The Entertainment Software Association is trying to convince gamers to set aside their controllers long enough to mobilize against legislation in various states and nationally that would put restrictions on the sale of video games and/or fine retailers who contravened those laws.
They’ve created the Video Game Voters Network as the vehicle to activate gamers. It’s not a bad idea but count me as skeptical because those who are most likely to be most offended by such laws–hard-core gamers–are the hardest to reach because, you guessed it!, they’re playing games.
According to the ESA, the average gamer is 30 years old (just the age when people tend to become more politically active) and the vast majority of game buyers are over 18 years of age; six in ten gamers are men; and most expect to be playing as much or more video games than they do now. That tells me they’ve got a vested interest in easy access to their pasttime.
I don’t think games should be treated any differently than books or movies or music. I do think they are a legitmate form of artistic expression that deserves every bit as much constitutional protection of any other form of artistic or political expression. And I most emphatically do not believe that there is a causal link between video game violence and it’s real life counterpart.
Video games are an easy target for politicians looking to bolster their "family values" credentials. As a Democrat, it pains me to admit that these politicians are largely from my own party. Chief among them are Hillary Clinton, Joseph Lieberman, and Evan Bayh. All three are sponsoring the so-called "Family Entertainment Protection Act," and all three have or have had presidential ambitions.
There was a study recently that demonstrated heightened levels of agressiveness in people just after they’d played certain video games. I’ve no doubt that’s true. But the implication that that violence carries over into everyday life does not follow.
A game like Grand Theft Auto is crime and fighting game; it requires agressiveness. That doesn’t mean I am more likely to go out and put a cap someone’s ass or run someone over because I just did it in the game.
But if it’s discovered that some school shooter played Grand Theft Auto, then it must be the game that caused the violence. It’s certainly an easy explanation, however flawed.
A more realistic explanation–yet harder to fit into a news segment–is that the violence is a result of a whole host of reasons, many of which may be specific solely to that individual. I just find it an incredible stretch to believe that playing video games will cause an otherwise normal and healthy kid to commit violence in real life.
That’s not to say that kids should be able to play any type of video game they want. I don’t. My sixteen year old nephew was visiting some time ago, grabbed Grand Theft Auto from the shelf, and said let’s play this.
I do not for a second believe that playing the game would do him any harm and I think he’s mature enough to responsibly handle the game’s content. But it wasn’t my call. Until he’s 18 years old, that’s his parent’s decision. I’ve no doubt he’s played it before, but at least I was sending him the message that even his cool uncle thinks the game is not yet appropriate for him.
Had I let him play it, the "Family Entertainment Protection Act" would not have prevented him from playing the game and I guess it would have made me a criminal if not in fact, then in spirit.
The fact is that families already have the tools to "protect" themselves from entertainment (which is a rather absurdly hilarious thought, when you think about it). Their called game ratings.
The missing ingredient here seems to be the parents themselves. The parents need to read the ratings before buying the games for their kids. The parents need to be involved enough in their childrens’ lives to know when they’re consuming something that is inappropriate. My sister, for example, locks up the controllers so her kids can only play video games when she approves. She knows what games they play. That’s a fine solution.
What is intensely annoying about things like the "Family Entertainment Protection Act" is that I do not want to live in a locked-down child-safe world.
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