Nearly three months ago, a group of game developers and other concerned constituents in Oklahoma sent a joint letter to Senator Tom Coburn, cosponsor of S 134 Violent Content Research Act of 2013. In that letter, they expressed concern over the bill's sponsor, Senator Rockefeller, and the potential of this bill to lead to further attempts at game regulation.
Senator Coburn responded yesterday to that letter attempting to calm the fears that Senator Rockefeller might bias any studies and that the bill would not add to the current spending levels of the government.
In response to the fears of Senator Rockefeller's known bias against games, Senator Coburn wrote the following:
I understand you are concerned the study would be influenced by the personal opinions of Senator Rockefeller, as the bill’s sponsor. However, I assure you that Senator Rockefeller would have no influence over the results of the research simply because he is proposing the bill. The research would be done independently by NAS, which is structured to be objective and nonpartisan. NAS adheres to strict standards of scientific and technical quality, and the agency demonstrates that checks and balances are applied to protect the integrity of all its studies. You can review the guidelines followed for every study online here: http://www.nationalacademies.org/studyprocess/index.html. You can also read more about the governance of NAS online here: http://www.nasonline.org/about-nas/leadership/nas-council.html. This information illustrates the rigorous standards in place to ensure the studies are objective, credible, and free from any undue influence.
While it is true that Senator Rockefeller won't have direct control over the research, the primary fear remains that the actions following the required research will remain biased against the games industry because of his personal bias.
Senator Coburn also addressed the purpose of and his reasoning for support of the bill. He wrote that the information from available research shows a strong link and he wishes to bring a conclusion and fair analysis of the existing research.
While I understand there have been a number of academic studies regarding the effect violent video games have on children, there appears to be a common thread that shows that these games may promote more aggression or violence in children.
This bipartisan legislation would instruct the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to conduct a study which will bring a conclusive and fair analysis on this issue.
While it was not explained in the letter sent to Senator Coburn, there have been documented problems with the methodology of existing research and any studies based on them should take into account those flaws.
Unfortunately, Senator Coburn did not address one segment of the letter sent to him. The Oklahoma Game Developers expressed strong concern that this bill will be used as a tool to undue the protections of the First Amendment reinforced by the Brown vs EMA ruling. In that ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that video games deserve strong protections under the First Amendment. If the results of the research required by this bill are biased in any way, it could result in more attempts at regulating the games industry.