michael - I don't know if more guns translates to more violence, in general, but I would guess it does. Guns certainly makes violence easier. Anyone can pull a trigger, but not just anyone can beat someone else to death with a sack of oranges.

Dimitri Del Castillo
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The US has laws limiting the liability that gun makers have when their weapons are responsible for a wrongful death. Any measure to make Video Game makers liable for gun deaths should be responded with pressure to remove gun maker's liability limits.

Fair is fair.

Kevin Alexander
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Or maybe we can respect the old dudes way back when who wished to bring in both free speech and the right to bare arms at THE TOP of that really important defining document list blog thingy from hundreds of years ago and defend them both?

Theirs age old reasons why both these things seem to come under attack in hindsight of most any tragedy in any culture, and maybe, just maybe protecting them BOTH is more important than singling either one out as more open to regulation than the other.

I can imagine if we regulate guns to complete obscurity, and tragedy still strikes, then all that would be left to blame would be creative freedom... We'd have to give thus up then as well.

We would be foolish not to try right?

Dimitri Del Castillo
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I'm not exactly sure what you are saying here, but let me clarify my statement. I'm not anti-2nd amendment. It would be a waste of time to try and change the constitution.

What I do support is the firearm industry take a greater share of the responsibility in their role of weapon proliferation. Especially if lawmakers are going to try and hold people in the entertainment industry accountable for wrongful deaths when all we do is sell entertainment.

Make the argument that guns don't kill people all you want, but if that is true then video games are even less of a factor in violent deaths. If the NRA wants to pursue that avenue then they have to expect those chickens to come home to roost.

As for gun regulation? Why shouldn't it be reasonable to regulate deadly weapons?

Ernest Adams
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Let me add that if Biden DIDN'T invite the game industry to the table, our harshest critics would say he was trying to protect us; and if we don't go, they'll say we're afraid of public debate. You don't win political arguments by sitting still and keeping your mouth shut.

Dimitri Del Castillo
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Let it be said as well, that the NRA's line of attack is not in the best interest of the video game industry seeing as they are trying to shift the blame on us. Hopefully we'll send some folks that will focus on the real issues surrounding gun violence like mental instability, ease of access, and the billions of dollars poured into their lobby.

Paul Peak
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@Dimitri

Indeed, I wonder if anyone from the pharmaceutical industry or anyone familiar with psychopharmacology are attending these meetings to raise the possible ill effects of drugging children and adults for years rather than utilizing time consuming psychiatric care might have.

Dimitri Del Castillo
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@Paul

Big Pharma is another beast that has to be dealt with as well. Drugging people into complacency doesn't seem to be the answer either. Ultimately the solution comes from participating in activities that benefit us all and having goals that contribute to the common need.

As gamers, we are all competitive by nature so this might be a hard concept to grasp, but the way I see it is we are never going to get off this planet and explore space if we have to worry about psychos with guns and bombs threatening our well being everyday. We in the gaming industry peddle fantasy and are capable of drawing the line between game and reality. If we are to be a space-faring culture, we are all going to have to see things that way.

Lance Thornblad
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Indeed, either protecting or excluding...

Michael DeFazio
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Send Jack Thompson to let him know we are taking this conference and any "concessions" seriously

Cordero W
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On a different topic:

"But no, this outreach by his office had nothing to do with learning more about the art and craft of video games, or what this industry can do for the country's economy, culture or creativity, or its potential to boost an interest in math, technology and science in the U.S.

No, this outreach, this long-overdue acknowledgment of this dynamic, burgeoning, creatively driven, highly-academic, highly commercial and cultural, billions-dollar industry was to get an answer for this question"

The game industry has to first have an interest to do this anyway. But that requires those in the industry to not be...you know, greedy.

Not to mention, I doubt the people in the industry care for such things to begin with. If you want them to help the economy, put regulations and taxes on games. It'll help the industry immensely.

Kevin Fishburne
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Two things. First politicians spend 33% of their time ensuring the continuity of their office and strengthening their party, 33% solving real problems and the rest of it waving their hands and pretending to be busy in order to look important and justify their existence. Whatever it appears Biden's trying to do, the rest of the iceberg is a different color than the protruding tip.

Second:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_preventable_causes_of_death#
Leading_causes_in_the_United_States

While innocent people being shot, especially children, is terribly sad and the "news" media's wet dream, in the painful world of preventable deaths it is statistically negligible. In 2007 three times more children and teenagers (ages 0 - 19) were killed in auto accidents than by firearms. Source: http://www.childdeathreview.org/nationalchildmortalitydata.htm I don't have stats to back this up, but I suspect the vast majority of these deaths were not due to mass shootings, but the usual suspects of street crime, gang violence and domestic violence.

Is it sexy to talk about poor parenting, public education and poverty driving people to lives of violent crime? How about causing a highway fatality because you're too lazy to use a turn signal or just had to answer that text message? Heart disease and cancer bring grief to more families on a daily basis than firearms ever will, but where's the excitement in discussing that?

The pain of a preventable death is the same, whatever the cause, and yet when the relatively rare incident of a maniac shooting up a school occurs, holy shit let's sound the alarms, let loose the dogs, and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! For the children! And Joe Biden is a grinning, loud-mouthed jackass. I think I'm sick of the discussion now, just had to get that off my chest.

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Ian Schreiber
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The difficulty here is that politicians are torn between doing things that have a real, positive, useful impact... and doing what their voting constituents tell them they want.

Like it or not, there's a whole lot of Americans demanding a national discussion of gun violence right now, and not a whole lot of people making noise about deaths by automobile crash, heart disease, or similar.

So... I'm not saying that Biden is totally clean and pure here, nor that he isn't complicit in the system. But if you're venting frustration that we're spending too much of our national attention on things that are so statistically rare that they barely rate as real problems (and I have the same frustration), start thinking of ways to educate voters en masse so that we stop demanding stupid things from our politicians.

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John Trauger
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Skipping by the debates after the first few:

What I think we all are agreed on is we do NOT want is a computer game version of the Comics Code Authority. That is where this is headed if "crazy shooter" gun violence gets blamed on computer games.

So yeah, some authoritative people should probably go tell Biden that games aren't his problem and we really can't help him. Let's not stigmatize those honestly trying to make this point, which is different than walking in sackcloth and ashes, ready to take blame we're not due.

Not being present, as appealing as it sounds, is not having one's voice heard.

Nathaniel Grundy
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People often lump those who play games and those who make games together, because let's face it: We've all been raised with video games. Not attending this meeting would send a message that game devs are societal outcasts who can't be bothered to partake in real world issues. Is that the message you want the world to hear?

Ian Schreiber
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If only the video game industry could take on the social stigma of the stereotypical gamer. WAAAAY better than being compared to gun manufacturers or tobacco companies or drug dealers.

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Robert Schmidt
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In the wake of the shooting there was a great deal of finger pointing. Right or wrong a finger was pointed at the game industry, specifically the creators of violent games. Biden needed to appear to be doing his due diligence by inviting the game industry to the table. I agree that providing Biden with a list of studies that show there is no link between violent video games and mass murder is the way to go. I also think it makes sense that if we are not part of the problem we don't belong at the table. At the same time, does this mean that the other groups at the table can throw their hands up and say, if the makers of grand theft auto don't need to be here then why do we need to be here? Perhaps we just need someone there to keep pointing to the science when the other groups start to feel the heat and try to deflect to us. Isn't this what ESA is supposed to do?

Ben Lippincott
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Late to the party, but we shouldn't be involving ourselves in highly caustic politics, on either side of this issue. We're not politicians, we're not looking to get political favors, and we shouldn't be willing to kneel to cencorship. These are the only things we could gain by dabbling with these temporary, posturing clowns. We have better things to do, like create things of value.

I won't claim to be an authority here but really, the people called have already made their choice. We really shouldn't continue to divide ourselves with meaningless speculation or bickering. A house divided against itself cannot stand. If the idea that games cause school shootings is even wavering in the minds of these partisan people, we need to come together and remember that we have a right to express ourselves as we choose. Games do not cause violence, we have no place in a blame game involving murders.

Ben Lippincott
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We can however ignore them. I'd say we would be validating their ignorant opinions by giving them any kind of response. Silence might be the best tactic. I could be wrong, but that seems to be what industry "leaders" have chosen to do. And I can respect and understand that position.

Ben Lippincott
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I concur, when you have people irrational, unsupported beliefs you shouldn't waste time arguing with them as it would be better spent speaking to plants. Silence can still be golden when those without those irrational ideas look at you and your opponent.

Larry Hendrix
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What we can't do is let personal and political ideology get in the way of what we're dealing with.

Someone need to be a t this meeting to tell VP Biden face to face that there is no correlation between video games and real world shootings in America.

Jonathan Murphy
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We don't involve ourselves with politics. Politicians involve us. We're a billion dollar industry that doesn't pay the protection money. Welcome to censorship in all it's glorious evil as it skips past addressing real issues to scapegoat.

Wait till they blame climate change, poverty, war on us. Don't think they won't?

Kevin Fishburne
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Off-color editorial:

Maybe someone should prototype a quick HTML5 game where the faster you press keys the faster Biden's head moves toward and away from the screen. It could be the democratically enumerated and most frequent response to the vice-presidential table's breadcrumb invite. For plausible deniability you could use the old 16-color EGA palette and say it was "Old Snake" from MGS (disinformation) and that it would be "a real stretch of the imagination" (FUD) to think it was an actual person being depicted. 1st rule of Fight Club: See Amendment I, or this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_free_speech_exceptions
#Fighting_words_and_offensive_speech

I say bring the pain. Accuse the industry. Find that boogeyman and try to burn it when you do. I want YouTube videos of officials being informed of the evidence and being enlightened despite themselves. Even the public at large would probably chuckle at such a schooling. Common sense will eventually prevail.

Matt Wilson
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You make good points, Kris. In any case, I think your article will be eclipsed by the rapid pace of these events.

Violence and ethics are things I struggle with placing in my own games. Every time I think it doesn't matter, I remind myself that militaries make training simulators out of games, teachers use games to educate children - why is it that games can do all these things but when it comes to promoting violence, we are suddenly powerless and find our efforts utterly without import? We seem to want it both ways!

Statistics are ultimately meaningless in this kind of discussion - as Kevin Fishburne commented above, the people who take their violence and madness too far are statistical outliers, thousandths of a percent. On the other hand, rookie pilots, students, actually /want/ to learn what games can teach them. Maybe that's the difference - most people don't desire to be mass murderers, but the odd outlier does?

Psychology in games and players seems ever more important.

Axel Cholewa
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If you can participate in the discussion at such a high level, I really don't see a reason why you shouldn't. Especially if you want social acceptance, refusing an invitation from the VP doesn't really help.

Daniel Martinez
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Well this was definitely an opinion piece...

Kevin Fishburne
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My well-aimed message to the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government of the United States was specially crafted: http://youtu.be/hZPjvdeQMtA I made it in Kdenlive this evening and tailored it specifically to their inflamed sensibilities. Do enjoy!

Glenn Sturgeon
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This may not help the discussion, but its funny to me to see the constitution mentioned (over & over) when taking a dump on the constitution and civil rights is one of the things our current Fed Gov does best. Its only second to borrowing & spending money.

As far as the topic goes, I think there should be a couple of people from the industry who speak with biden, if only to "defend the industry from the accusations LaPierre imposed upon it."
Yes it'd have been convenient to just send a letter stating the studies that have been done over the years which show VGs are not the beast they need to be hunting, but it didn't happen that way.
Having a couple of people confront biden with that very information, followed by a dose of reality about why such things possibly occur like economic stress, social issues, psychoactive drugs and mental health.
Along with (backed by the studies) making sure he realises the content in games is far from the issue if need be. The feds have thier agenda by calling the meeting, let the industry reps go with thier own agenda.
One homicidal, suicidal nut out of hundreds of millions of gamers is as far from the average as you can get. Its like saying the beatles music coused the manson "family" killings.
Thats just my 2cents.

Laura Stewart
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I'm willing to bet extending an invitation to the game industry was conditional to getting the NRA to the table.

While I appreciate the idea of making a statement by not going, not going to the table won't help stop regulations on games being traded for concessions from the NRA, so they can save face instead of being the primary impediment to reducing gun violence.

I'm not really concern the VP thinks video games have a causal link to gun violence. But I do think he's ruthless enough to throw us under the bus to get what he wants from the NRA.

Megan Swaine
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Gun violence isn't just the NRA's problem- it's EVERYBODY'S problem. Everybody should be thinking about solutions. By attending this meeting, industry leaders were acknowledging that they wanted to do something about it.

That's all.

This is no longer about causation or blame. People are trying to ask exactly WHAT role video games play (good OR bad) in all of this. We can either step up and try to answer, or we can ignore it and let someone else answer for us.

Michael Joseph
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"His group will also meet with representatives of the entertainment and video-game industries," Carney said

Representatives? I don't know who these people are, and since I haven't hired them they don't represent me at all. This is the problem with "industries." The goal of any industry is for a relatively few representatives of a few corporations to control an entire sector of the economy and then to work with the political class to shape it's future... will of the citizens be damned. Sounds a bit kooky I know. But I don't mean it in a global conspiracy sense. I mean it in the sense that it's the logical progression of businesses to try to consolidate power. It's human behavior.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cartel

Fortunately game dev hasn't been so easy to control because the distribution is still wide open.

If somebody wants to have a meeting, let them knock themselves out. Just hope they don't pretend to speak for anyone but themselves or the people they work for. Because it is ULTIMATELY this fear of not having any representation that is the root of the concern we express when we hear about politicians meeting with select individuals over issues and decisions that will affect our lives and the lives of millions of other people.

/mode -v Joe Citizen

Sean Kiley
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Joe is pandering to the old folks out there, such as himself, who think "those darn video games are ruining our country." Using tragedy to push an agenda.

And even if you went to this meeting, what would be the point? Yes mister Biden sir, I'll tell everyone to make cuddly, happy time games from now on, you got it!

Vahid Kazemi
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Sane people are never afraid of having a dialogue, unless they know they are guilty of course. I so don't get this argument: If you sit to talk about how to solve a problem then you state that you are part of the problem!

This kind of reasoning is the real issue that we have to sit and talk about! This doesn't get us anywhere. Of course everybody thinks they don't have anything to do with the problem and unless you start a conversation you will never know who's right!

Michael Joseph
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But we are never going to sit and talk about this. Why do you assume the so called industry representatives are speaking for you? Will there be transcripts of these talks made available to the public?

We're talking about it here though... and here is the best place to influence your peers. Maybe a few will decide to stop working on certain types of games voluntarily and instead work on games that educate as well as entertain.

Londin Gibson
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I agree with the writer. Sadly, legislation to reduce the violence in videogames would probably reduce gun sales until the next mass shooting. Once this happens, and the videogame industry is already "reformed", what will the NRA blame next?

Marylin Manson refused to respond when he was accused of Columbine and for those who haven't seen the interview I'll include the link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYApo2d8o_A

"Interviewer - If you were to talk directly to the victims of Columbine, what would you say to them?
Marilyn Manson - I wouldn't say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say because that is what no one did."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6n5Oi4714o - And this his him on Bill O'Reilly. At 5:50 he begins to talk about why he did not initially do any interviews when the Columbine shooting occurred.

Maybe meeting with politicians might be a decent idea, but any public response to the media or otherwise would be a bloodbath. Unless someone is strong enough to turn the blame on human error and make it convincing it would be unwise to take the NRA route.

Jonathan Adams
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I would be tempted to present Joe with a list of "problem" games that might promote or glorify violence:

* Madden (A game designed entirely around brutal conflict)
* Cabella's Big Game Hunter (A murder simulator if ever there was one)
* America's Army (A gun violence recruitment tool!)
* Scarface: The World is Yours (A shameless promotion of violence and criminal activity)

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Sean Austin
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Biden is a politician. This is about Politics. Laura has it right when she says:

"I'm not really concern the VP thinks video games have a causal link to gun violence. But I do think he's ruthless enough to throw us under the bus to get what he wants from the NRA."

What no one is talking about is the real issue: Mental Health.

Michael Joseph
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There is no will to truly talk about mental health. Because to do it justice we would have to talk about the culture of "winning", the culture of short term greed and unsustainability, the culture of mass incarceration, the culture of bullying, the culture of turning a blind eye to injustice, the culture of headphones and isolation and not making eye contact with passers-by, the culture of wars over resources, the culture of "sorry" for being caught and the keeping of ill gotten fortunes.

My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? ‘Forgive me my foul murder’?
That cannot be; since I am still possess’d
Of those effects for which I did the murder,
My crown, mine own ambition and my queen.
May one be pardon’d and retain the offence?
In the corrupted currents of this world
Offence’s gilded hand may shove by justice,
And oft ’tis seen the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law: but ’tis not so above


If there was a will to talk about mental health it would start with everyone looking in the mirror and acknowleding our own frailties. But instead we'll see an increase in measures designed to make us feel more secure. That's the only thing we are willing to do.

Tyler King
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I always find it interesting that video games are always focused on when these murders happen. And as tragic as it is, and it is, I don't see why people focus on this when there are relatively speaking very few actual killings compared to other forms of violence in schools and among teenagers.

http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/YV-DataSheet-a.pdf

Maybe instead of beating down everyone's doors when there is a huge problem like this we should focus on the smaller acts of violence that occur every day. Then maybe, as a nice consequence, we might lessen the amount of large acts of violence. Well less than 1% of the population will ever be exposed to a mass killing, but 32% of teenagers admit to being involved(not witnessing, being involved in) in violent acts(mainly school fights and what not).

I would think that lessening that number would go a long way to lowering the number of large incidents. I would also guess that those 32% of people involved in those violent events would not blame video games as what made them want to hurt other people.

Ramin Shokrizade
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After Columbine, Congress called in Professor Henry Jenkins to clarify if the murderers' play of DOOM contributed to their actions. He stated that this was not the case, and that the involved young men had an existing mental illness state and that their choice of games was coincidental.

I consider Dr. Jenkins to be one of my mentors, but now many years later I have to put it out there that if 50M of our people regularly play and are scored on their ability to perform a specific skill (in this case shooting a lot of people with a variety of guns) then I think it is safe to say that our consumers are learning a potentially real-world skill through the use of interactive media. I think this is one of the most powerful things about IM, that separates it from passive media like TV or movies.

I think if 50M people played games about cannibalism, and as an industry we made cannibalism games our most published genre of games, with dozens of iterations of cannibalism games trying to "out-connoisseur" each other, you might just see an effect on consumer behavior. Sure most right-minded people would find the subject of eating each other entertaining, but some few people might actually put the skills they had spent thousands of hours honing to good use.

If we saw an increase in the incidence of cannibalism in our society, I think it would be a bit cavalier to just say that we are not part of the problem and that it was totally coincidental that some sick individuals were copying our media content. Just because the subject is "guns" instead of "cannibalism" doesn't mean that this sacred cow should be completely ignored and denied by us.

Further, claiming that we are protected by the 1st Amendment does not absolve us of responsibility or even relevance on this topic. The same should go for proponents of the 2nd Amendment.

Justin Kwok
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Here are the two problems that I see with what this article proposes:

1. If any industry doesn't think they're involved and doesn't show up, nobody would. If you listen to the NRA, they don't believe that guns are even slightly to blame for gun violence. By virtue of the same argument, they would just refuse to show up as well. Might I point out that NOBODY at this meeting thinks that they're responsible.

2. The party without representation at a summit where they're trying to lay blame will always get all/most of the blame. It's just easier for everyone to band together and blame the absent party. If the NRA, Walmart, et al. show up to the summit but the Games Industry has no representation... it's easy for everyone to just say "Yup, it's videogames" without having to actually deal with the real root causes.

Ben Schlessman
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I would absolutely love the opportunity to meet with Biden and have a conversation about how games can be used to help shape our culture to be a less violent one. Simply meeting with him is absolutely not conceding anything or admitting anything at all. As many people have pointed out, skipping out on the meeting would mean that we no longer have a rational voice in the conversation. We need to be there to make our case, and help brainstorm possible solutions that the game industry can actually promote.

Erin OConnor
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Great reply.
I met him (Joe Biden) along with [former] Ohio governor Ted Strickland in Colmbus.
It was very brief however you would be pretty amazed at how they WANT to hear what people have to say (that includes the good, the bad and the ugly).

Jacob Germany
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Media are both affected by and affect culture. Culture, not mental health or guns, is the main cause of these mass killings (read various articles about mental health and killers, and how killers are almost exclusively white males).

Media, especially television, movies, and video games, have a unique and powerful potential to be incredible change agents for our culture. To change cultural ideas and norms and values.

How, then, do industry representatives not belong at a discussion about gun violence? What is gained by being left out of the conversation?

Chris Thompson
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Failing to appear in court doesn't prove your innocence.

Why would you turn down an opportunity to help enlighten those that seek to blame our industry out of ignorance. This position of non-cooperation is infantile.

It's like saying, "If you don't know, then I'm not telling you!"

Bob Allen
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The whole logic of "if the game industry shows up, it is admitting guilt or a link" is just stupid. Look at the different groups being invited. Yes they do include gun makers, gun retailers, the NRA, etc. but also included are religious leaders and psychologists. Do you think church leaders aren't going to show up because they believe that it's just a trap to blame school shootings on organized religion? Biden wants input from anyone who could possibly be involved. The game industry (like it or not) became involved the second the NRA leveled blame on the games industry (in its attempts to deflect any blame from themselves) and different news outlets repeated it. The only way to clear the air and set the record straight is to be there in person to state the facts and challenge any of the junk science that any of the other groups might try to offer. To not accept such an invitation would be as dumb as the guy whose being sued not showing up to his court date because he thinks showing up would be admitting guilt. That's not the "dignified" answer, that's just a way of getting a summary judgement against you.

Joshua Darlington
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"If you're among the "game industry leaders" entertaining this question in the court of the Vice President of the U.S.A. and his task force on gun control and violence, you, my well-meaning friend, are stating that you're part of the problem, and therefore, you are part of the problem."

Dunno, this seems like a great opportunity to get funding for a game story engine. One of the reasons that games are a concern for parents and etc is that there is no consequences for violence. It's the classic Ring of Gyges problem described in one of Plato's books. If some one can use an invisible ring - to escape the consequences of their action, it will corrupt their soul. Yes, this is the same idea used in the Invisible Man and the Lord of the Rings. The concern about violent video games is that it teaches kids that they can shoot 1000 people and face no consequences.

One of the reason there are no consequences in video games is that building a giant game world with simulated cause and effect is too expensive using today's tools. If there was a powerful game engine for simulation and story, there would be a lot more cause and effect, and a lot of dynamic emergent consequences for violence.

The game industry should hit Biden up for a NSF grant to develop a game engine for story and characterization.

Video games have their roots in military computers designed to generate ballistics tables. The gov helped create the problem of game violence, they can help to balance it.

Jeff Cary
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My two cents is that it doesn't matter if people within the video game industry believe they are at fault or not. If the majority of public perception believes that the industry has had an impact on the prior events than that is the reality. How the industry decides to deal with that perception is of the most importance. This perception that people have of the industry comes from the mass media who have just as much--very little--understanding of the industry.

Yet as a society we look to place blame rather than try to truly fix the situation. Instead of the main focus being on how to defend ourselves against violence, why not focus more on teaching not to commit violence. But alas, the money is in the self-defense not in the "cure."

Luis Guimaraes
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"Yet as a society we look to place blame rather than try to truly fix the situation."

Work on fixing the situation instead of giving up or trying to blame somebody: that's something video games teach us otherwise. Or at least used to be the case in the past.

Matt Lindquist
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This seems like a nutty argument to me. Look, say you're accused of a crime you didn't commit. What's the better choice: refusing to participate with the justice system and hope they understand that means you're innocent or hire a good lawyer, prepare a good case, and argue that case as best you can within that system?

Biden is one of the most powerful people in the country. Refusing a chance to sit down and make a case to him seems absurd to me. Refusing to participate means that the NRA, who IS participating, can point the finger at the games industry while the games industry, who isn't there, is completely unable to defend itself. Refusing to participate would not change the fact that Biden likely ALREADY BELIEVES that games are partially to blame. Most politicians, I think, do. The video game industry not showing up can only INCREASE that belief.

You're right. Video games are not to blame for this stuff. But the fact of the matter is, this isn't a matter of pure cold logic. This is a matter of people, with all their fear and confusion and emotions. This isn't a matter of what is or isn't true, it's a matter of what PEOPLE BELIEVE TO BE TRUE.

Not being there means that people who already believe you're guilty get to begin the process of policy making without your input or defense. Let me put it another way. Given the state of politics in this country it is very unlikely that truly comprehensive gun legislation can be passed. BUT the Obama administration and congress are still going to want to pass something to make it look like they actually want to solve the problem. Video games WILL be a part of that law making process in one form or another, because video games are something that BOTH parties can agree on.

Refusing to participate now, at the very beginning, means ceding complete control of that process to people who have everything to gain from attacking video games.

Stuart Moulder
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Like Ernest, I did respond and don't regret doing so.

Kris is right that the premise of reaching out to the games industry is almost certainly faulty and I made that point explicitly in my response.

But Kris, when someone makes an accusation or even just an invalid connection, simply folding our arms and shaking our heads and refusing to respond is not going to help. Not responding leaves the door wide open to having this committee move forward with their faulty assumptions. Whereas an industry that is engaged and involved and has a seat at the table has a shot at steering the conversation and the actions in a direction that is both more grounded in reality and more likely to yield fruitful action.

I won't speak out of turn for anyone else that responded, but I will tell you that without fail, respondents made the point that there is no connection between games (violent or otherwise) and acts of violence.

Finally Kris, an aspect of this that may not be obvious is that this committee has no doubt been charged with listening to all points of view on what might be behind these shootings. And responding in some way to those points of view, even if the response is: "We don't agree with this perspective." So the NRA is invited to the table. They have a POV. In the NRA's world view, ownership of guns has no relationship to these shootings. It's a POV; the committee is obligated to hear it. Doesn't mean they'll agree.

There is a POV that there is relationship between games and real-world violence. Is it correct? No. But if the committee is to make any headway with the actions they ARE going to recommend, they have to at least give of the appearance of having considered every perspective on this. And in that case, I'm much happier to have a chance to be a part of that dialogue then to leave it to others to drive the message.

Stuart Moulder, CEO, Her Interactive, stuart@herinteractive.com

Joshua Darlington
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Biden is required to take the voice of the NRA seriously as part of negotiating some sort of adjustment to gun laws. The NRA is the premier formal institution representing the gun industry. The NRA is trying to distract and change the subject by pointing the finger at the entertainment industry.

The video game industry should take part in the negotiation by first shooting down the NRA's argument, but also offering some sort of symbolic ground (like "no more badges for head shots") and also asking for something like tax breaks for more socially positive games or whatever.

Joshua Darlington
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wrong box

Justin Sawchuk
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I want to make an ultra violent video game next time just to piss off the commies lets make it about killing commies.

Joshua Darlington
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Good luck finding pinks to piss off. Might as well dedicate your life to attacking people with Ribose-5-phosphate isomerase deficiency.

Joshua Darlington
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"Come on Joshua, communists deserve it."

Communism may have made sense in the 1850s. I have no idea. But it would take some sort of freaky theatrical anachronist to pretend to be communist these days. How many of those are walking around? Griefing them seems eccentric.

Instead, I would recommend expanding the definition of "communist" to include anyone you don't like. That way you will have an endless list of people to attack. Maybe build the game, and anyone who doesn't like it is a "communist"

David Boudreau
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That's a bit hypocritical and irresponsible of you Kris to just point the finger at anyone besides yourself and your industry, and suggest shutting off meeting/communication altogether. Re: "A group that said you're all part of a 'shadow industry.' Lovely company, right? Well, here we are." Except your plan sounds like a great way to stay in those shadows.

Exhibit 1: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/184504/are_game_developers_
standing_up_.php

"The dark side also emerges when you talk to individual game developers about their working conditions and the risks that they face. Developers say that they face challenges with sustained long working hours ("crunch"), unlimited and unpaid overtime, poor work-life balance, high incidence of musculoskeletal disorders and burnout, unacknowledged intellectual property rights, limited crediting standards, non-compete and non-disclosure agreements, and limited or unsupported training opportunities."

Gregory Booth
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/Agree

Kris is mostly on point.

Strong opinions voiced here.

Imagine that, strong opinions re: politically charged topics.

What did Dirty Harry say about opinions?

Wylie Garvin
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@Mark:

He was probably referring to this quote from The Dead Pool (1988):
"Well, opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one."

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094963/quotes?qt0224931

Michel Desjardins
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I agree with the core of the article.

But, we have two choices about it:
1 - Be active
2 - Be passive

Not participating to the discussion is being passive. Passive to the extent that a third party (US Gov) will take decisions that can affect us.

Being active put ourselves on the radar, yes. But at we are involve and we have something to say and can influence and help shaping our future.

I would rather stay more in control by being active about it than let other people managing our life for us, while we play.

Brian Buchner
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What about fiction's obligations. Are authors portraying violence in their medium of choice going to be required to be there? Or do they get a free pass because it's an older medium?

Altug Isigan
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The whole discussion is absurd, mostly because of this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America%27s_Army
I think this is the only game that has been made with the purpose to put real guns into people's hands. And so is the NRA's purpose. So, why's the entertainment industry there?





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