The Poster Child

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.

The end of Civilization as we know it

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.

“I’m Batman”

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.

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5 Responses to The Poster Child

  1. hervillage says:

    I would like to point out that most of the people who oppose violent video games, and do so from an educated standpoint, also oppose violence in other media, like movies and music.
    Also, while you argue that the rating system on games is sufficient for preventing inappropriate audiences from accessing games, these age restrictions are not always upheld commercially. One source found that just after the Columbine Shootings, movie theaters monitored child access to R rated movies. This, however, died down after a short period of time.
    I agree with the position that states children should not have access to violent media. People respond to violent media physiologically and research has found that behaviors and attitudes are affected. Those who are emotionally and/or intellectually unable to process violent media in a logical way should not be exposed to it as a proactive stance against violence.
    Of course this “readiness” is a subjective thing. A child of 8 may have the ability to enjoy violent media without his/her attitudes or behaviors being affected. An adult of 50 may not be able to process it logically. Even so, physical developmental readiness is the current system used, and it’s a good idea. It is not always enforced and internet pirating and parents who don’t monitor their children diminish of these safeguards anyway. Maybe this is why you can’t kill the child in the game. Maybe it’s the decision of the game company to prevent lawsuit. There is no black and white answer, but I believe there should be increased awareness of the effects violence in media have.

    In any case, I don’t think that censorship is the object people have for wanting to restrict violent media. Not even Jack Thompson (who actually opposed H. Clinton’s proposed bill for prohibiting sale of games rated M to minors).

  2. Miryr says:

    First and foremost playing current generation games on the PC is quite expensive (even if you pirate the game) because the hardware has to be updated every couple of months to even be able to play them. This alone is a great deterrent for children to use a PC since most do not have the cash to be able to do so. So, in reality the group that’s able to play games consistently on a PC is quite small, and even then the gaming library for gory games is reduced.

    The thing is most Game developers are concentrating on consoles, since it’s the bigger market and it’s much more difficult to pirate (pirates on gaming systems get their consoles blocked completely if they go online with them).

    True, the law (even if it becomes illegal to sell children videogames) will never be able to stop all children from playing violent videogames. However, tailoring games so as to appease the mind of a child if it ever uses a videogame is crazy. This is almost as if I said that the percentage of alcohol each beverage includes should be diminished because a child may just try it.

    Actually, tailoring a game’s content to fit several standards is worse because you make the content more accessible to younger audiences. For example, in Australia it’s become customary to hold up games for months and tell game developers to edit their content. They do this under the pretense of shielding children but the problem is that since there isn’t an equivalent of an 18+ rating (any game over the classification of MA15 is banned) games have to tailor their content to fit the insane ratings. The most common differences this provokes is that bodies disappear once an enemy is killed or blood is changed to a green puss. In reality children are playing a game with a mature rating with slight modifications.

  3. This is really unbelivable. I cannot believe in this article.

  4. Miryr says:

    Your comment got marked as spam (probably because the name). I honestly don’t know if you’re a bot but either way I have approved your comment.

    Anyway, what is unbelievable about this article and why can’t you believe it?

  5. javvaax says:

    it annoys me when stupid people try too hard to change to world to fit their stupid view

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