Add Pennsylvania to the list of states examining the video game violence issue.
As reported by the Harrisburg Patriot-News a committee of the Pennsylvania House held a hearing in late August to consider the effects of violent games on children.
Rep. Ronald Waters (D) said, "I watch young people play these games, and they play them for long periods of time. It's hard for me to watch that kind of activity without wondering what kind of effects it's having on them. What are we doing subliminally to our children that we allow them to entertain themselves with this type of activity..."
Waters expressed concerns about Grand Theft Auto and worried that the ESRB rating system might not be working at the retail level. Although he would support video game legislation, Waters was more interested in research similar to the federal government's proposed CAMRA study.
"I'm just asking for a study," Waters said. "Whatever the outcome of the study is, I'm willing to accept it. If we find that there is no consequences of this, then I will be someone who will say 'OK, I accept the study.' But if the study says yes, there are things we need to alarm parents about, then we need to make sure that parents know that."
Child psychologist Marolyn Morford of State College told the Patriot-News, "You can never predict human behavior 100 percent, but you can talk about probabilities, and it is more likely that [children] would engage in an antisocial behavior if that behavior is reinforced for them over many hours and if their cohort also supports those sorts of behaviors. That's how games operate."
Morford, who uses The Sims and other games to help socially phobic patients, does not see legislation as the answer, but rather increased education and awareness on the learning effects of games.
"There is entertainment, but there's also learning that's going on, and I think that anybody who ignores the learning factor is ignoring a very powerful motivating dimension of that experience," Morford said. "I would like the gaming industry to not be so stupid and ignorant or act like they're so ignorant, that this is just like watching a violent movie and not recognizing what kind of power they do have and how they can play into people's weaknesses."
Clay Calvert of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment testified before the committee.
"The Legislature is right to be concerned about violence in society," said Calvert. "They are right to be concerned about violence in the media. The question is what is really the answer and from my perspective, I don't think legislation is. The Legislature in Pennsylvania is stepping deeply into the culture wars when it decides to legislate about violent video games."
Calvert praised the committee for keeping an open-mind.
"This was not a hostile group of people," he said. "They seemed like they were genuinely interested in these issues. I think they wanted to learn about the situation. So I give them credit for having an open mind going in. It wasn't 'bash the video game industry day.'"