Legislation Creating Commission to Study Video Games

Senator Brownsberger testified today before the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies in support of S168, a bill he filed to establish a special commission to study the impacts of video games on our society- and to investigate any connection between games simulating killing or battery and actual violence.

You can review the bill’s text and history in its entirety at this link.

The Senator also submitted the following written testimony:

I am writing in favor of S168, Resolve establishing a special commission to investigate video games as a form of media and as a training tool.

S168 would establish a special commission to provide a vehicle for researching and assembling evidence of the impact of video games in our society with a view towards making sure that any legislative proposals are evidence-based. In the wake of tragedies like Newtown, we should be investigating all of our options to make sound policy that may prevent future tragedies.

I hope you will report this bill favorably.

Dr. Michael Rich, the Director of the Center on Media and Child Health, provided an interesting and informed perspective. As reported by State House News Service reporter Matt Murphy, “Rich said it’s worth studying whether exposure to increased violence on television, in movies and through video games makes children more likely to engage in violent or aggressive behavior to resolve conflict in their own lives, not necessarily just the extreme outbursts of violence thay make the news.” You can read more about the Center on Media and Child Health here.

What do you think of this proposal?

Published by Anne Johnson Landry

Anne works as Committee Counsel and Policy Advisor to Senator Brownsberger.

2 replies on “Legislation Creating Commission to Study Video Games”

  1. Hi Anne:

    I am a psychologist and media researcher who, along with several other local media researchers in Mass and Conn, submitted testimony opposing the bill (and disagreeing with Dr. Rich). We’re not against research, of course, being researchers! Although the proposed bill, as we understood it, is not “research” per se, but rather a committee who would overlook the research and come to some kind of consensus statement. Our concerns were, in an emotionally charged environment and, given some concerns with language in the bill, there might be pressure to come to an a-priori conclusion (although we could be wrong of course…a similar committee put together in the state of Penn was honestly pretty reasonable in it’s conclusions).

    Further, the Investigative Report on the Sandy Hook shooting which launched a lot of these efforts revealed (as I think Sen. Brownsberger noted himself in a recent post) that Lanza’s video game playing was rather unremarkable for a 20-year-old…he played both violent and non-violent games as most young men do, but seemed particularly preoccupied with non-violent games like Dance, Dance Revolution.

    Also, as far as comprehensive reviews go, there have already been a couple rather good ones, such as that by the Australian Attorney General’s Office in 2010 and the Swedish Media Council in 2011.

    None of this implies any disrespect at all for Sen. Brownsberger. Quite the contrary. He and I have had a very cordial and productive exchange via email. I think there probably are some opportunities to be more proactive in promoting things like the ESRB ratings or parents being more involved in their children’s media lives. But we have to be careful about language that is “frightening” or insinuates potential harm when the research just is not available (despite the claims of some) to support such claims.

    I do appreciate Sen. Brownsberger’s recent post on these issues…it is a model for an “honest” argument…I may disagree with some of Sen. Brownsberger’s conclusions, but I think people who argue for their case as Sen. Brownsberger has done without resorting to hyperbole or distortions can and will be a productive part of these discussions…so long as they are willing to reach out to opposing views of course!

    Christopher J. Ferguson, Ph.D.
    Stetson University

  2. Professor Ferguson, thanks again for your thoughtful comments on this.

    I personally don’t have a view as to what, if any, policy changes would be appropriate with respect to video games. I certainly share instincts that some of these games are unhealthy, but I respect science and I don’t shoot from the hip on public policy questions. That’s why, when constituents brought the concern to me, I framed a study proposal, rather than actually proposing substantive legislation.

    Each legislature that considers the issue has to do some catch up to know the science that has gone before and that is the purpose of the study.

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