Is anyone ever surprised nowadays that whenever there’s a serial killer, and a video game console is found in his house, video games end up receiving the blame for the killings? No, of course not, it’s become so usual that we ignore the issue. A few years ago, the scapegoat wasn’t video games, before that it was rap music, and before that it was rock music, and so the whole line continues.
Every time there’s an event which changes culture, it is thoroughly opposed by some individuals. Not even common furniture is beyond such criticism; in their time, couches were opposed because it encouraged children “to daydream” and thus be unproductive. This sort of activist, that opposes progress, normally claims they’re there for the wellbeing of the populace. More often than not it’s claimed to be for the wellbeing of the children. Fair enough, none of us wants to see the next generation to grow up to be psychopaths, serial killers, rapists, and so on.
However, aren’t such lobbyists overreacting? We always hear about violent video games, but in reality they’re only a tiny fraction of the game market. Eighty-three percent of all video games do not have any mature content whatsoever . Nevertheless, this leaves a 17% of gory and violent video games which leaves ample space for protest. So it is correct that lobbyists should focus on that tiny fraction, right?
Wrong, like movies and any other form of entertainment, video games are already regulated. Movies are classified into several categories by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), each designed to be suitable for a certain type of audience; video games also have a similar system which is regulated by the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board). The remaining 17% of games, which are the gory and graphic ones, are either given an M rating (Mature – 17+) or an AO rating (Adults Only – 18+).
So, a gaming company isn’t really responsible when a child plays a game with explicit material since the box and the game itself contain a warning that it may be unsuitable for certain audiences. When we consider that the average gamer is 33 years old, that only 33% of gamers are under eighteen, and that 70% of all parents use the ESRB to decide whether or not to let a child play a video game, this whole argument on censorship becomes that much more ridiculous. It is obvious to anyone that this whole issue is blown out of proportions.
But even with all this in place, the activists like Jack Thompson, who is famous because of his war on rap music, video games, and his delusion of thinking he’s batman (no that isn’t a joke) try to muscle into the rating system of the ESRB and they do succeed. Because of the many controversies they’ve provoked, there’s an unwritten law that you can’t kill children in a video game unless it has the “adults only” rating. This has the slight problem that most shops won’t stock games with such a rating, so essentially they would bar it from anyone but die-hard fans and in addition to that they would lose any profit whatsoever. So, of course they have to conform to this unwritten law.
This sort of unwritten laws can lead to very ironic scenarios; for example, in Fallout 3, you can do anything from killing a whole town with an atomic bomb, to eviscerating people with a chainsaw, to slave trading, hacking people’s limbs off, and even indulging in cannibalism. All of these are possible, but you cannot kill a child. The argument of “for the children” is quite lost in the sea of gore, so why not simply allow one more despicable act?
Obviously it’s not the dream of every gamer to be able to eviscerate children, but having the possibility of being able to do it adds to the story. Video games are interactive story mediums; the benefit they have over every other medium is that, at times, you can affect the outcome. Maybe this is why it’s accepted to watch a movie with over 250,000 gory deaths (like Jason X) but it isn’t right to kill a child in a game because you have the decision not to do it.
Like any medium of expression, this should fall under freedom of speech but if it expression is censored in any way (unless the production of your message physically hurts people, like a snuff film) its meaning becomes useless. Freedom of speech loses all its meaning when what’s permissible to show is defined by society’s consensus.
Jack Thompson once said “I understand as well as anybody that the First Amendment is a cornerstone of a free society—but there is a responsibility to people who can be harmed by words and thoughts” this is doublethink in every sense of the word and in its nature is tyrannical. This loon is not alone however, prominent people like Hillary Clinton call video games nothing more than “murder simulators”. We should not censor things because they offend someone or affects them. When this happens, anything becomes censorable because anything, at any given moment, offends or affects somebody.
Think of this next time you’re supporting people to censor others. Maybe next time you’ll voice an unpopular opinion and you won’t be able to do anything because it may offend people.
Like it? Subscribe via wordpress, RSS, or email
Comments and ratings are appreciated.