The IGDA and its New Jersey Chapter have written a letter to Governor Chris Christie (R) strongly encouraging him to veto S2715 - or as the group calls it, "the New Jersey Video Game Disinformation law." The IGDA urges Gov. Christie to veto the law because it provides "false and misleading information to the people of New Jersey" and because it could expose the state to lawsuits "if the state fails to propagate a full and accurate assessment of the research into video games."
Senate Bill 2715 would require the state to publish and promote research about the effects of violent media. It would also require the state Department of Education to distribute "research and statistics on how violent behavior increases after exposure to violent [media]" and "scientific findings that show children who play violent games are more likely to be involved in physical altercations ." This is tantamount to distributing propaganda, according to opponents of the bill. The law would put the onus on teachers and administrators in the state's schools to make sure that parents receive the information.
The letter goes on to point out the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. EMA, the fact that studies showing a link to aggression have not stood up to actual peer review at major universities, and offers links to new research showing the positive effects of playing video games.
The group calls some elements of S2715 sensible such as encouraging parents to "familiarize themselves with video game advisory labels and rating systems, but those sensible solutions are bundled with an informational program that will provide statements on research directly to parents that has proven to be at its worst inconclusive on the subject of violent media's connection to real-world violence.
The group closes its letter to Gov. Christie by saying that this bill does a real disservice to parents because it provides false information:
"It does not serve the parents of New Jersey for the Assembly to give the weight of law to false and one-sided research," the group wrote. "The Supreme Court has already struck down laws based on this flawed 'research.' Good government does not allow propagating disinformation. Please veto this bill."
The letter was signed by IGDA Anti-Censorship and Social Issues Committee Chair Daniel Greenberg and members of the IGDA New Jersey Chapter. You can read the entire letter below:
International Game Developers Association, Anti-Censorship and Social Issues Committee
International Game Developers Association, New Jersey Chapter
Dear New Jersey Governor Christie,
Please veto S2715, the New Jersey Video Game Disinformation law, which would cause the state to propagate false information.
We are New Jersey video game developers and game development students with the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), organized through the Anti-Censorship Committee of the IGDA. We are concerned that the New Jersey Legislature is on the verge of providing false and misleading information to the people of New Jersey in Senate Bill 2715. Not only is it wrong to promote disinformation, but the bill could expose New Jersey to lawsuits if the state fails to propagate a full and accurate assessment of the research into video games.
This misguided bill would use taxpayer money to promote discredited claims that “have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason,” according to the U.S. Supreme Court (Brown v. EMA).
“Put simply, the idea that violent video games or other media contribute to mass shootings is scientifically dead, but is often revived as society grapples with the "why" question after horrific events,” in the words of Texas A&M associate professor of psychology and communication Christopher Ferguson.
Bill A44094 claims:
“(1) research and statistics on how violent behavior increases after exposure to violent films, music, television, or video games;”
“ (2) scientific findings that show children who play violent video games are more likely to be involved in physical altercations with classmates, perform poorly on academic tasks, and are unable to relate to adults in positions of authority;”
These claims come from a very small, fringe subset of researchers and do not reflect the conclusions of the scientific community. Those statements have been widely debunked in peer review by researchers from major universities.
For example, Harvard Researchers Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl K. Olson point out the many flaws in these studies. For example, the studies “don't define what constitutes violent or aggressive behavior, and many confuse short-term and long-term effects. Many also use poorly validated measures of aggression, which likely do not correlate well with real-life aggressive acts of interest to most parents and politicians.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Theft_Childhood
The Supreme Court examined these claims and determined such “research” does not stand up to scrutiny. The high court forced these researchers to admit that the effects of violent video games “are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media,” like video games without imaginary violence or like Bugs Bunny cartoons.
Since bill S2715 requires that the Department of Education “update this information whenever new information about a child's exposure to violence on television and other electronic devices becomes available,” we are notifying the Assembly and the Department of Education of the large body of scientific research showing the beneficial effects of violent video games:
Violent video games have positive neurological effects on players:
Violent video games “reduce crime”:
Age-appropriate imaginative violent play is important for children to cope with anxiety and fear:
Children who play video games, including games with violence, tend to be more creative:
Dr. Ferguson has shown that “violent and non-violent games tend to relax people over time, not anger them”:
“social influences such as media exposure have only negligible influence”:
Other elements of S2715 promulgate sensible and helpful information like “familiarization with video game advisory labels and rating systems.” The Anti-Censorship and Social Issues Committee of the IGDA offers to work with the legislature to craft a bill based on evidence-based science and not based on discredited claims from fringe researchers. We can offer a lot of assistance, including information on how parents can empower themselves through the use of the ratings of an independent testing organization and new technology.
It does not serve the parents of New Jersey for the Assembly to give the weight of law to false and one-sided research. The Supreme Court has already struck down laws based on this flawed “research.” Good government does not allow propagating disinformation. Please veto this bill.
We look forward to hearing from you.
IGDA Anti-Censorship and Social Issues Committee Chair
International Game Developers Association, New Jersey Chapter:
Patrick Van Tassell
Christopher M. Pearce
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Bruce Johnson, Jr.