News Column

Scripts and Guns: Violent Media in the 'Red Dawn' Age of 'Hunger Games'

Dec. 26, 2012

Thomas Hargrove

The school massacre has renewed discussions among politicians and researchers about how violent movies and video games affect the nation's youth.

Motion Picture Association of America Chairman Chris Dodd, who represented Connecticut in Congress for 36 years, said his industry felt horror and outrage at this senseless act of violence and promised to participate in White House discussions of how to respond to the slaughter of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Those of us in the motion picture and television industry want to do our part to help America heal, said Dodd. We stand ready to be part of the national conversation.

In response, Hollywood canceled or postponed the release of several violent films and television shows, including the scheduled premiere of director Quentin Tarantino's ultra-violent film Django Unchained and the Tom Cruise action movie Jack Reacher.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., called upon the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a new federal study into the impact of violent video games and other (media) content on children's well- being.

The video-game industry reports that recently released shooter- style games such as Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II helped propel worldwide sales to an estimated $4 billion last month, although that figure is down from Christmas sales in recent years.

At times like this, we need to take a comprehensive look at all the ways we can keep our kids safe, Rockefeller said. I have long expressed concern about the impact of the violent content our kids see and interact with every day.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said teenage boys and young men who commit mass murder often have an almost hypnotic involvement in some form of violence in our entertainment culture, particularly violent video games.

Police have not confirmed whether the shooter, Adam Lanza, played such games before fatally shooting 27 people, including his mother, Nancy Lanza, and then killing himself.

Researchers who've studied the issue are almost as violently divided as the games and films they monitor.

Violent video games increase aggressive thoughts through physiological arousal, concluded Brad Bushman, a professor of mass communication at The Ohio State University. People who have aggressive thoughts are much more likely to have aggressive behavior. This makes people numb to the pain and suffering of others.

Bushman was one of eight scholars from the United States and Japan who published an analysis in 2010 of dozens of studies conducted around the world into the effects of violent games on behavior. Asserting that video games absolutely lead to violent behavior, they wrote the public debate should move to question concerning how best to deal with this risk factor.

Chris Ferguson at the Texas A&M University's Department of Behavioral, Applied Sciences and Criminal Justice warns that Bushman and his colleagues should not be so quick to declare what science as learned.

Brad's study was not a very good one, Ferguson said. There was a selection bias. He and his colleagues didn't include many studies that did not find any effects from violent media.

Source: (C) 2012 The Commercial Appeal (2007-Current). via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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