April 26th, 2006

Michigan Senator Responds to Gamer Letters

GamePolitics readers continue to share letters they've received from U.S. Senators in response to e-mails sent through the Video Game Voters Network (VGVN).

This morning three GP'ers have sent in letters they received from Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). Levin, by the way, was recently named one of America's Top 10 Senators by Time magazine. Here's what Levin had to say to gamers who wrote to him:

"Thank you for contacting me about video game regulations. I am glad you shared your concerns with me."

"Following the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, attention was drawn to the increasing amount of violence to which youth are exposed. As a result, President Clinton ordered a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) study... This study found that while efforts were being made... these products were still being marketed to minors... A follow-up FTC report, conducted at the request of Congress in 2001, found that the video game and motion picture industries had scaled back their targeting of minors in ads."

"Current video game ratings systems are managed by private companies... As you may know, Senator Hilary Clinton introduced the Family Entertainment Protection Act (FEPA, S.2126)... This bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation where it awaits further consideration.
"

GP: Many thanks to GP readers Les Jenkins, Andrew Bakke and Johanna Kelly for sharing their responses from Sen. Levin.

Mom's Protest Forces Theater to Drop Violent Coin-op Games

Never underestimate the power of a Mom.

As reported by the Des Moines Register, a mother of two young children led a campaign which forced the removal of violent games from the arcade room of a local movie theater. The games weren't specified by name, but the news report mentions "zombies being blown to bloody bits," so perhaps House of the Dead...

Tracy Codel, the mother of 4- and 6-year-old boys, began the protest after discovering the violent games at the Century Theater in Jordan Creek Town Center. In a letter and a follow-up petition drive, she urged theater owners to remove the games and vowed not to see another film there until they had done so.

Although the coin-op machines had the appropriate warning labels, Codel did not see this as an effective way to prevent underage kids from playing.

"Even if I chose for my child not to play that game, the sounds and visuals were still present," she said. "This is like showing an R-rated movie to my kids if they're in there."

The Register article also quotes Iowa State professor Craig Anderson on game violence, despite the fact that his research has failed to impress federal court judges in recent constitutional cases over Michigan and Illinois' video game laws.

Tekken 5 remains following Codel's protest, but all other games in the arcade are rated as "suitable for all ages."

GP: Props to reader Mark b. for the heads-up on this one...

GP Reader Loves Her Pixelante Shirt, Sends Pic

Folks, we need to sell just 20 more Pixelante shirts to reach our goal of 150...

This morning we've got a great pic from Rachel, who describes herself as a faithful GP reader.

Thanks, Rachel!

If you haven't joined the Pixelante movement yet, do it today! All proceeds from the shirt sales benef the Get-Well Gamers Foundation.

Click here to check out these great shirts.

Video Games & School Shootings: Mania & Moderation

Is this week's apparent rash of school shooting plots related to video games, as some vocal critics would have it? Or, are other factors at play, in particular the Columbine anniversary, April 20th?

Among law enforcement officials, sources tell GP that the Columbine anniversary is closely monitored for its possible inspiration of copycat massacres. And what of those would-be copycats? What social and psychological factors motivate them?

Columbine killer Eric Harris, for example, suffered from depression and was taking medication. He was also an angry teenager, had recently broken up with a girlfriend and had been turned down in his longtime dream to enter the Marine Corps. He was suicidal and fascinated with guns.

GP: random thought - why does the National Rifle Association escape blame? Actor Charlton Heston was NRA president at the time of Columbine. Why is Michael Moore the only prominent social critic blaming guns instead of games?

Back on topic, GP finds rather appalling a comment made by serial video game critic Dave Grossman (seen at left) in a news report by WISH-TV8 (Indianapolis). Grossman made his remarks during a school safety summit sponsored by the Indiana School Safety Specialist Academy:

"The desire of the kids to commit this stuff is at levels we've never seen before," Grossman said. "The new ingredient in the equation is media violence, television, movies and especially the video games."

Especially the video games...

Meanwhile, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, there is a surprising degree of official reserve concerning an apparent game connection to a 17-year-old student who briefly held a teacher and another student hostage at gunpoint, firing a shot through a window during the incident.

As reported by the News-Observer, 17-year-old William Barrett Foster faces multiple criminal charges based on the incident. He left the school prior to the arrival of police and his mother immediately placed him into a hospital. Although the news report does not specify, it's likely that he is receiving psychological treatment, since no physical injuries are mentioned.

While one student described Foster as "one of those rebel kids," others told the newspaper he was a nice but quiet kid into skateboarding and video games, especially Halo. Foster's younger brother is so skilled at the popular Xbox shooter that he plays competitively and is paid to tutor others in mastering the game.

But here's the refreshing viewpoint expressed in the News-Observer report:

"...experts cautioned against linking video-game playing and school violence. Typically there are warning signs and other symptoms besides video-game playing, said Gregg O. McCrary, a retired FBI agent who trained teachers and police on what to look for to prevent juvenile violence. McCrary now has a consulting business, Behavioral Criminology International."

"'Not everybody who plays a violent video game or watches a violent movie is violent,' he said, adding, 'More people play video games who are not violent.
'"

Some Good News From Miami - Video Games Burn Calories

Video games take the rap for a lot of social ills these days, including contributing to America's obesity epidemic.

But according to a report in the The Age, a researcher at the University of Miami claims video games help kids 7 to 10-years old burn calories.

In an article for the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Dr.
Arlette Perry
(left) claims that playing video games give children a physical workout equivalent to walking or cycling. Dr. Perry's study found that the heart rates and breathing of study subjects sped up during play and the kids burned more energy.

Dr. Perry concludes that playing games might actually stop the onset of childhood obesity and recommends gaming no longer be classified as a sedentary pastime.

GP: You know, I often wondered if I was burning any calories as my WoW character ran from Ironforge to Gnomeregan.