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A gaming "ceasefire" for Newtown

Molly Wood Dec 21, 2012

A gaming "ceasefire" for Newtown

Molly Wood Dec 21, 2012

A video gamer has asked for a kind of “ceasefire” today, 24 hours in which people agree not to play shoot ’em up digital games as a gesture of respect to the children and adults killed in the Newtown massacre a week ago.

Antwand Pearman says the idea came to him soon after the killings.

“Later that night, I had to go to a screening, for that new movie, Django,” says Pearman. “It’s a Western, so it had gun violence. And, for the first time, every time a gun scene came, it kind of made me cringe. I kept replaying that thought over and over again about those kids. After the movie, I was kind of emotional, and at 3 AM I just broke out a camera and displayed my thoughts.”

In his video, that spread virally through the online world, Pearman calls for this day of video game silence. He’s got some negative reaction from other gamers, but he also points out that he’s not blaming violent games whatsoever for the tragedy. He just thinks it’s an appropriate show of love and support. 

“I mean, you see all the time, you know, a nation lowers the flag at half mast” he says. “Football players, basketball players, they do a moment of silence. Why can’t the gaming industry have a moment of silence? I mean this is a horrific thing, so why not?”

Pearman runs a gaming and health website called Gamer Fit Nation. So far it’s not clear what, if any, connection there is between the Connecticut killer and video gaming.  It is true the Columbine killers were into video gaming. David Ewoldsen is a psychology professor at Ohio State and an expert on the subject.

“The science says there is a connection there but it’s a very very complex one, and it’s complex for a number of reasons,” says Ewoldson. “Obviously, there’s just so many factors that influence whether a person is going to act aggressively or not, that saying that violent video games were the causal factor in this situation would be egregious.” 

Regarding gaming and the effect on individuals, he puts it to his students this way:

“You could sit Ghandi down for days playing Black Ops and Grand Theft Auto, and he’s not going to kill somebody. There are so many other variables that influence it. You take another person, who’s at the edge, and I would be much more nervous.”

Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia has just introduced a bill to direct the National Academy of Sciences to research games and violence.

There’s new data on how social media reacted to the Sandy Hook story. Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has been looking at Twitter, Blogs and op-eds online. 

“What we saw across those three areas of research, was a very, very clear focus on the element of gun law and gun policy,” says Amy Mitchell, the project’s acting director.

Pew was able to compare the past week’s reactions to other high-profile mass shootings. “The calls for stricter gun control or reforms to our gun policy heavily outweighed those who were opposing changes, or writing out protection of the current rights. On social media, there was a two-to-one gap. And when we looked at the newspaper opinion pages, there the gap was six-to-one. “

Mitchell says references to Newtown mentioned gun control 30 percent of the time; in past conversations about high profile shootings, it was closer to 3 percent.

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