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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  1. 0
    kratty says:

    FWIW, whoever said that her 18 month appointment ran out and she decided not to re-up was correct. She decided to come home and spend more time with her family (she has two young kids). She helped set up the current advisor in her former position, Mark DeLoura. It was amicable and she still does work & consulting for the WH, such as helping with the the Sandy Hook event. 

    Thanks to you all for making such a valuable site!

  2. 0
    Infophile says:

    There are plenty of ways to get rid of someone without firing them:

    1. Don't renew their contract.

    2. Ask them to resign (Very common when someone screws up badly in a political appointment).

    3. Promote them to a powerless position.

    4. Transfer them.

    5. Demote them.


    So let's not pretend firing is all there is.

  3. 0
    Davvolun says:

    Maybe you didn't get my /sarc tag?

    "Near constant" being saying the NRA was wrong and we can do more research?

    As long as you're apologizing, why don't you apologize for assuming I was too stupid to get that you were being sarcastic? Maybe apologize for the rest while you're at it. I'll hold my breath. /sarc

  4. 0
    E. Zachary Knight says:

    Ok. Well then. 

    they got rid of her through some other, magical means, I'm sure.

    Being fired is not the only way one leaves a job.

    I'm "getting at" exactly what I've been saying over and over, your first comment was bullshit,

    I'm "getting at" that my comment was humor that went well over your head.

    I'm "getting at" exactly what I've been saying over and over, your first comment was bullshit,

    I guess the near constant trashing of video games as a major part of the violence problem and then calling for special legislation to authorize research into a connection between violence in games and violence in real life when no other existing research has found such a link is all fine and dandy then.

    If my attempt at humor offended you that much, I am sorry. I was not making the comment to cause anyone to get their panties in a twist. I was just humorously expressing an opinion. 

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
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  5. 0
    Davvolun says:

    You're right, you didn't say she was fired, just implied that they got rid of her through some other, magical means, I'm sure. An incantation perhaps… /sarc (because apparently that's necessary? Oh right, I'm the one that doesn't get sarcasm…)

    I'm "getting at" exactly what I've been saying over and over, your first comment was bullshit, and you haven't done anything since that comment to make it any better. I don't know how many different ways I can state that.

    "The administration" is actually doing a better job of not scapegoating media and video games than most of the rest, and I get tired of coming to this site and seeing your snarky bullshit passed off as the truth. That doesn't pass off the White House as being a perfect harbinger of all that is right, but how about we place the blame for video game scapegoating at the feet of people *actually scapegoating video games.*

  6. 0
    Davvolun says:

    Arguing "I was being sarcastic" doesn't change a lie into truth and the whole thread doesn't add to the discussion. You're arguing this is the White House's fault because they fired someone with a sane opinion on the matter. This is false.

  7. 0
    RedMage says:

    Aw, be understanding, Zachary. The administration can't have logic or reason interrupting its compiling of political points, especially since they need a new scapegoat now that politicians have exploited Sandy Hook for all they could.

  8. 0
    Davvolun says:

    Very droll. Also untrue as it would appear she was on an 18-month assignment to the White House from UW-Madison, but I guess facts don't matter when you're scapegoating? I thought the problem with violent games research was scapegoating, but it's okay if you're using it?

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