Portrayals of violent acts in movies, TV series and video games have been a concern of the press and the politicos, ever since the video game industry proved it was here to stay – and it was going to wage its battles against censorship every step of the way. However, the situation seems to have shifted dramatically against the video game industry, in the wake of the recent Sandy Hook school shoot-out, which took place in mid-December 2012. Numerous solutions were then tossed about, from a stricter set of laws and regulations for gun control, to more severe censorship against depictions of violence that children and teens have access to.
The proponents of this crackdown against violence, among which a local Connecticut vigilante group called SouthingtonSOS, are all advocating the old view, according to which ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’. While the group has publicly stated that violent video games alone are not to be blamed for the Sandy Hook tragedy, its members are, nonetheless, organizing a massive local buyback of such means for interactive entertainment. Under the same banner, of fighting against the desensitization to bullying promoted by violent depictions in the media, Southington citizens have announced that they will hold a public burning of such titles.
However, at least one voice in the research community has risen against this initiative. Christopher J. Ferguson, a reputed psychologist and media expert, who is well known within the gaming community, as well as chairing the Psychology and Communication Department at the Texas A&M International University, disagrees with the otherwise well-meaning citizens of Southington. Ferguson previously made headlines, both in the gaming community, as well as in mainstream media, for questioning the hotly debated link between violence in real life and violent images in video games. Ferguson seems to be of the opinion that, if nothing else, there’s nothing wrong with interactive entertainment during a work break at www.ArcyDarty.com, or any other casual game portal.
In the particular case of the Connecticut crackdown, Ferguson has expressed his concern over the upcoming public burning of games. According to him, the Southington community may be sending out the wrong message – namely that violent video games are to blame for what happened at Sandy Hook. Not only will this perpetuate a pattern of ‘moral panic’, which, in Ferguson’s words, tends “to surround new media (often despite evidence media is not harmful, even if it may be offensive)”; it also risks to estrange and alienate local children from their parents, who are condoning the action against games. According to Ferguson, kids are likely to spot and sanction this manifestation of moral panic as misguided and misdirected. Understanding violence, he adds, is essential in figuring out what the best course of action is, in response to such events as the ones that took place at Sandy Hook.