Jessica: Sixteen-year-old Ben Cermak and his thirteen-year-old-brother, Nate, like to play the war game Call of Duty.
Ben: Even though it is violent, I don’t think this is going to make me violent.
Jessica: It is up for debate if violent video games and violent behavior are linked. Some studies say there is a connection, others say there is not.
But last month’s mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut has people asking what is contributing to America’s culture of violence? The head of the National Rifle Association, a group which supports gun rights, is targeting video games.
Wayne LaPierre: They play murder, portray murder as a way of life, and then they all have the nerve to call it entertainment.
Jessica: Vice President Joe Biden recently sat down with video game manufacturers, as well as several other groups, to come up with recommendations on gun control. Yesterday, he met with President Obama to talk over a wide range of proposals expected to be released today.
Vice President Biden: There is no silver bullet. There is no – as one of my friends said – no seat belt that you can put on to assure that you will not be in this circumstance again.
Jessica: The video game industry responded to a government crackdown twenty years ago by creating ratings similar to those for movies. Violent games are rated M, which the industry considers suitable for ages 17 and up.
Critics say that is not enough. They want the government to order violent games to carry warnings like those on cigarettes.
Putting legal restrictions on violent video games may be difficult for the Obama administration because of a 2011 decision by the Supreme Court. The court said video games are protected by the First Amendment right to free speech. So, change may have to start with video game players, like Max Goldstein.
Last month, the Newtown, Connecticut seventh grader started a group called Played Out. It encourages young people to throw away their first-person shooter games.
Max Goldstein: It was a little inappropriate and rude to the families who lost children to play these games.
Jessica: Jessica Kumari, Channel One News.
Maggie: Look familiar? These fourteen lifeguards did something hundreds of other teens have done worldwide: make their own version of the wildly popular Gangnam Style video. Posted on YouTube two months ago by the South Korean rapper known as PSY, this mega-hit video has been viewed more than 200 million times. But the video made by the lifeguards, who are all employed by the city of El Monte, California, got them all fired.
Lifeguard: I was in shock, because I didn’t really think that it would escalate to termination.
Maggie: Juliet Gilek is one of the 14 fired lifeguards. And she says their video never meant to cause problems.
Juliet Gilek: I loved what I did. I loved teaching the kids. I loved making sure everybody was safe. So I would have never wanted to hurt the pool in any way. This was just a fun thing to capture our memories with.
Maggie: Many of the lifeguards are college students who relied on their jobs for income.
Lifeguard: To be blunt, this was my only job and my only source of income in terms of paying for books and contributing to my schooling.
Maggie: The city of El Monte said it wasn’t the content of the video that was the problem. Instead it was “a clear unauthorized use of city resources and property.”
While Gangnam Style might be the YouTube video of the moment, it certainly isn’t the first to go viral. And making spoofs of these famous videos is just as popular. Remember all the “Call Me Maybe” spin-offs from earlier this year?
El Monte resident: I think maybe some of this is just a generational divide, that maybe there’s people on the El Monte City Council who don’t fully appreciate that this is just the way people communicate today.
Maggie: The fired lifeguards hoped to bridge that generational divide when they met with the El Monte City Council earlier this week.
Lifeguard: Never did I complain. Never did I ask for a raise. My boss knew that I was dedicated.
City Council member: Management practices, the nature and extent of the punishment, social media policy – there are quite a few things that we have to look into.
Maggie: The city may be standing firm, but much of the online community supports the lifeguards. A “Bring back the 14 El Monte Lifeguards” page on Facebook already has more than 15,000 likes.
And even PSY – the man behind the original Gangnam Style – has spoken out for the lifeguards.
PSY: I’m begging you, do not fire, please.
Maggie: With arguments lined up on both sides, some say the situation is a modern day generation gap.
Maggie Rulli, Channel One News.
Steven: Having this kind of experience in college definitely gives you a leg up over other students. Of course, any experience should give you a leg up. But experience in playing video games? Seriously?
Well, these young people — believe it or not — are actually studying at the Replay Lab at Drexel University in Philadelphia. And the experience they gain here could help them get a job once they graduate.
“We actually created the rest of this all by ourselves — like all the models, all the characters, all the effects you see here, we did.
Steven: Using tools, like a motion capture studio and 3D modeling, Andrew Patras and his classmates are learning the art of video game development. And they are in the right place because it is a career and a business that is exploding.
In 2009, Americans bought more than $20 billion worth of video game systems and software. That is 3 billion more than the movie industry made. $18.7 billion in box office and DVD sales!
The entertainment part of the video game industry is huge. A modern title can make a couple hundred million dollars in one weekend.
Tom Bissell, who is the author of the new book Why Video Games Matter calls video games the artform of our time.
Tom Bissell: I think we are really on the verge of a wider acceptance that it’s not just nerds, it’s not just geeks that play these things. Some very intelligent, thoughtful, smart people are designing them and playing them.
Steven: People like you. Today more than 200 colleges offer gaming courses, training future workers in everything from art design to computer engineering who will one day work at video game giants like Electronic Arts, the company responsible for games like Madden Football and Tiger Woods Golf.
And check this out: EA says it is going to add more than 600 jobs this year. So, what is next for people that want to get started?
While many of the positions are for programmers and software enigneers, you could still be hired even if you have never taken a computer class. Making a game like Madden Football requires graphics artists, animators, writers, testers and even people with foreign language skills. Companies need people to translate games into and out of Japanese!
In this field, software engineers and programmers make the big bucks. They rake in an average of $80,000 and can make as much as six figures. Graphics artists earn an average of $42,000; animators $56,000; writers $53,000 and translators $39,000.
The average starting salary for video game developers? $40,000.
Philip Holt: There is a lot people, this is their first job — or one of their first jobs — right out of college
Steven: Philip Holt is EA’s Orlando studio general manager.
Philip: We love university students because they come in, they’re excited, they are a freshly-minted skill set, and you know they are looking to establish themselves and start a career and work hard and do great things.
Steven: And this game isn’t just for guys.
Philip: It’s a fun business but it’s a serious business as well. So, we actually have deadlines and goals that we have to accomplish. We just can’t sit around and play games all day. I wish we could.
Steven: Steven Fabian, Channel One News.
Can you really get fit by working out with your video game?
HOUSTON (AP) — The family of a black woman found dead in a Texas jail three days after a confrontation with a white state trooper filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Tuesday against the officer and other officials, saying it was a last resort after being unable to get enough information about the case.
Bland, a 28-year-old Chicago-area woman, was found dead in her Waller County jail cell in Hempstead on July 13. Her family and others have criticized Trooper Brian Encinia, who stopped Bland for failing to signal a lane change. Video of the stop shows the confrontation quickly escalated after Encinia asked Bland to put out her cigarette.
“This family’s motivation is that they don’t want to see this sort of thing happen again to another family,” attorney Cannon Lambert said during a news conference in Houston.
Lambert expressed dismay that Encinia remains on administrative leave rather than being fired by the Texas Department of Public Safety. The trooper, on the force for just over a year, has been placed on administrative leave for violating unspecified police procedures and the department’s courtesy policy.
“We are asking for bold, decisive action,” he added. “The fact that it hasn’t happened yet is a frustrating thing.”
Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, holding a Bible during the news conference, said the events that led to her daughter’s death began with an unwarranted traffic stop. “The bottom line is she never should have been inside the jail cell. Period,” she said.
Lambert called on the Department of Justice to launch its own investigation, saying the case needs a fresh and unbiased look. He said information the family has received from law enforcement has been inconsistent, which raises concerns about what has and hasn’t been given to them.
County and state officials have released findings of an autopsy, surveillance video showing Bland being booked into the jail, her jail intake records and other material.
Authorities said Bland hanged herself inside her jail cell. Her family has questioned that finding but on Tuesday acknowledged the possibility.
“In the face of Sandy being the light that she was, it is very difficult for them to get their minds around the notion that she would hurt herself,” Lambert said. “At the same time, this family is aware of the possibility.”
The lawsuit names the Texas Department of Public Safety, Encinia, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office and two jailers, Lambert said. The 46-page lawsuit seeks a jury trial for unspecified damages.
Calls to Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis and other county officials were not immediately returned.
Bland was in Prairie View, northwest of Houston, when she was stopped July 10 for a minor traffic infraction. Dashcam video shows the confrontation swiftly escalated after she objected to being told to put out her cigarette. Encinia at one point is seen holding a stun gun as he says, “I will light you up!” after Bland refuses to get out of her car. Bland eventually was arrested for allegedly assaulting the trooper.
Bland’s death came after nearly a year of heightened national scrutiny of police and their dealings with black suspects, especially those who have been killed by officers or die in police custody.
Associated Press writers Jamie Stengle and David Warren in Dallas contributed to this report.
LANCASTER, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire’s fire marshal said Tuesday it wasn’t clear why a circus operator proceeded with a show minutes after the National Weather Service put out a severe storm warning, as 60 mph winds collapsed the tent, killing two spectators and sending about 32 others to hospitals.
Bill Degnan said it’s the responsibility of the circus operator to monitor the weather conditions. The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning at about 5:23 p.m. Monday. The show started seven minutes later at the Lancaster Fairgrounds, about 90 miles north of Concord. The storm blew threw at about 5:46 p.m., with about 100 people inside the tent.
“I see these very large metal poles that are in the ground and go through the top of the tent; I see them starting to come out of the ground and fly up, into the air toward us,” witness Heidi Medeiros, attending with her 3-year-old son, told WMUR-TV. She said 10 to 30 seconds later, the pole slammed onto the bleacher where she and her son had been sitting.
Degnan said he had spoken to the operator, Sarasota, Florida-based Walker International Events. He said they were “waiting for counsel.” Walker has not responded to phone and email messages left by The Associated Press.
Degnan said no request was made to state or local officials for an inspection of the tent. If they were notified, they would have done one, he said.
Degnan said he didn’t know if local officials knew or should have known the show was taking place. He said the show would have required a “place of assembly permit,” but to the best of his knowledge, one was not sought.
He said those questions would be part of the state’s investigation, as well as the tent’s setup, and a building and fire code assessment. The National Weather Service also was helping to determine what type of wind passed through the area.
“We all this morning have heavy hearts,” Gov. Maggie Hassan told WMUR-TV earlier. “We lost two lives — a father and a daughter — at an event that was supposed to be fun.”
The names of the victims have not been released, pending notification of family. Degnan said autopsies were being conducted Tuesday.
At least some of the injured sent to hospitals have been discharged. Mike Barwell, a spokesman for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, which would have accepted more seriously injured patients, said it took in two people, an adult and a 5-year-old boy. He said he had no information on the adult, but that the boy was in fair condition Tuesday.
Degnan has said it was the first time his agency had investigated a tent collapse. He asked that anyone with images or video of the event contact his office.
The circus was scheduled to head to Bradford, Vermont, for shows on Tuesday and Wednesday, but canceled, state police said.
The collapse came a day after one man died and more than a dozen were injured when a tent where people had sought shelter during a brief storm blew off its moorings and fell on some of the crowd at a festival in a Chicago suburb. The annual celebration known as the Prairie Fest had attracted about 5,000 people when the tent collapsed.
The popular Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago’s Grant Park briefly shut down Sunday afternoon due to the weather, then resumed less than an hour later. Organizers ended the final day of the festival 30 minutes early Sunday night when another storm hit the area.
Associated Press writer Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.