Video Games

Friday A/V Club: Joe Lieberman Battles Digital Demons

When the Senate studied video games


In my article this week about anti-game crusades and panics, I mentioned the Senate hearings on violence and video games that Sens. Joe Lieberman and Herb Kohl chaired in 1993. To see the hearings for yourself, click below:

If you just want to skip to the highlights, here are some memorable moments:

2:31: Lieberman's opening statement. Notable for how he oscillates between descriptions of real violence and video game violence as though they were the same thing. Also notable for a perplexing metaphor at 3:39: "Like the grinch who stole Christmas, these violent video games threaten to rob this particular holiday season of a spirit of good will."

6:58: Joe Lieberman produces a game controller that looks like a large water gun. He's trying to illustrate how "brutal" the game is, but all I can picture is kids running around an inflatable backyard pool.

13:40: On this day, Kohl notes, leaders of the video game industry announced that they were willing to come up with a ratings system. He concludes that this proves games can harm kids: "Clearly they can, or the industry would not be willing to rate its own games."

20:52: Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) declares the game Night Trap "an effort to trap and kill women." The player's goal is actually to save the women, but these are just petty details.

23:38: The committee watches a selection of violent video game sequences. The infamous Night Trap sequence—a scene players see if they lose, featuring one of the most bizarre killing machines ever filmed—starts at 25:40.

33:55: Prof. Eugene Provenzo explains that "some of my more recent research" suggests that video games are becoming "possibly something very close to what Aldous Huxley described in Brave New World as 'the feelies.'"

36:28: Provenzo quotes a researcher who believes "the introduction of television in the 1950s caused a subsequent doubling of the homicide rate."

47:47: A woman from the National Coalition Against Television Violence says the "only word" you can say to the manufacturers and shareholders behind Mortal Kombat and Night Trap is "shame on you."

1:22:55: Here begins the testimony of Howard Lincoln, representing Nintendo. It is followed by the testimony of Bill White, representing Sega. Later, at 1:56:00, the two answer questions from the senators. Lincoln and White bicker like crazy, blaming each other's companies for video violence and failing completely to present anything like a unified front. Any industry or social group that becomes the target of a congressional inquiry should study these guys' performances as a lesson in What Not To Do.

2:25:34: Kohl tells the assembled representatives of the video game industry, "I hope you walk away with one thought today—that if you don't do something about it, we will." And with that one sentence, he sums up the entire history of nominally private but ultimately government-derived regulation of speech.

(For past installments of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)

NEXT: Steven Greenhut on California's Divisive Ethnic Political Battles

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  1. Web host gives FCC a 28.8Kbps slow lane in net neutrality protest…..y-protest/

  2. Lieberman, ugh, corruptocrats don’t get any worse than that. That guy may seriously be the slimiest slime to ever slither the hallways of congress. And that takes some doing.

    1. I mean, here is a guy who had to become an independent because neither party was statist enough to please him.

    2. His fellow former Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd is easily as bad. Easily.

      Like, should die of something slow and horrible and a Hell should be created just so he can eternally suffer in it bad.

  3. Lieberman is such a shitstain. I remember being in our office on 17th St off of Union Sq in Manhattan, and having a meeting. Somehow Lieberman came up, I think as part of the runup to the 2000 election and his being chosen for Gore’s VP. I was mostly surrounded by default Democrats when I snorted at the mention of his name and sneered “you mean the fucking idiot who launched an investigation into the price of breakfast cereals?” Everyone got quiet, pondered that for a second, and then started talking about something else. Even TEAM dipshits don’t like the guy.

  4. Your video game issue is one of the better Reason issues you’ve had in a long time.

  5. Ever since Wolfenstein, I’ve been blasting random strangers in hallways with my Luger and loving it.

    Not to mention finding all of those damn hidden rooms. Game induced hallucinations are fantastic.

    1. Have you fought robo-hitler yet? That’s when I had to seek help.

  6. Actually the 1993 hearings must have been a spectacular success. The crime rate has been dropping ever since.

    Just because none of the committee’s recommendations reduced videogame violence or popularity, and videogaming is proliferating at a rate matched only by federal spending, that’s no reason to downplay Congress’s remarkable achievements.


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