Biden: No ‘judgment’ of vidgame biz at violence meet

Veep gathers with execs as he preps proposals on gun policy

Vice President Joseph Biden met with representatives from the videogame business on Friday, the second of his meetings with entertainment industry officials as he prepares a list of recommendations for President Obama on stemming gun violence.

In a press availability, Biden said at the start of the session, “I come to this meeting with no judgment. You all know the judgment other people have made.” He suggested that he would be listening to ideas from the industry execs.

He also raised the question of whether there was a “coarsening of our culture,” and then said, “I do not know the answer to that question.”

The videogame industry has defended itself, not only as protected by the First Amendment but also as supported by research showing inclusive results when it comes to connecting virtual violence to real-life mayhem.

According to a statement issued later on Friday by the Entertainment Software Assn., reps from the vidgame industry “expressed in the meeting that the United States Supreme Court recently affirmed that the independent, scientific research conducted to date has found no causal connection between video games and real-life violence.”

The org added, “We also recognized that gun violence is a serious problem in our country. We are saddened by the recent tragic events, and as an industry integral to the social and cultural fabric of America, we look forward to continuing our engagement with government officials and policymakers focused on meaningful solutions.”

Retailer GameStop also had a representative at the meeting, and the company said afterward that Biden “opened a thoughtful dialogue today and we look forward to continuing that dialogue with the administration and our industry partners.”

In the Cordell Hull room in the Old Executive Office Building, Biden sat next to John Riccitiello of Electronic Arts and Michael Gallagher, prexy-CEO of the ESA. Also at the table were Attorney General Eric Holder and Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, in addition to other reps from Activision Blizzard, Inc., E-Line Media, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, Epic Games, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, Take-Two Interactive, Texas A&M, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Zenimax Media.

“We know that there is no silver bullet,” Biden said, indicating that he would present a list of recommendations to Obama by Tuesday.

The National Rifle Assn., in their initial press appearance following the Newtown, Conn., placed blame on the media and violent videogames for mayhem in society, even as the industry itself pointed to research showing that the impact of such violence is either inconclusive or not supported by evidence. In the 2011 Supreme Court decision striking down California’s violent videogame law, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing the majority opinion, dismissed and even mocked the research that has been done on videogame violence.

But parents orgs have cited a correlation between the type of interactive violence in games and aggression among children and adolescents, and such orgs as the American Medical Assn. and the American Academy of Pediatrics. have advanced the view that the effects of extended play can be harmful, even if that falls short of establishing a connection to real-life Software violence.

Common Sense Media also has called on the Federal Trade Commission to require that the gun industry “explicitly and transparently reveal all product placements and other marketing practices and tie-ins with the video-game industry.” It was in response to a New York Times report, following the Newtown shootings and the NRA press conference, on the connections between the gun industry and game makers in developing violent games.

One org that was not represented at Friday’s meeting was the Entertainment Merchants Assn., which challenged California’s videogame law. But the org’s interim president, Mark Fisher, sent Biden a four-page letter earlier this week, in which he said that “blaming movies and video games is an attempt to distract the attention of the public and the media from meaningful action that will keep our children safer.” He defended the effectiveness of the voluntary videogame ratings system, citing a recent FTC report, and pointed to the Supreme Court decision as a reason why “it seems clear that government restrictions on the dissemination of depictions of violence are impermissible.” He also said that a “multitude of previous studies” had shown that “depictions of violence have a de minimus impact on real-world violence,” and government probes over the past decade have not identified media sources among the factors in causing shooting rampages at schools.

Biden met on Thursday evening with representatives from the movie and TV business, in a session that delved into the voluntary ratings. Afterward, five entertainment trade associations and the DGA issued a joint statement saying that they “look forward to doing our part to seek meaningful solutions.” On Friday, Biden called the meeting “very productive” and said that the reps who were there offered “some very constructive ideas.”

Coincidentally, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) announced on Friday that he would not run for another term. The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Rockefeller has proposed that the National Academy of Sciences conduct a comprehensive study of the impact of virtual violence in videogames on real-life aggression among children and teens, Rockefeller has been a leading advocate on the issue of media violence, and once proposed that the FCC be given the authority to regulate it in the same way that it polices indecency.