The video game lobby on Monday announced a new campaign that will include a series of public service announcements aimed at parents — the industry’s latest response to the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., that some have linked to violent media.
After a 20-year-old gunman killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school, President Barack Obama, many members of Congress and local mayors and police called for new gun control measures. But violent video games also came under the microscope. Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., introduced a bill calling for a study of such games and whether they contribute to real-life violence.
The industry and its lobby, the Entertainment Software Association, maintain its products do not cause shooting sprees or other violent crimes. But it’s been on the defensive since the National Rifle Association, in opposing proposed gun safety measures, pegged violent video games as a culprit in such mass murders.
“By channeling our industry’s compelling and innovative medium, we will instantly provide proven, practical, and effective information to millions of consumers,” said Michael Gallagher, president of the Entertainment Software Association, in a statement.
The campaign’s focal point will be the PSAs “encouraging parents to review” the industry’s ratings of games and to “utilize existing video game console parental controls.” The ratings system, which has existed since 1994, has seven categories — an “M” rating, for example, denotes content generally suitable for ages 17 and up that may contain intense violence, blood, gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
It is not likely to silence criticism from the gun lobby or critics on Capitol Hill such as Rockefeller, who has already dismissed as inadequate a similar campaign backed by Hollywood studios, broadcasters and other players in the entertainment sector. Rockefeller has said that stressed parents can only manage so much content.
But at least two members of Congress — Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican who is ranking member of Rockefeller’s committee and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. — applauded the gaming industry in the ESA’s own press release.
“No one knows better than parents when it comes to making decisions about which games their children should and should not play,” Thune said in the release. “The video game industry makes games for people of all ages, but that doesn’t mean all games are appropriate for everyone. 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.”
The video gamers also pledged to use their own industry’s platforms to promote the PSAs and similar messages; to coordinate with retailers to “educate” customers about the ratings and parental controls, and to work with policymakers to extend the ratings system to games on smart phones, tablets and online social games.
For her part, Wasserman Schultz said: “I commend the video game industry for recognizing the importance of educating and engaging parents about the ratings and other resources and for leading a national program that will ensure the decision-making power remains where it should be — with parents.”