Former White House ‘Video Game Czar’ Responds to Louisiana Shooting

The former White House "video game czar" (official title: senior policy analyst for the White House Office of Science and Technology) Constance Steinkuehler tells the Christian Science Monitor that the discussion about Grand Theft Auto's part in yesterday's shooting involving an 8-year-old in Louisiana is simply bait for pageviews and viewership because there's no research to support such claims.

"If you look at the state of research right now, there isn't a causal link between violent media and violent behaviors," said Steinkuehler. "That's contested in some corners," she adds. "You have to keep in mind that in much of that work that's trying to assert there's a positive relationship, it's pretty tenuous – showing, for example, that after 20 minutes of playing a game subjects have an increased likelihood to fill in a letter in a word that is EXPLO_E as 'EXPLODE' rather than 'EXPLORE.' …There are a lot of inferences that you have to draw in order for that to work."

Last year Steinkuehler served as the senior policy analyst for the White House Office of Science and Technology, where she briefed Vice President Joe Biden on violent media in the wake of the Sandy Hook School shooting in late Dec. of 2012. While Steinkuehler has serious doubts on research showing a link between games and violence, she won't entirely dismiss it either.

"If you want to hold the stance that games are a powerful vehicle for learning in subjects like social studies, or history, or science, or math, but not in terms of violence, or things that concern us … I find that argument difficult to swallow," she says. "I have a hard time dismissing the concerns of the public over violent media."

But she continues by saying that the thing that she finds most troubling about this research is that they "jump to variables like video games instead of the most obvious variables in the circumstances – there's a loaded gun in the house."

"There's an 8-year-old playing a mature title…. I find it an incredible distraction when something like this happens, and there's this incredible tragedy, that we jump to these variables that if they're part of the equation they're almost negligible," she says.

Steinkuehler believes that some of the most important factors fade to the background when the media reports on a video game-linked killing. These other factors, she says are important and need to be examined.

"It's amazing how quickly we'll jump to implausible explanations when the obvious ones are right in front of us," she says. "[We focus on video games] instead of worrying about things like poverty, safety in the home, making sure there are two parents in the home, making sure the media children consume are developmentally appropriate, and keeping them away from loaded guns," she says.

Finally, she says that solutions for youth violence are obvious but more complicated than banning or further regulating games like Grand Theft Auto.

"The obvious issues aren't as easily solvable and politically savory. You want to make a difference in children's lives? Address poverty, number one. Address the fact that children are homeless, and in unsafe environments. It's just not as politically sexy as claiming that GTA is murdering children."

Source: CS Monitor

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