Violent video games featuring multiple killings and assorted other mayhem aren't advisable for children. But should they be banned or otherwise restricted by the state? That's the subject of bills recently introduced in the General Assembly.
The proposed measures, all put forth in the wake of December's killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, are well-intentioned but misguided. Studies attempting to show a link between video games and real-life violence are famously contradictory and inconclusive. Legislators' energies would be better spent pursuing other ways to curb gun violence.
The bills were introduced following reports that the Newtown killer, Adam Lanza, had played violent video games for hours. If so, that would make him no different from countless other teenagers.
One bill would ban minors from playing so-called "point-and-shoot" games in arcades and other public places such as movie theater lobbies. Its sponsor, state Sen. Toni Harp, notes that many arcade-type games feature devices shaped like guns, while most home video setups use joysticks.
That distinction may be fading, as manufacturers continue to introduce gun-shaped controllers for home use. In any case, the vast majority of video games are played at home, not in the few remaining arcades. It is doubtful that such a ban would make much of a difference, regardless of how the gamer controls the action.
Another bill, proposed by state Sen. L. Scott Frantz, would create a task force to examine the impact of video games. What, more research? Literally, hundreds of studies have been done on this very question over the years — with no consensus on a video-violence link.
In 2005, California legislators passed a law banning the sale of violent video games to children; it was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court six years later. In writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia noted that over the years, comic books, movies, TV, pop music, and even Grimm's fairy tales had been condemned as too violent.