60 Minutes Describes Video Game as a Killer Application

'60 Minutes Describes Video Game as a Killer Application

By Dan Gainor
March 9, 2005

     First, video games were linked to childhood obesity because teens sat around playing the games instead of exercising. Now, CBSs 60 Minutes is linking them to something far more destructive murder while ignoring obvious points that make the claim look ridiculous.

     The Sunday, March 6, 2005, broadcast of CBSs news magazine showed Co-editor Ed Bradley reporting on a lawsuit about the enormously popular video game Grand Theft Auto. The suit claimed the video game was responsible for deaths of three police officers in Fayette, Ala. in 2003. Eighteen-year-old Devin Moore was charged with the crimes and had played Grand Theft Auto day and night for months, according to the broadcast.

     Bradley opened with: Imagine if the entertainment industry created a video game in which you could decapitate police officers, kill them with a sniper rifle, massacre them with a chainsaw, and set them on fire. Think anyone would buy such a violent game? They would, and they have.

     He followed with more than 12 minutes on the evils of violent video games especially Grand Theft Auto. According to Bradley, Grand Theft Auto is a world governed by the laws of depravity. It didnt occur to him that violence and other depravity are the norm for movies, TV and pop music. Those werent mentioned.

     It didnt take long for Bradley to build the case against GTA as it is known by many fans. He interviewed attorney Jack Thompson, a long-time crusader against video game violence. Thompson filed a multi-million-dollar suit against Take-Two Interactive Software, the manufacturer of the game, Sony, the maker of the PlayStation 2 system it ran on, and two stores he bought it from Wal-Mart Stores and Gamestop. It's our theory, which we think we can prove to a jury in Alabama, that but for the video game training, he would not have done what he did, Thompson said.

     Bradley piled on with more critics of the game including David Walsh, a child psychologist, whos co-authored a study connecting violent video games to physical aggression and Steve Strickland, the brother of one of the murdered officers, who according to Bradley wants the video game industry to pay.

     When Bradley pointed out that millions of kids play violent video games and never hurt a fly, Walsh responded that there are many risk factors involved. Bradley said those included, in this case, a profoundly troubled upbringing, bouncing back and forth between a broken home and a handful of foster families. That didnt stop Walsh from attacking the game: And so when a young man with a developing brain, already angry, spends hours and hours and hours rehearsing violent acts and then he's put in a situation of emotional stress, there's a likelihood that he will literally go to that familiar pattern that's been wired repeatedly, perhaps thousands and thousands of times.

     Despite the doctors claims, Bradley later admitted: But to date, not a single court case has acknowledged a link between virtual violence and the real thing.

     It took more than seven minutes before anyone spoke for the gaming company. The companies were naturally cautious since the case is under litigation, but Bradley did find one expert to defend the industry. Doug Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, spoke for the video game industry but said he couldnt defend individual titles. Bradley continued the attack on the game and commented: I would imagine you wouldn't feel comfortable trying to defend a game Like Grand Theft Auto.

     The report ended by pointing out that several states are considering laws that would ban the sale of violent games to those under 17. Nowhere in the story did Bradley mention that the manufacturer already has rated the game MATURE. According to the rating system similar to one used for movies, Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain mature sexual themes, more intense violence and/or strong language.

     Bradley missed several key points in the story that undermine the case for the plaintiff and made the makers of GTA look better. Those include:

    Video game sales are on the rise, but violent crime continues to decline. According to CanWest Interactive: Video and computer game sales continued their record-breaking pace in 2004, as gamers bought $7.3 billion U.S. of game software. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that violent crime has declined from more than 4 million incidents in 1993 to fewer than 2 million in 2003. Video games are popular worldwide, yet this supposed crisis of video game related murders in only cited in the United States. While Bradley admitted attorney Jack Thompson is a crusader against the video game industry, he failed to point out that it is a cottage industry for him. The website www.stopkill.com is a promotional site for Thompson and describes its mission as: This site's purpose is to give you the means to contact Miami attorney Jack Thompson if you know of someone harmed as a result of violent entertainment, including violent video games. Thompson was simply drumming up business against deep-pocket clients for more multi-million-dollar suits.

     The 60 Minutes report was typical for show and consistent with how the media cover the whole topic of runaway litigation. The Business & Media Institute recently completed a report, entitled Media Malpractice, that detailed how the major news media have ignored tort reform, embracing one-sided, anti-business stories that promote lawyers as fighting for Davids against the Goliaths of industry. One of the points of the study was that the media tell stories from the side of plaintiff three times as often as they do for defendants. CBS did so nearly two-thirds of the time and this broadcast reflects that bias.

     Click here for the entire report.