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Video game makers urge Biden not to blame games for real violence

Vice President Joe Biden, second from left, with Attorney General Eric Holder, second from right, speaks during a meeting with representatives from th...
Vice President Joe Biden, second from left, with Attorney General Eric Holder, second from right, speaks during a meeting with representatives from the video game industry in Washington, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. Entertainment Software Association President Mike Gallagher sits between Biden and Holder.Susan Walsh / AP


Vice President Joe Biden, second from left, with Attorney General Eric Holder, second from right, speaks during a meeting with representatives from the video game industry in Washington, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. Entertainment Software Association President Mike Gallagher sits between Biden and Holder.Susan Walsh / AP

Several of the video game industry's biggest organizations have sent letters to Vice President Joseph Biden urging America's second-in-command not to blame digital games for real-world gun violence and the Newtown school shootings.

The letters from the International Game Developers Association and the Entertainment Consumers Association arrived as Biden was preparing to meet with members of the video game industry on Friday to discuss ways to curb gun violence.

"With the recent tragedy on everyone's minds, some people are looking for a cause and culprit other than the shooter," read the letter from ECA vice president Jennifer Mercurio. "Unfortunately some are blaming media, including video games, for violent behavior in individuals. We know this isn't the case; banning or regulating media content even more won’t solve the issue."

Calling video games "one of the most popular new forms of art and entertainment," IGDA chairman Daniel Greenberg urged Biden and the government not to "be seeking ways to constrain this emerging medium so early in its development by scapegoating video games for societal ills."

"The U.S. government did irreparable damage to the comic book industry in the 1950s by using faulty research to falsely blame juvenile delinquency and illiteracy on comic books," he wrote. "Censoring violent comic books did not reduce juvenile delinquency or increase literacy, it decimated the production of one of the few kinds of literature that at-risk youths read for pleasure. Censoring video games could have similar unintended consequences that we cannot currently foresee."

President Barack Obama charged Biden with leading a series of gun reform meetings in the wake of the Newtown school shootings. As part of that effort, the vice president has been meeting with gun groups as well as representatives from mental health and education organizations, and the entertainment industry.

On Thursday the National Rifle Association said it was "disappointed" in the results of its meeting with Biden. The NRA has placed some blame on violent video games and other entertainment for the kind of real-world violence that took place in Newtown.

The NRA hasn't been alone in pointing blame at games. Though law enforcement officials have not, as of yet, made any connection between the shootings and video games, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., introduced a bill calling for a study on the impact that violent games and other entertainment have on children’s well-being, while other politicians suggested that games may have played a role as well.

The letters from the International Game Developers Association and the Entertainment Consumers Association pointed out that numerous studies have already been done showing that there is no causal link between game violence and real violence.

"In 2011, video game sales increased to over $27 billion dollars and violent crimes nationwide decreased 3.8 percent from 2010," Mercurio wrote, pointing to the FBI's own statistics. "Since 2002, violent crime has decreased 15.5 percent. This is all during the time when games like 'Call of Duty' and 'Halo' have dominated sales."

But the letter from Greenberg, of the International Game Developers Association, supported the idea of additional studies about video games.

"Unlike some industry groups, the IGDA does not seek to impede more scientific study about our members’ products. We welcome more evidence-based research into the effects of our work," he wrote, but added: "We ask that any new government research look at the totality of imaginary violence. Instead of simply trying to find negative effects, we ask that any new research explore the benefits of violent video games, too."

Some recent studies have shown that violent games can be helpful with pain management and can release stress and aggression before it can lead to violence.

The Entertainment Software Association, which represents game publishers such as Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, told NBC News that its president, Michael Gallagher, attended the Friday meeting with Biden.

Representatives from some of the the biggest video game companies were were asked to participate: Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Take-Two Interactive and Zenimax Media among them. Also joining the meeting Friday were representatives from game retailer GameStop, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, and game researchers from Texas A&M University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Biden told those at the start of the Friday meeting that he was coming to the session "with no judgment. You all know the judgments other people have made ... We're looking for help."

The vice president is expected to offer his task force's recommendations regarding gun violence to the president by Tuesday.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

Winda Benedetti writes about video games for NBC News. You can follow her tweets about games and other things on Twitter here @WindaBenedetti and you can follow her on Google+. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IN-GAME FACEBOOK PAGE to discuss the day's gaming news and reviews.