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Speaker Targets Video Games For Deals With Gunmakers

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 20, 2013 11:49am
(6) Comments | Commenting has expired

CTNJ File Photo

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey

In a Tuesday statement, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey called upon video game publishers to stop promoting military-grade weapons in their games by entering into product placement deals with firearms manufacturers. 

Sharkey sent letters on Aug. 14 to executives at three different game publishers and to the Entertainment Software Association, calling on them to end firearm product placement agreements in video games. He said the appearance of real-life weapons in games may have contributed to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December.

“Games designed to recreate the experience of wartime carnage and criminal violence constitute protected speech under the provisions of the First Amendment,” Sharkey wrote. “But there is little to be said in defense of an industry-wide practice of arranging licensing deals with gun manufacturers for the rights to use the make, model, and visual design specifications of their real-life weapons.”

Sharkey’s letter went to executives at Blizzard Activision, Take-Two Interactive, and Valve Corporation. In the letter, he cited reports that the shooter in the Sandy Hook incident had been an avid player of Call of Duty games. That series is published by Activision.

Call of Duty Screengrab “The industry practice of video game publishers entering into licensing, marketing, or other financial arrangements to feature real guns in their games blurs the lines between fiction and reality in ways that can have tragic consequences,” Sharkey wrote.

According to the letter, Electronic Arts, a major video game developer and publisher, announced earlier this year it would sever licensing connections with gun manufacturers. Sharkey said he hoped that the move would become an “industry standard” against the “reckless practice.”

But according to a report Sharkey cited, the move will not be not much of a departure for EA, which plans to continue featuring the weapons just without a formal agreement with gun manufacturers.

“In May of this year, Electronic Arts announced that it would sever its licensing connections to all gun manufacturers, although the company claimed that it would continue to use the guns’ brand and model names, and their likeness in the games, citing First Amendment and fair-use laws in justification,” a June report released by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and The Gun Truth Project said.

Lawmakers proposed several bills during this year’s legislative session pertaining to violence in video games. They ranged from a proposal to place a tax on games rated for mature audiences to calls for a task force to look for a link between video-game violence and violent behavior in kids. Ultimately none of the proposals were passed into law.

There is little scientific evidence suggesting a link between video games and acts of violence. In response to one of this year’s legislative proposals, Christopher J. Ferguson, a psychology and criminal justice professor at Texas A&M International University, wrote to lawmakers saying real life violence has dropped as virtual violence has increased.

“There is no evidence for a correlation between societal violence and the media culture consumed by that society,” he said.

In his letter, Sharkey acknowledges the lack of research showing a connection. But he said there is a connection between the video game industry and firearm manufacturers.

“We have to take steps to institute meaningful change in the way we portray, and effectively market, assault weapons to children and young adults,” he wrote.

The Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and The Gun Truth Project report suggests that the deals between publishers and gun manufacturers effectively amount to a promotional campaign for firearms. According to Sharkey’s office, the group reached out to the speaker, who was “shocked and dismayed” to hear of the licensing agreements.

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(6) Comments

posted by: cnj-david | August 20, 2013  12:50pm

So despite any scientific evidence connecting videogames and violence, Sharkey wants changes made because “The Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America” reached out to him…

posted by: dano860 | August 20, 2013  1:24pm

“There is no evidence for a correlation between societal violence and the media culture consumed by that society,” he said.(Ferguson)
So with no sound evidence,  reports or studies Mr. Sharkey sees the problem!?
The shootings we read and hear about on a daily basis have ZERO relationship to video games. When was the last time you saw one called, “Drug Gang Bustas” or “You Dis Me and I Cap You”.
Brendan, you are pushing a chain up the sidewalk, even if you do it…so what! Nothing changes.

posted by: ASTANVET | August 20, 2013  2:23pm

You know I wonder sometimes who Mr. Sharkey thinks is responsible for the children of this state - because it surely isn’t the parents!  How about he worry about the spending and deficits he has helped rack up and not the private relationship between parents and their kids, or the private dealings between two companies.  At least this is proof that he has run out of things to screw up through the legislative process.  Why is it that he only cares about the kids when it is about video games and their realism?  He doesn’t care that the school system through a series of state and federal regulations are failing our kids… he doesn’t care that for every tax and spend program he puts on the floor, the borrowing and the debt.  Those kids will have to pay all that back via taxes for generations to come… naaaaa… it’s all about call of duty, and modern warfare and some zombie game.

posted by: art vandelay | August 20, 2013  2:50pm

art vandelay

Speaker Sharkey should concentrate his efforts on convincing cell phone makers to install motion deactivation devices on the products they sell.  More people are killed driving while texting or using cell phones than by all guns manufactured in this country or abroad.  Speaker Sharkey in the next legislative should introduce legislation banning the sale of hand held devices in the state without a motion detection chip.

posted by: Noteworthy | August 20, 2013  8:40pm

When Speaker Keno repeals this addictive game that will prey on the poor - maybe he can ask video gamers to amend their ways. But frankly, Speaker Keno should mind his own business. After gutting campaign finance reforms, overseeing a culture of corruption and doing nothing about it - sorry, this late summer preening is just a bit of nanny too far. What a poser.

posted by: We are the Constitution state before we are nutmeg | August 21, 2013  2:26pm

I’m sorry, I thought ESRB rates video games by maturity and age level.  If a parent has a problem with a video game or graphic violence in movies, PARENT!  All this article says is that certain legislators have way too much free time.  even if your child is older than 17, if they live in your household, you as the parent still have control over the kid…. and if your kid does not like your rules, let him/her try to live on their own.  If anyone should be punished it should be the parents and politicians, not people who enjoy playing video games as a hobby.  are video games really the number one priority for the speaker of the house?  All of this is a publicity stunt to get the people of Connecticut away from the real problems, like our state deficit or unemployment/underemployment, government agency redundancies….just to name a few.