Coming home from grade school, you gallantly skip across the grass and enter your humble home. You come into the living room where there yonder sits your angelic mother who, with a permanent smile, gracefully comes to you to hug and kiss your perfect face. She gives you a present. What could it be, says your glimmering eyes. You rip open the paper and there lies your wet dream come true, Fallout 3 with a glorious corner sticker reading “Rated E: For Everyone”. You shower your mother with sloppy kisses and rush to the TV. With surgeon hands, you carefully open this priceless gem, and insert the disc into your console. Your knees begin shacking with enthusiasm as you wait for the game to start. The screen turns black, and you hear the gruff voice of Ron Pearlman saying,
War. War never existed . . .
And then you for the next 200 hours of your perfect life, you play this . . .
After months of playing Fallout 3, you yearn for a new gaming experience. Feeling your wanton boredom, your trusty dog, Scamper, leaps into action. Using its sense of smell of the most potent olfactory, it sniffs among your fathers gaming stash. It discovers the Balm of Gilead for your problem. To the rescue comes Scamper as it places your cure upon your lap. Looking down, your heart skips a beat, you begin to pale with delight for there, lying on your lap, is Max Payne: Party Manager. A winner of over 80 awards including most purchased game of 2001; it fully earns its place among the greatest of the great.
You then spend the next 20 hours playing this . . .
After you are done, you wish for more. Turning to your right you see Scamper with two games below its paws. Max Payne 2: UN Dignitary Party Manager and Max Payne 3: Celebrity Slumber Party Manager.
Grand Theft Auto
Your father returns from work and sees you managing Howard Stern’s grand religious leader’s slumber party, and smiles with pride. An idea pops in his saintly head, and he walks out the door. Upon returning he calls for you to come to his side. You willingly obey his call with delight. You ask respectfully what the matter is. Your father ruffles your hair and presents to you a game. It is none other than the fabled Grand Auto Giveaway: Toy Story Edition. You are encased within a rapturous stupor of shock. Your father picks you, the fruit of his loins, up from off the ground and takes you to the gaming console to play countless hours of this . . .
Such wondrous time with father that will never be forgotten.
Here among this humble page of letters, numbers, and pictures, I present a world without violence; a world where gamers witness countless hours of doing good unto others behind a forever present smile.
The Dilemma We Face Today
Recently, video games have been under attack from the media and politicians who blame the medium for the increase in violence in American society. This of course isn’t anything new. Such accusations have been present during the Columbine shooting of 1999 and other atrocities. Stories of people pointing their finger at video games as the inspiration for their crimes come up regularly these days. The consistency of these stories seems to suggest that either it is true that games are adding to the violence or accusing games is an easy way to escape blame for a crime.
What then do the Politicians and the media want of the gaming industry? Regulation would be the answer to this question. If you don’t believe this then just read the 83 page report from the New Jersey SAFE Task Force that was just given to Gov. Christie calling for the regulation of video games in the state New Jersey.
What Was Done in the Past
Interesting enough, something similar to what video games are going through now has occurred to comic books. Comic books have been around for a long time ever since the beginning of the 20th century. Various stories have been printed ranging from bible stories to Superman. Back in the 1950s there was a huge demand for certain comics that dealt with strange and violent material. Such comics were Chamber of Chills, and Weird Tales of Terror. These comics depicted images and stories that unsettled many parents. The government received many notices from disgruntled parents who worried about their children’s mental development by reading these comics. Studies were done to see if reading such comics would lead to “juvenile delinquency”. Government hearings were conducted to investigate the matter further.
What resulted from the hearings was the government placing the blame of the parent’s woes upon the publishers of the specific comic books. To escape from increased criticisms, many publishers discontinued many of their “questionable” comic lines; however, the government wasn’t finished.
“The subcommittee also feels that the publishers of children’s comic books cannot discharge their responsibility to the Nation’s youth by merely discontinuing the publication of a few individual titles. It can be fully discharged only as they seek and support ways and means of insuring that the industry’s product permanently measures up to its standards of morality and decency which American parents have the right to expect. . . .”
What then occurred was the creation of the Comics Magazine Association of America who then created a code where by all comics would be judged upon to determine if it will get its decency crest of approval. The comic code regulated certain content that comics had to follow in order to be approved. Such regulations include, scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited, advertising for the sale of fireworks is prohibited, In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds. These are only some of the 40 such regulations that all comics were judged upon. If this perks your interest, here is the full list of the regulations (http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6543).
Comics changed from allowing things like this . . .
to fundamentally allowing only this . . .
The government was pleased with the comic industries efforts at self-regulation; however, they did warn “that if this latest effort at industry self-regulation does not succeed, then other ways and means must—and will—be found to prevent our Nation’s young from being harmed”.
What’s With The History?
What does this history lesson tell us about our current situation with video games? It suggests that when a source of media becomes popular among children and includes questionable material it becomes the scapegoat, the instigator for violent tendencies. Video games are the popular source of media these days, and the more popular games happen to be quite violent. Fallout 3, Modern Warfare, Assassins Creed, Halo etc. all of these are being played extensively by the masses. It isn’t then surprising that video games have been branded as tools for breeding violent tendencies. This reasoning is both easy to see and easy to manage. It’s easy to see because children play games and the most popular games are violent and the recent batch of violent incidents were done by younger people, therefore video games breeds violent tendencies in younger people. Using this reasoning, all that will need to be done is to regulate the living daylights out of the video game industry so that the material produced would be less “violent” fixing the problem for good. That all seems hunky-dory, until it’s discovered that there is no substantial proof linking violent video games to the creation of violent tendencies.
Here is a video that offers great insight into this issue
Something else that the mass media and politicians need to recognize is that the video game industry has been self-regulating itself since 1994 by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). Each game that is to be distributed to the masses is required to be rated by the ESRB. Stores across the country are prohibited from selling “M” rated games to those under the age of 17. The problem arises when store clerks disobey those rules, or when parents, grandparents, or other adults purchase the game for their kids.
Who then is truly to blame for allowing children to have access to such games?
Something else that needs to be recognized is that the demographics for video games have changed. Video games these days are being played more by adults than children. According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) “The average gamer is 30 years old and has been playing for 12 years. Sixty-eight percent of gamers are 18 years of age or older”. It isn’t surprising that games are incorporating more adult themes since those who are buying and playing them are mostly adults. It is surprising that parents, the media, and the government believe that games are still a child focused business.
What Should Be Done
Violence is immemorial, an established piece of existence that we face every day. Hiding from it won’t make it go away and relishing in it won’t produce an ethical society. What then should be done? Regulation isn’t always a bad thing. Smart regulation allows for an individual to judge a product on its contents before they purchase or participate in it. It is also good for disallow younger people to gain access to things for which they are not yet ready for, and it allows parents to discern what media is appropriate for their children. Regulation goes bad when it oversteps its bounds and forces certain material to never be published going against the first amendment right of freedom of expression and speech as was done with comics in the mid-1950s. What should be done is continuing in the current self-regulation of the video game industry by the ESRB, businesses self-regulating themselves in how they handle video game purchases of minors, and parents regulating the media in their own home by first studying the product’s content.
Or we can always place all the power in the government’s hands and they can churn out stuff like this . . .