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.)