Oklahoma Game Developers Send Letter to Sen. Coburn for Supporting ‘Violent Content Research Act of 2013’

Oklahoma-based indie developer E. Zachary Knight and a number of other Oklahoma-based game developers have signed onto a letter asking Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn (R) to oppose Senator Jay Rockefeller's (D) Violent Content Research Act of 2013 (S. 134). The letter, which was sent to his office today, urges Sen. Coburn to oppose the bill on the grounds that it is wasteful spending – a topic he has been all too vocal about in the past.

Coburn's office is famous for the "Wastebook," an annual report launched in 2010 that highlights what he considers wasteful spending in Washington on "pork barrel" projects – money appropriated to Senators' "pet projects" via amendments to important bills. A majority of the time, these amendments are used as favors to get a Senator to vote for an important bill. In the past Sen. Coburn has highlighted research using games as wasteful spending, but seems keen to support Sen. Rockefeller's bill which will spend up to $10 million to find the link between violent media and real-world violence.

You can read the letter in its entirety below. If you would like to send a message to your Senator, you can visit this ECA page to get some help:

Dear Senator Coburn,

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has recently recommended S. 134 be sent to the Senate Floor to be voted on. This legislation would instruct the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on the connection between the “exposure to violent video games and video programming and harmful effects on children.” This legislation was introduced in the wake of several mass shootings across the United States.

As game developers and constituents of your home state of Oklahoma, we are concerned with the nature of this proposal and feel that it is a misguided effort to find a scapegoat for the troubling actions of an extreme minority of people. We are also confused as to your specific support for and cosponsoring of this proposal.

Since 2010, you have written and released an annual Wastebook highlighting areas of government spending that you feel could be cut. In each of these reports, you have highlighted specific studies of dubious value that the Federal Government has authorized spending on. In several of these instances, you have highlighted that this research has already been done in previous studies, both public and privately financed. Some areas of funding you have listed as part of the waste of government spending include the following:

-Several studies on World of Warcraft and Other Virtual Games
-Studying Political Talk Shows, elections and political candidates
-A study on the trustworthiness of Tweets.
-Studying the use of mobile electronics and social media use in college students.

With these examples and many many more, one would be excused in thinking that you were opposed to the further funding of research of dubious intent and value for the American public. This is why we are confused and concerned that you have signed on as a cosponsor of a proposal that would seek to find a connection between the play of violent games and the performance of violent acts.

Additionally, our concern is placed with the proposal’s primary sponsor, Senator Rockefeller. Senator Rockefeller has openly stated that he does not value the rulings of the US Supreme Court which in review of the studies provided to it by supporters of California’s video game regulations:

–The State’s evidence is not compelling. California relies primarily on the research of Dr. Craig Anderson and a few other research psychologists whose studies purport to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively (which would at least be a beginning). Instead, “[n]early all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology.”–

With Senator Rockefeller rejecting that opinion, he has clearly colored his own opinion and has tainted the validity of any research performed under the proposal.

We are also concerned with the inclusion of HHS, the FTC and the FCC in this proposal. With the inclusion of these agencies, the proposal would lead many to believe that the intent of this study is not to gather more unbiased information but to open the door to new regulations of video games. Many states have already attempted such regulations and each of those regulations have failed to pass constitutional muster in every court that has reviewed them. Why would we expect federal regulation to be any different?

Or is this perhaps an example of applying the methodology in one of the studies you have listed as wasteful spending, the imagining of a “bigger hole” in order to succeed? Is this proposal meant to be that “bigger hole” that will hopefully result in the regulation of video games that Senator Rockefeller and yourself desire? We would hope not.

While we are not opposed to further research into the effects of video games and other media on children and adults, we feel that such research is best performed without the influence of personal bias. We feel that such research would be impossible under the current bill and its sponsor.

With your history of fighting against spending on potentially unneeded and potentially wasteful studies, we wonder why you would associate yourself with a study that holds not just dubious value, but also bias by the very person proposing it. As developers of the games that would be impacted by this study and any regulations resulting from it, we would ask that you withdraw your support of this proposal and openly oppose its passage.


Zachary Knight
Chief Editor and Founder – Oklahoma Game Developers
Co-founder and Lead Developer – Divine Knight Gaming

James Simpson
CEO – GoldFire Studios, Inc

Robert Dishong
Founder and Lead Developer – Kinjah Games

Jakob Griffith
Game Developer – Fox Dash (Two)

Daniel Kole
Creator – StellarBrink

Robert Holman
Reia Interactive Studios.

Randy Kinsley
SkyHaven Studios

Ricky McNeal
Hardcore Gaming Events
OK Gamers

Christopher Gromek
Cowhouse Games

Tony Miller
Editor In Chief – Nintendo Okie

LouDonna Jefcoat, MSW

William Barr

Dan Hill
Web and Mobile Application Developer – Lawton Marketing Group Programming Assistant and Software Quality Assurance – Kemesa

[Full disclosure: E. Zachary Knight is a contributor to GamePolitics and a co-host of the Super Podcast Action Committee podcast. GamePolitics is an ECA publication]

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