Saturday, August 20, 2005

So mad I could Spit.


It's not news, really, but the latest wave of anti-videogame crusading has been particularly disturbing to me. I usually sit back and snort in derision when some new complaint comes up, as there is rarely a permanent effect on the industry, and if there is, it's usually for the better. (ESRB, for one.) Not this time.

To explain: I am a gamer. I play video games, role-playing games, live-action games, board games, word games, and card games. I love games in all their forms. I am also 30 years old, a taxpayer, a voter, and someone who thinks long and hard about what I want from my government. Though the ideal of what I want is often elusive, there are many things I do NOT want.

One of them is some department or committee that decides what content can and cannot be put into video games. It scares me. It really does. I don't want someone to decide that a game is too bloody, too violent, too sexually explicit for my eyes. Do I PLAY games like that? No. But I like having the right to play them.


There are many reasons to love video games, and games are different things to different people. To my husband, games are his main hobby. Some nights he wants a well-written story, others, he wants a stress-beating mindless fighter. One of my friends has been known to play Manhunt when she's stressed, just to blow off steam. As she said, "I'd rather kill something that doesn't exist than take my anger out on someone in the real world."

I get so angry when I hear games--in any form--being blamed for the actions of some irresponsible individual. A few years ago, a local attempted murder case involved a young man who, the newspaper article snidely noted, "was an avid player of Dungeons and Dragons." Honestly. The incident had nothing to do with the game, or the character he played, or anything at all. Was he messed up? Oh yes. Was the game to blame? Not in the slightest. As I recall, there were drugs involved, and quite a sum of money. But D&D gets the blame.

Well, I'm sick of it. I'm sick of hearing parents come into the bookstore and tell me they would rather spend money on books than 'those awful games'. I'm sick of watching rampaging crusaders twist the attention away from personal problems that criminals suffer from and create media circuses around them to point fingers at the games.

There is a rating system in place for a reason. Just as a movie theater employee can get in trouble for allowing underage children in to see R-rated or NC-17-rated movies, so can a game store employee get in trouble for selling a game rated M to a minor.


However, as someone who has BEEN that game store employee, there's something you should know.

Parents don't care.

I have been yelled at by parents who come in after I refuse to sell their child a copy of whatever M-rated title they wanted. I have seen those same parents listen to their children's whines that the title isn't bad, honest. I have seen the parents BUY the titles, huff about customer service, and storm out of the store. I have also later seen and heard those parents complain to someone else that the games their child is playing are inappropriate.

The above is not an isolated incident. It has happened more times than I care to remember. Go ahead. Ask any game store employee about M ratings and parents. I dare you. Each and every one of them will tell you what I told them. The parents who listen to us, the ones who actually absorb what we're telling them, are few and rare and we bless their passage. Those are the parents who will watch what their children are playing. They will monitor the content they wish their child to see. They will believe the store employee who knows the law over their children's insistence that, say, "GTA: San Andreas" is really not a grownup game, and the letter on the package doesn't mean anything.

Unfortunately, those parents are in the minority. Most aren't involved with what their kids play, just as they don't monitor what they see on TV or in movies. Violence in the society is just fine, but the moment the child snaps and shoots a fellow student, it's the game's fault that it happened? Sorry. I don't agree.

The fact that I have never gone out and killed someone, never even HIT anyone in anger, must stagger the minds of people like Jack Thompson, a Florida attorney who builds his career on fighting video games. The very idea that I--and millions of other gamers--can be creative, responsive, articulate, social, and a productive member of society must boggle him. That I have other hobbies, including knitting, drawing, singing, and--GASP--reading, must not compute with him. He, and the number of politicians and 'pillars of the community' who are joining him must have the hardest time wrapping their minds around the fact that the vast, overwhelming majority of gamers are actually normal, functional adults. We have jobs, lives, marriages, bank accounts, mortgages, pets, children. We have dinner parties and we go grocery shopping. We are NORMAL.

We pay taxes. We serve in the armed forces. We volunteer. We vote.

Why bother, though? I mean, they're just games, right? And it's not like ALL games will be banned. What's the problem?

The problem is this: I fear that the legislation of video games will lead to bigger, more insidious things. I am afraid that if Jack Thompson gets his way, someone in a government-controlled group will decide what content goes into games before they're even made. I am afraid that the choice will be removed from me and placed within the hands of someone who wants to filter what I see and play.


I will not stand for it. I urge you all to do the same. There are many civilized, peaceful ways to make your voices heard. Write to your representative, your governor, your mayor. Talk to other adults, non-gamers especially. Discuss right and wrong with your children, and make sure you educate yourself about what they are playing. Make a difference on some level: personal, local, national, global.

I suggest you head over to gamepolitics.com for news on the crusade (among other things) and to talk about this issue with other people who feel the same way you do. Or you can leave a comment here with your email, blog, or webpage and I will form a list.

I have made up some bumper stickers and t-shirts that reflect my feelings. Head over to my cafepress shop and you'll see them under the "angry gamer" heading.

*steps off soapbox* This took me an hour to write. It's time for bed.

ETA: Links changed to hyperlinks, image added, blockquotes selected. Now go out and make a difference.

1 comment:

James said...

Hear hear!

We DO NOT want another Australia or New Zealand!