Anytime a group of people demand that something be banned in this country you will find numbers of folks who will back such a ban as well as their detractors. Looking back we can see instances when just about every form of media has been attacked by some group or another – music (like Elvis, Kiss and the Beatles), books (Catcher in the Rye, Harry Potter), and movies (Elvis flicks, and again Harry Potter). Personally, I have no problem when an individual makes the choice not to support any form of media for whatever reason they see fit; after all it’s a (hopefully) free country where one can make up one’s own mind. But it makes me crazy when such groups get together based on nothing more than uneducated misinformation and present it to the government – who then actually heeds these half-baked ideas and goes with the flow.
A recent case in point would be the hoopla over video games. This form of media has been severely scrutinized by the public over the last few years, and recently has come to the attention of the government…whose members have proven that they know very little about the subject they are debating (and making decisions) on.
Last year there was a big to-do about sex scenes in the game ‘Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’. Detractors (led by a lawyer named Jack Thompson) claimed that the game itself was ultra violent (which it was) and that the player controlled sex scenes were nothing more than virtual porn(which, again, is true). Their biggest complaint was that the kids who would get a hold of such a game might become violent themselves and curious about sex (and misinformed due to the games portrayal) at an inappropriate age. Member of the government (namely Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton) jumped on this moral bandwagon and agreed with this viewpoint, and calls to ban the sale of video games (or the sale of violent or mature game to minors) could be heard from the House and Senate.
But there were many problems with the cries of ‘foul’ that plagued the video game industry. First off, the sex scenes in question could only be gotten into if the plyaer of the game actively hacked into the programming; it was not part of the game itself, and could not be accessed unless the consumer was intentionally hacking the game to look for it. Also, video game already have a ratings system (much like movies) that lets a consumer know if the game is appropriate for kids, teens, or should only be played by adults. So as long as the retailers (and parents) were paying attention, the games would not get into the hands of kids that shouldn’t have it.
As an avid gamer myself, I enjoy browsing (and sometimes buying) the local game stores. And there have been numerous occasions where I’ve seen the shop clerks tell a kid outright that they could not purchase a game due to the rating on the box. There were even two occasions where the parent was in the store with their kids, and it was brought to the parents attention that the game was inappropriate, and yet the parents in these cases actually bought the game for the kid (both times the kids were no more than 12, and the games were the aforementioned ‘Grand Theft Auto” and ‘BMX XXX”, a stunt bike game that featured nude women on bikes). I have to say that the clerk in question (same person both times I witnessed this) was very professional and emphatic about the fact that the game might not be suitable for these kid, but the parents in both cases simply blew off this warning.
It seems to me that the problem doesn’t lie with the producers of such games (their selling units, so obviously they’re making a product people want…that’s called business), nor with the people who choose to play them. The problem seems to be with the parents who are shirking their responsibilities and with a government that is willing to listen to the ranting of people who may be ignorant of the subject their fuming about, and turning such diatribes into legal gospel.
As a gamer myself, I play a variety of games; some are obviously not for children and some are. As a parent I would not let my children watch a movie that was not age appropriate, nor play a video game that was rated out of their age group. That’s MY job; not the governments, not the groups that claim a sort of moral high-ground. Perhaps if they were doing THEIR job they wouldn’t need the government to back up rules that they can’t seem to enforce in their own homes.
Just a thought…