Vidgame Biz Launches PSA Campaign, But Key Lawmaker Calls It “Insufficient”

With lawmakers focusing in part on the role of video games following
the Newtown, Conn., school shootings in December, the video game
business is launching a new public service campaign focused on the
industry’s existing ratings system as well as parental controls.

While
the motion picture and broadcast business announced a PSA effort
several weeks ago, the video game industry has been singled out by
lawmakers, in part because of the interactivity of the play. President
Obama has called for a $10 million study of the impact of video games on
youth, along with a more general probe of the impact of viewing violent
“media images.”

The
Entertainment Software Assn., representing video game publishers, said
that the PSA campaign would appear on video game platforms and they
would encourage broadcast outlets to run the spots on local channels.
They also will provide the spots to news and fan discussion sites,
distribute to retailers for in-store and online channels and work with
lawmakers to extend the ratings to the “broader games ecosystem of smart
phones, tablets, and online social games.”

In the weeks following
the Newtown tragedy, the ESA has defended the industry and pointed to
research showing no causal link between virtual play and violent
behavior. But the reports that Adam Lanza, the shooter in the Sandy Hook
massacre, was an avid player of video games, have been cited by some
lawmakers who are proposing state-level action.

In
its announcement of the PSAs on Monday, the ESA included statements
from two lawmakers, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member of the
Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.),
chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. “I commend the industry
for raising awareness of the tools available to parents that can help
them make informed decisions about the games their children play,” Thune
said.

Vice President Joseph Biden’s office also appeared to
endorse the effort, as it send out a tweet pointing followers to an
explanation of the industry’s PSA campaign.

Michael
Gallagher, president and CEO of the ESA, said that the “campaign will
connect with consumers in an immediate and sustained way in addition to
the traditional mechanisms over TV outlets.” He noted that the Federal
Trade Commission, in its latest report on entertainment ratings system,
found that the video game business had the strongest self-regulatory
code. The ratings are overseen by the Entertainment Software Ratings
Board, which was established in 1994.

The industry has been
lobbying Capitol Hill, cautioning that the focus should be on other
solutions to gun violence and that the videogame business should not
shoulder the blame. In the wake of the Newtown shootings, the National
Rifle Assn. pointed to videogames as a symptom of the violent culture.

Nevertheless,
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce
Committee, called the PSA campaigns “not sufficient to protect our
children from dangerous exposure to violent content.

Rockefeller
has been a frequent critic of violence in the media, and has also called
for a study of the impact of videogame and media violence, to be
conducted by the National Academy of Sciences.

“In today’s world
where kids can play games across a variety of devices often without
parental supervision, it is unrealistic to assume that overworked and
stressed parents can prevent their kids from viewing inappropriate
content. I believe that the only real solution is for the entertainment
and software industries to reduce the often obscene levels of violence
in the products they sell.”

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