Perhaps the most talked-about moment from the National Rifle Association's already eventful press conference came when NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called out the "corrupting shadow industry" of video games — then cited 10 year old titles like they were good evidence for things like school shootings. He also called out generation-old movies like American Psycho and Natural Born Killers, but at least some people still watch those.
LaPierre invoked "vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, and Splatterhouse. And here's one: it's called Kindergarten Killers. It's been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn’t or didn't want anyone to know you had found it?"
Well, with the video-game industry is still getting bludgeoned by the NRA, we put in a little research on the latest gaming sales, and turns out the NRA chief is just as out of touch with what the kids are playing as you thought.
Here are the latest available sales figures (all numbers via VGChartz, a leading industry statistics site) for Bullet Storm, a nearly two-year old first-person shooter for the Xbox 360 :
No offense to Bullet Storm aficionados, but that's a serious drop-off for 2012.
Here are the stats for the equally sad sales for Splatterhouse, which came out two Thanksgivings ago, on the PS3 (you can see how it poorly it did on the other platforms here):
And of course, we've all known about Mortal Kombat — since 1992. It's largely a fighting game where people rip each other in half and do other things that are not even humanly possible. If LaPierre is going accuse "a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people," essentially equating fantasy of video-game guns with the reality of school shootings, then he at least has to taking into account that no one has run into a school trying to slice people in half... with his hat. But alas, here are the PS3 sales for the latest Mortal Kombat, which remains successful as a franchise but is nowhere near as popular as it was even last year:
About these gaming titles and the notorious serial-killer movies, LaPierre asked: "Isn't fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?" Okay, that's one opinion, from one of the most powerful lobbyists in America. But what he failed to mention — at all — is that there have been studies, some required by the government, that found no connection between violent video games and violent crimes. Katherine Newman, a professor at Johns Hopkins who headed up a government-spurred study in the wake of the Columbine shooting, wrote:
Millions of young people play video games full of fistfights, blazing guns, and body slams. Bodies litter the floor in many of our most popular films. Yet only a minuscule fraction of the consumers become violent. Hence, if there is an effect, children are not all equally susceptible to it.
For LaPierre's assertion to be true, then there would have to be more than just a "minuscule fraction" of people affected and more violent crimes — there are millions and millions of video-game players, after all. As The Washington Post's Max Fisher recently pointed out, in the top video game-consuming countries in the world, the U.S. is an outlier — not a norm — when it comes to gun violence. But who needs evidence when you're the NRA?
So what if you take LaPierre's intended logic — that the prevalence of video games contributes to real-life action on the same scale, even though that has never been proven — and push it a step further? Wouldn't a country that likes to play all those dancing video games... be really peaceful? According to VGChartz, the most popular seller of late has been Just Dance 4, which, on its main console platform, outsells Splatterhouse, Bullet Storm, and Mortal Kombat combined:
We're pretty sure Just Dance video game hasn't caused a rise of spontaneous dance-offs, but if it has, please send video our way. In the meantime, we'll keep an eye on a bill as introduced into the Senate Wednesday calling for a government-sponsored study of video games and violence (again). Meanwhile, the two forthcoming bills on gun control ... well, they're about as non-existent as your memory of how to do that hook move with Scorpio anymore