Let the scapegoating continue. Adam Lanza, the person who shot and killed 26 people at Sandy Hook elementaryin Connecticut last month, reportedly played Call of Duty, among other games. So for quite a while now, pundits and politicians have been drawing links between his heinous actions and the video games he played.
Most recently we have Senator Chris Murphy, a newly-elected Democrat in CT, who spoke yesterday during a press conference to introduce a bill on assault weapons.
“I think there’s a question as to whether he would’ve even driven in his mother’s car in the first place if he didn’t have access to a weapon that he saw in video games that gave him a false sense of courage about what he could do that day,” the senator said.
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that there was no proof that violent video games caused minors to act violently, the video game industry believed an age-old debate was finally over. But in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook killings, the video industry is once again under scrutiny. This time, President Obama’s gun control initiative includes funding a new, $10 million study on violence in entertainment, including video games.
And that’s not all. Since the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, lawmakers in Missouri and Utah have introduced bills that would levy a tax on violent video game sales and make it a crime to sell certain games to minors.
State Sen. Leland Yee, who authored the 2005 California bill to ban sales of ultra-violent video games only to have the Supreme Court rule it unconstitutional, still vehemently believes the issue is a “public health matter.”
“Gamers have got to just quiet down,” Yee, D-San Francisco, said in an interview Tuesday. “Gamers have no credibility in this argument. This is all about their lust for violence and the industry’s lust for money. This is a billion-dollar industry. This is about their self-interest.”
While those kinds of sentiments anger many game players, who believe their favorite pastime is once again being made a scapegoat for violent behavior, the industry may only have itself to blame for attracting critics. After all, some of the most profitable games in the $7 billion industry – the ones that developers most heavily promote and advertise – are violent first-person shooter/slasher games like “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” and “Assassin’s Creed III.”
“It’s not all about shooting people in the head and guts everywhere, but that’s what the public perception is, and probably rightfully so,” said Kris Graft, editor-in-chief of the San Francisco-based site Gamasutra, which along with its print magazine sibling, Game Developer, covers the video game industry. “There is plenty of diversity in video games, but I don’t think it’s being highlighted enough.”
Indeed, a list of last year’s top 10 best-selling games, according to the research firm NPD Group, shows an equal mix of first-person shooters – which traditionally cater to the industry’s most loyal audience of hard-core gamers – and the sports and dance games that can’t be considered violent.
The best-selling game was the latest installment of the war simulation “Call of Duty” franchise from Activision of Santa Monica. In third place was “Halo 3,” from a Microsoft subsidiary, 343 Industries of Kirkland, Wash., and in fourth place was “Assassin’s Creed III” from France-based Ubisoft Entertainment, which has its North American headquarters in San Francisco.