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Lawmakers renew calls for research into and regulation of violent video games

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Politicians renewed calls for research into, and regulation of, violent video games this week after a New York Daily News report suggested that Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza planned and executed the massacre with logic he learned from games, according to the Daily News.

The March 18 report was based on an anonymous law enforcement veteran who had heard a Connecticut State Police colonel speak about the police investigation into Lanza and the materials found at his home. According to the unnamed cop, the State Police believe Lanza was heavily influenced by video games in the way he planned and carried out the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"In today's world, where kids can access content 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," said Jay Rockefeller, a Democratic Senator from West Virginia who has long been critical of violence in entertainment and the media.

"The only real solution is for the entertainment industry to reduce the often obscene levels of violence in the products they sell," he added.

Rockefeller introduced a bill in the Senate three days after the Sandy Hook shooting that would have the National Academy of Sciences study the effects that "violent video games and other content" have on children. At the time, Rockefeller also called for the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission to reexamine regulation of the video game industry. While the bill died with the end of the 112th Congress in January, Rockefeller reintroduced it in the 113th Congress later that month.

"The only real solution is for the entertainment industry to reduce the often obscene levels of violence in the products they sell"

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa also lashed out at violent games and a perceived lack of regulation of them this week, saying, "There are too many video games that celebrate the mass killing of innocent people — games that despite attempts at industry self-regulation find their way into the hands of children."

President Barack Obama's package of efforts meant to combat gun violence, announced in mid-January, included a recommendation for a $10 million study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the relationship between video games, "media images" and violence.

A session during the Game Developers Conference next week will address this very issue. Presented by the International Game Developers Association, the panel "Scapegoats No More: Improving the Public Image of Games" will feature Georgia Tech professor Ian Bogost, former Epic Games president Dr. Mike Capps and game writer Daniel Greenberg.

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