UPDATE 1-Videogames under fire, Hollywood lays low after school shooting

Jill Serjeant
Reuters Middle East

* Senator calls for study of videogame violence

* Multi-billion video industry declines comment

* TV watchdog group praises Hollywood for pulling violent


LOS ANGELES, Dec 19 (Reuters) - The multi-billion-dollar

videogame industry came under scrutiny on Wednesday after

Hollywood canceled, postponed or played down a slew of movies

and TV shows with violent content in the wake of last week's

shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

In Washington, Senator John Rockefeller called for a

national study of the impact of violent videogames on children

and a review of the rating system.

Although investigators in Newtown, Connecticut, have given

no motive for Friday's shooting rampage, some U.S. media have

reported that the 20-year-old gunman played popular videogame

"Call of Duty" - in which players conduct simulated warfare

missions - in the basement of his home.

The gunman, Adam Lanza, killed himself at the scene after

gunning down 20 young children, six school employees and his


Rockefeller said he had long been concerned about the impact

of violent games and videos on children.

"Major corporations, including the video game industry, make

billions on marketing and selling violent content to

children. They have a responsibility to protect our children,"

Rockefeller said in a statement.

The Entertainment Software Association, which represents the

$78 billion U.S. videogame industry, on Wednesday offered its

"heartfelt prayers and condolences" to the Newtown families.

But it said in a statement that "the search for meaningful

solutions must consider the broad range of actual factors that

may have contributed to this tragedy.

"Any such study needs to include the years of extensive

research that has shown no connection between entertainment and

real-life violence," the association said.


Activision Blizzard's latest title in its "Call of Duty"

franchise - "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" - hit $1 billion in

sales two weeks after its launch last month.

Other popular videogames include Microsoft's "Halo 4," in

which players kill evil aliens. The game racked up $220 million

in global sales on its launch day in November.

Mike Hickey, an analyst at National Alliance Capital

Markets, said backlashes against videogames were not rare, but

he was unaware of an instance of games being pulled off store

shelves in the past.

When the Columbine school shooting happened in 1999, there

was a similar outcry because the two perpetrators were students

who played the shooter game "Doom," Hickey told Reuters.

Executives at Hollywood movie studios and TV networks have

mostly laid low this week as Americans seek answers to the

Newtown slaughter, and discuss how to prevent similar gun


However, content seen as sensitive has been pulled from the

airwaves, including an episode of the SyFy TV series "Haven"

that contained violent scenes in a high school setting, and the

premiere next week of a TLC show called "Best Funeral Ever."

Discovery Channel canceled a third season of its reality

series "American Guns" about a family of gun makers. Some radio

stations stopped playing pop star Ke$ha's bubbly new single "Die

Young" to avoid any potential offense.

Glitzy red carpet premieres for violent upcoming new movies

"Jack Reacher," starring Tom Cruise, and "Django Unchained"

starring Jamie Foxx, were canceled out of respect for the

Newtown victims, but both movies will open in theaters as

planned in the next seven days.


The Parents TV Council praised the response of the

entertainment industry this week, but said it shouldn't be

confined to the immediate aftermath of such tragedies.

"If a television network changes its programming because of

content that could be insensitive today, why would that same

content be appropriate at a later time?," council president Tim

Winter said in a statement.

"If producers and performers rightly question whether their

industry is complicit in creating a violent media culture that

feeds real-life tragedies, why would there be a later time to

produce and distribute more of it?," Winter added.

Most major Hollywood stars have remained silent about the

potential influence of violent movies on U.S. society. But

"Django Unchained" star Foxx was quoted as saying the movie

industry should not shirk its responsibility.

"We cannot turn our back and say that violence in films or

anything that we do doesn't have a sort of influence," Foxx was

quoted as saying while promoting the film in New York.

Director Quentin Tarantino called the Newtown shootings "a

horrible tragedy," but in an interview with CNN on Monday he

declined to link screen violence with real life events.

"This has gone back all the way down to Shakespeare's days

... when there's violence in the street, the cry becomes 'blame

the playmaker.' And you know, I actually think that's a very

facile argument to pin on something that's a real life tragedy,"

Tarantino said.

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