Should violent games be banned like the illegal and addictive narcotic heroin?
That suggestion was made recently to the Virginia Tech Review Panel, an elite commission appointed by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine to study the April 16th school shooting rampage committed by madman Cho Seung-Hui.
The panel, composed of a variety of experts and specialists as well as former Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, held its first public meeting in Richmond on May 10th. Among those testifying was Don Phau, a member of former fringe presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche’s political action committee.
Much has been written about LaRouche and his movement over the years, but little of that material is germane to GamePolitics’ editorial focus. Phau’s testimony before the VT Review Panel, however, is something that merits a look.
Speaking near the end of the May 10th hearing, Phau began by recounting Miami attorney Jack Thompson’s claims that Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui was motivated to commit the killings by playing Counter-strike. Phau also mentioned the Washington Post’s initial report that Cho played the game, a reference that was later deleted by the newspaper.
Like Thompson, Phau also cited the 2002 Erfurt school shooting and the killer’s play of Counter-strike. In addition, Phau referenced game violence critic David Grossman and his writings about video game violence. In speaking about first-person shooter games, Phau said:
[FPS games] were developed after the Vietnam War… But the video game industry in the year 2000… when we had the Y2K phenomenon, the video game industry decided to make a lot of money. They developed the first-person shooter games and Counter-strike was developed by Microsoft.
GP: There’s a good bit of misinformation packed into that paragraph. It’s true that FPS games were developed after the Vietnam War – about 20 years after – with id Software’s 1992 release of Wolfenstein 3-D. At the same time Phau seems to be saying that the FPS genre was created in 2000, which is obviously incorrect.
Nor did Microsoft develop Counter-strike, as Phau states, although an Xbox version was published under the MS label in 2003. This misinformation was also put forth by Thompson around the time of the Virginia Tech massacre.
Phau also seems to be drawing on Grossman’s frequent assertion that FPS games are used by the military to break down recruits’ inhibition to kill. However a recent book by ABC news reporter John Stossel disputes Grossman’s claim.
These games, I propose, should be banned. The same way you cannot buy heroin; the same way you cannot be a 16-year-old and buy pornography.
Phau also incorrectly cites statistics on the ability of underage buyers to purchase M-rated games:
82% of games rated M… 82% of kids can buy these games. You can go to Wal-mart. You can go to Best Buy and buy them.
Actually, due to increased retail ratings enforcement efforts, the most recent (April, 2007) figure from the Federal Trade Commission is 42%. It was 85% in the year 2000 and 78% in 2001, which is what Phau may be referring to.
GP readers can watch a video of Phau’s testimony before the Virginia Tech Review Panel on the C-SPAN website (skip ahead to 3:26:30 for Phau). If you’d just like to hear the audio, GamePolitics has created a six-minute mp3 of Phau’s testimony.
The LaRouche camp touts Phau’s appearance before the panel on its website, echoing his call to ban violent games. Among other projects listed on the site is one entitled Destroy Al Gore. Readers will also find The Cheneyites and the Killer-Trainer Lobby, a lengthy article that sees collusion between the government and the video game industry in just about every corner.
In regard to the LaRouche material, it’s hard to miss the group’s overlap in ideas with those of Jack Thompson. GamePolitics recently asked the anti-game attorney if he was working with the LaRouche team on video game issues. His terse answer:
I have nothing to do with LaRouche’s people.