Video Games: Harmful Effects?

Adrian M. Fenty (D)
D.C. Council Member, Ward Four
Friday, February 4, 2005; 2:00 PM

D.C. Council members and Mayor Anthony. A. Williams (D) yesterday backed a bill that would prevent merchants from selling violent content video games to minors.

Read the story: Video Games' Chaos Echoed In Streets, D.C. Leaders Say (Post, Feb. 4)

D.C. Councilmember Adrian Fenty (D, Ward Four) will be online Friday, Feb. 4, at 4 p.m. ET to discuss the proposed legislation and explain his position on violence in video games and how it may affect youth crime.

Programming Note: Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, was online Friday, Feb. 4, at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the gaming industry, First Amendment issues and current research about video gamers.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Washington, D.C.: Dr. Killen,

If parents assert their authority and police their children's actions, as oppose to the government, what exactly is the need for this ban? Is the D.C. government saying that the parenting skills of its citizens have become so bad that the only method to stop violence in the community is to stop kids from playing an obviously fantasy game like Mortal Kombat? Exactly how does this game differ from games like Dungeons & Dragons which also glorifies violence?

Also, aren't the majority of video games players, adult men between 18 and 35 years of age?

Adrian Fenty: The intent of the legislation is to put teeth in what the industry has already agreed should be prohibited -- the sale of rated M and AO games to children under 18. AMF


Washington, D.C.: Hi!
How would the D.C. legislation differ from the other legistation restricting violent video games which has already been rejected by courts?
Will the ESRB rating system will be the basis for determining which titles are violent?
Are there already similar measures for kids and violent movies?

I'm all for keeping kids from these things, but if courts reject the laws consistently it just seems like a waste of time and money.

Adrian Fenty: The legislation is different in that it only applies to minors and exactly tracks the rating board's system for determining what is not appropriate for minors. AMF


Washington, D.C.: What public education campaigns focused in D.C. have you participated in around this issue of Grand Theft Auto? Have you participated or agreed to any community service efforts in the District of Columbia?

Adrian Fenty: I have participated in such campaigns and will do so in the future. AMF


Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: Drugs and guns are illegal but that doesn't seem to be preventing kids from getting them. Even if this ban becomes law, what real difference will it make? Honestly, this effort seems to be a complete waste.

Adrian Fenty: I would encourage you to get in touch with groups like the Alliance of Concerned Men and Peace-a-holiks that work with at-risk youth who have contributed to the rise in auto theft in DC. These groups and the youth that they worked with have no reservations concerning the impact of the games on the behavior of children and the impact passing this bill could have. Note, however, that neither they nor I think this is even close to the whole solution and that there are other things being done that, for better or worse, don't get as much attention. AMF


San Francisco, Calif.: Mr. Fenty,

I'm of the opinion that this Grand Theft Auto series is extremely harmful to not only children, but our entire society that suffers from violence. Do you think there are any legal grounds where the production/sale of this game could be halted altogether? If so, count me in for this battle. Thanks.

Adrian Fenty: By narrowly tailoring the legislation to the industry's own guidelines it will be difficult for them to claim that there is not a "rational basis" for keeping these games from being sold to minors. AMF


Washington, D.C.: How about regulating advertising, which is blatant in its targeting of youth. Similar to tobacco advertising regulations. (Though tobacco is a proven health hazard while I guess video games really haven't been proven to cause violence, or has it?)

Adrian Fenty: I'll look into this. Experts can better testify about the impact these games have on children, though I have received that information personally. AMF


Washington, D.C.: Sir: Have you ever played a video game? If so, which ones? Do your children (if you have any) play video games?


Adrian Fenty: Yes. AMF


Adrian Fenty: Thanks to everyone for the posts to this forum. As discussed during our press conference on this issue yesterday, the City Council neither thinks this is the only way to deter crime, nor that we are absolved of our responsibility to come up with real programs and opportunities (as well as provide better community policing). However, given what we have heard from those who are knowledgeable on the subject of juvenile delinquency, there is ample reason to move this legislation forward, most notably, the video game industry's own rating system which says these games are unsuitable for kids under 18. Signing off, Adrian Fenty


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