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Originally published Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 4:00 PM

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Op-ed: Video-game industry not to blame for gun violence

There is no scientific proof that links video games and violent acts among people, writes guest columnist Jared M. Nieuwenhuis.

Special to The Times

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IN the aftermath of recent horrific shootings, especially after what took place in Newtown, Conn., the gun lobby and various U.S. senators have tried to shift the blame away from the real issues toward video games.

This needs to stop. There is no scientific proof that links video games and violent acts among people.

Christopher Ferguson, professor of psychology at Texas A&M International University, has researched the myriad studies that question whether video games lead to aggression.

His conclusion, according to a Jan. 17 article in video game blog Kotaku: “I think anybody who tells you that there’s any kind of consistency to the aggression research is lying to you,” he wrote. “It is not strong enough to draw any kind of causal, or even really correlational links between video game violence and aggression.”

We are not an industry that solely serves to entertain stereotypical teenage boys stuck in the basement playing video games until 4 a.m. hopped up on Mountain Dew and Cheetos.

Even if first-person shooter games such as “Halo,” “Call of Duty” and “Borderlands” contain violent action, they are not “the video game industry.” That specific genre is centered on gun and weapon combat through a first-person perspective, and is usually rated M, for mature players.

In fact, only 9 percent of all games in 2012 were rated M. The dominant category, as in the past, were titles rated E for everyone, at 45 percent. Some 22 percent of the games were rated E10+ for players ages 10 and up and 24 percent were rated Teen for those ages 13 and up.

Clearly, only a minority of games are first-person shooter games.

In reality, the gaming industry is more pervasive than many believe, with myriad gamers who don’t even identify as such. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average gamer is 30 years old, 47 percent of all players are women and women over age 18 are the fastest-growing player demographic. This includes those who play games such as “Words with Friends” or “Tetris” on their smartphones while waiting in the checkout line or games such as “Major Magnet” or “Angry Birds” on their iPad or tablet. Gamers include the millions of people who play “Farmville” or “Diamond Dash” every day on Facebook.

The video-game industry is much more complex and deep than the gun lobby and some politicians would have us believe. In fact, playing video games has been proved to offer numerous benefits, including improved dexterity, eyesight, education, physiotherapy, stress relief, improved multitasking abilities, increased IQ and faster response or reaction times.

Dr. Alan Weiss, president and chief executive of NCH Healthcare Systems in Florida, told Forbes.com in October that “being immersed in a video game ... can encourage creative solutions and adaptations [which] can then be applied to real life situations. The results can be surprisingly positive for individuals, communities, and society.”

Just like any other form of entertainment, there are a vast number of video-game choices. Don’t throw the whole industry under the bus because of a few games that happen to be violent. And even with those games, there is no proof that violent video games lead to violent acts.

Jared M. Nieuwenhuis is marketing director for Bellevue-based video game company Her Interactive, which markets its nonviolent games like “Nancy Drew.”


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