Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello says there's zero evidence of a link between games and violent behavior but the game industry still has to wrestle with the perception that there is.
Numerous studies conducted over the years have found no links between videogaming and violent behavior in the real world, but that doesn't mean people have stopped looking at games for easy answers to hard questions about terrible things. The mass murder at the Sandy Hook Elementary School last year launched a new round of questions, accusations and soul-searching about what role, if any, videogames play in turning people into crazed mass murderers, but while most members of the industry were happy to cooperate with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's inquiry into the matter, there were some who were against it, saying that taking part in the investigation was an implicit admission of responsibility.
But Riccitiello, one of the higher-profile industry figures to attend the hearing, disagrees - not because he thinks games might be responsible for causing violence, but because he believes it's necessary to actively fight the belief that they do.
"There's been an enormous amount of research done in the entertainment field about looking for linkages between entertainment content and actual violence, and they haven't found any," he told analysts during an earnings forecast conference call.
"I could give you long stories about how people in Denmark or the UK or Ireland or Canada consume as much or more violent games and violent media as they do in the United States, and yet they have an infinitely smaller incidence of gun violence, but that's not really the point," he said. "The point is that direct studies that have been done, hundreds of millions of dollars of research that has been done has been unable to find a linkage because there isn't one."
But despite the utter absence of evidence that videogames are damaging and the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to affirm the First Amendment rights of the medium, a significant portion of the general public remains unconvinced. That's the battle that Riccitiello believes the industry must now fight.
"Having said all of that and with all - if you will - humility about the world we live in, we understand that while there may not be an actual problem, given all the finger-pointing going on in the press, there appears to be the perception of a problem, and we do have to wrestle with that," he said. "Ours is an industry with an association that has risen to that call many times before, and will, as we move forward. We're responsible, we're mature, we intend to be part of the solution."