(the following started as a response to Andrew Kauz's exceedingly good, recently-promoted blog. Read it now: http://www.destructoid.com/videogames-and-the-pursuit-of-harmless-entertainment-182361.phtml
"We can't tell our kids to do well in school and then fail to support them when they get home," Obama said. "You can't just contract out parenting. For our kids to excel, we have to accept our responsibility to help them learn. That means putting away the Xbox. Putting our kids to bed at a reasonable hour. It means attending those parent-teacher conferences and reading to our children and helping them with their homework."
~President Brack Obama, at a July 2009 NAACP speech
“Children are playing a game that encourages them to have sex with prostitutes and then murder them... This is a silent epidemic of media desensitisation that teaches kids it’s okay to diss people because they are a woman, they’re a different colour or they’re from a different place.”
~Hillary Clinton, 2005, at a childcare symposium speech.
I'm sorry, Kauz. I can't fight with you on this one.
The television industry is firmly entrenched in American culture, as is the movie industry. Nothing short of massive social upheaval will ever loose these two juggernauts of modern entertainment from their thrones, no protest, no comittee, no act of congress could ever be potent enough to shut down the cameras for good. They're completely immune to the effects of criticism, from themselves or from anyone else. Neither the Chomskys nor the Bozells of the world have any real power to go after these titans of world media. Americans of all stripes and affiliations would dress themselves in copies of the First Amendment and take to the streets at even the mere hint of a crackdown.
But video games? There's an entirely different story.
In 1985, when the modern American gaming industry was born, the people who run our government and our media today had already left their childhoods far behind. When tasked to recall the phrase "video games", they're most likely to come up with some vague recollections of Pac-Man or Space Invaders, and will rarely fail to mention it in some dismissive, patronizing tone. You know, for kids. If they played video games at any point in their lives, they certianly don't indulge in such a pointless waste of time anymore, no sir. They're too busy doing important stuff to bother with them Worlds of Warcraft or Super Mario Men.
And that's the best we can hope for. They were happy to simply ignore us when we were kids. We're just playing with toys, after all, we'll grow up and watch sitcoms all night like responsible Americans. But, we didn't stop playing. We grew up, and our games grew up with us. When the blood hit the screen, their jaws hit the pavement. We're their babies! These are toys! How could they be so violent and corrupt?! These game companies are clearly trying to destroy our children! We've got to save them!!
That's been the rallying cry ever since. We all know what they think of us and the games we play. The fictional portrayals of gamers as overweight, pastrami-stained, pasty-faced shut-ins too busy arguing with their loser friends over their Faceyspaces to get out of the house and find a girlfriend. The endless stream of news stories about that Grand Theft Auto game in which you can run over hookers and cops without any Real Life Consequences, and pedophiles using Pictochat and Xbox Live to lure YOUR CHILDREN into a real-life game of Dig Dug. The unyielding exhortations of demagogues, congressmen, and the freaking president himself about how simply putting down the Xbox or the Ipod will magically transport you to a world where people are nice to each other, God loves everyone, and there aren't five job seekers for every one position created.
At best, the generation that runs the world misunderstands gamers. At worst, they hate us
In 20 years, should nothing change, our generation will start to take control, and the concept of video gaming will be secured in the American landspace every bit as much as TV and movies. At that point, we can begin to take the swords to the industry. We can make all the criticisms we need, cut out all the dead wood, and demand a higher standard from the purveyors of the medium.
But not yet, dammit. We're too vulnerable. We're already besieged by our media and our governments. We can't give them the rope to hang us with. They'll most assuredly use it, so that we've got nothing better to do than watch Two And A Half Men every night and see Vampires Suck on the weekends. They're suffering too, and they'll sooner smash every controller on the planet than take even one look at their own issues.
So, we must endure. We must suffer gladly the things about this industry that piss us off, the Gamestops and the red rings and the wave upon wave of pandering. We have to. The gaming industry now presents a direct threat to old media, frightened parents, and the politicians thatcater to both. Any blade we stick ourselves with will be thoroughly salted and run straight through by these people without a moment's hesitation, in the hopes that somehow, we'll all wake up from our lives of visual junk food and watch some good, old, wholesome Desperate Housewives.
We have to be positive, even to the point of cloying. We have to defend our industry whenever we can, no matter how much it hurts. Now is the worst possible time for an overhaul of gaming morality. We even try it now, and everything we've loved and grown up with will end up crushed and rotting in a desert landfill.
Your points, Mr. Kauz, are all valid and worthy of greater investigation by everyone involved in the gaming business- players, critics, and developers alike. But, not yet. Not when a chink in our armor, any wavering in our insistence that video gaming is how we wish to spend our free time as responsible adults, can cause the whole thing to cave in.
The wolves are at the door. Now's no time to renovate.