Presbyterians Launch Campaign Against Violent Video Games

The PC(USA)’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee launched a new four-pronged campaign to ‘raise the flag’ on violent video games that are shelved next to children’s games in retail stores

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By Pauline J. Chang, Christian Post Reporter
December 6, 2004|4:53 pm

Violent video game makers have become the next target of “corporate reform” for the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Mission Responsibility through Investment (MRTI) Committee this holiday season. The new target follows the recent release of a lengthy report listing the top ten most violent games to avoid by the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).

According to the PCUSA news, the MRTI will be taking a “four-pronged approach” to its campaign “to end the sale of violent video games to kids” as a joint effort with the ICCR.

These four points are to: Engage Take Two about corporate responsibility in product development and distribution; Push for better rating standards; Launch a Don’t Buy Video Games campaign for the holiday season, linking it with work in the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Child Advocacy Office; and Join other religious shareholders in engaging retailers about selling practices.

Under the accordingly named “grandmother campaign,” the MRTI is encouraging the video game company Take Two to stop the sale of its product to the youth, largely by letting grandmothers know the harmful nature of these games.

“The initial push is to curb holiday buying, hence the effort to reach grandmothers,” said MRTI Chair Carol Hylkema of Dearborn, MI. Hylkema is also the former vice moderator for Justice and Peace Issues of the Presbyterian Women’s (PW) Church-wide Coordinating Team. “Don’t sell short the women’s view. Getting this information out can influence how grandmothers’ shop.”

Rev. Bill Somplatsky-Jarman, who is MRTI’s staffer, explained that exposure to the violence does indeed shape the view of children.

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“It’s been proven that the impact of exposure to these games — the violence, the sexual content — impacts young children. It’s been documented in thousands of studies,” said Jarman to PCnews. “Despite that, the industry continues to hide behind self-regulation that is inadequate. And it pretends that these games are not ending up in the hands of children.”

Currently, the Board of Pensions of the PCUSA holds 200 shares of Take Two – an international corporation that produces several lines of violent games and one of the corporations that will be targeted in the grandmother campaign.

Take Two produces the “Grand Theft Auto” series, a game that has been listed among the top ten violent list. One clip from the game, according to PC News, “shows a car bouncing up and down as a couple copulates in the back seat, muttering phrases like, “Let’s get down tonight.” After the sex act, the man and a scantily clad woman get out of the car and he beats her with a golf club. In another segment, a white man repeatedly kicks a black man in the testicles until he is lying in a pool of blood.”

Pat Chapman, director of the Child Advocacy Office of the PCUSA, said games such as Grand Theft Auto – which has been labeled M for mature – is on the shelves next to games for younger kids. Chapman said his main concern is that parents may not understand clearly the ratings given to games by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. The Board has a system of labeling games under four categories: E for Everyone, T for teens, M for mature and AO for adults only.

“I’ve been amazed at the explicit sexual content, the racism. Some of these games are just hateful and violent,” said Chapman, of the games that are readily in the reach of youth.

Going further, the MRTI said it was concerned of the grading system itself because “access is too easy.”

“It’s all industry-run,” said Gary Briscoe, head of the ICCR’s video game effort. “The people making the games are the ones marketing them. And the ratings aren’t legally enforced. The ratings are only a suggestion.”

Briscoe, who led the team that came up with the top ten most violent video game list, noted that some of the video companies are under contract to produce simulated violence products for U.S. military personnel training and recruitment.

In response to the concerns, Rockstar Games – the parent company of Take Two – told the PCUSA that the rating systems do the job of keeping games away from the hands of children.

“The game rating system is a highly effective tool to inform and empower parents, and the Advertising Review Council provides important industry oversight and enforcement. We are fully committed to the rating system and to marking our games in compliance with the principles and guidelines of the rating board,” the company wrote.

However, Briscoe said these rating systems will not work unless M-rated games are separated from the E and T rated video games in retail stores.

For more information on the ICCR and MRTI campaign, please visit: http://iccr.org/ or http://washpresby.pcusa.org/mrti/committee.htm.

 

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