Editorials and Features
Article by: MrCHUPON
RANT: Uncle Sam, Can I Play BMX XXX? [Written 2004-01-07]
"Video games are bad for you?" asked Shigeru Miyamoto. "That's what they said about rock and roll."
Oh so true. And yet I find myself staring at games such as the Grand Theft Auto series, Manhunt, and BMX XXX on shelves. Certainly, these games can't be good for you.
But let's take Grand Theft Auto. While I'm not going to stand here and tell you I'd let my son play this title before he was of age (if I had a son, at this point, anyhow), I will go and say it's a very good game. So the developers decided to weave an adult themed story around a great core engine. Big deal.
Actually it can be. The key words here are "adult themed." I believe that adult themed games are, well, meant for adults. How can you possibly expect your ten year old brother or sister to fully understand prostitution, drugs, and hit-and-runs in the real world -- and the severity of said issues -- when they spend free time sitting in front of the boob tube, learning about them from a videogame and thusly thinking it's all in good fun? I know kids grow up fast these days and more and more "mature" things are being adopted into youth culture. Still, it would be irresponsible to expose kids to the things portrayed in GTA and Manhunt considering the entertainment-based medium they originate from. They're playing a game for crying out loud, don't you think the negative association with such material may be dampened just a bit?
You could do one, or two, of two things: you could protect them from such games, or you could educate them to the best of your abilities on how to distinguish reality from a simple game. Preferrably both.
Unless you don't really care for what your kid perceives as reality, and what is acceptable in reality. Unless you don't really care about your kid.
This rant is inspired by the California bills passed by Assemblyman Doctor Reverend Lord Leland Yee Uber Duper Esq., bills which Entertainment Software Association prez Douglas Lowenstein (he's one bad shut yo mouth!) calls unconstitutional.
Take a gander at what the article writes about these bills (I found it on Planet Gamecube.) Here is the core of the two bills:
"Yee's second measure would force retailers to display M-rated video games at least five feet above floor level to keep them out of sight of young children."
Then proceed to claw your eyes out. Then rinse off the blood and finish the rest of this rant.
Alright, I'm not going to lie here -- I honestly believe that something must be done to, in fact, keep BMX XXX out of little Bobby's hands. But wait -- labeling games as harmful matter? What exactly do they mean by that?
-Dr. Rev. Lord Leland Yee, Esq. Etc. Yadda
Alright, bad example regarding BMX XXX -- it is basically pornography. But guns? Tobacco? Alcohol? Hold UP. Slow your damn ROLL. Outside of using the GTA:VC disc to slit someone's throat (ooh, maybe I should sensor that, it might give little Janey an idea!), tell me how that game is going to directly cause a death. I can see it now.
"Local news reports say that Cletus McBangslam, age nine, was apparently fatally bludgeoned to death by Phil McRevis, age seven, who weilded a Grand Theft Auto: Vice City videogame. The murder weapon has been recovered and tested for fingerprints."
I understand, fascists, that your point is the influence that videogames has on children. Exposure to murder, guns, hookers, yadda yadda. Yet this influence is only slightly different than letting your children watch the Sopranos on TV, or listening to a 50 Cent record. Oh, so you don't want your kid to think it's cool to chop apart a man and store his head in a bowling ball bag, or to send a message out for someone to get whacked? So you're scared your kid will start up beef with a so-called rival in school, threatening to shoot him in the eye whenever the chance arises? Fine. Then your job, as a parent, is to prevent any exposure to such media -- and educate the child about the material. Don't get all lazy and just say "No" without giving a "why." Learn them a lil something something. Teach them why they should understand such material as only part of entertainment, and in real life such material is very, very dangerous.
As such, don't look to Dr. Yee's shiny laws to do your work for you: shield and educate your own damn kids regarding videogames. It's that simple, everyone in support of videogames has said it, and yet you idiot parents and lawmakers don't understand. Famous example -- Columbine. Were you keeping an eye on your kids and what they were stashing? Don't place the blame on Metallica or Doom. (Or whatever the hell they were doing for entertainment.) Maybe if you had kept an eye on the nine millimeter stashed in the garage. Or, how about this, maybe if you had done a good job trying to educate them in the ways of life in their formative years. Bad apples slip through the cracks, yes, and sometimes nothing can be done. Ok, fine. But don't blame videogames. Why does it have to be games? Like Chris Rock said, "Whatever happened to just plain crazy?"
I don't see as much of a harping about "2 Fast, 2 Crapulent" (oh I'm sorry, I meant "Furious") getting criticized for encouraging people to drag race. Yet when John Allen Muhammed and Lee Malvo went on their terrible shooting spree (may the victims' souls rest in peace), what does the media do but start talking about the God Mode of first person shooters as a possible link to Malvo's message, "I am god." No. No! No, dammit no. That's retarded, ridiculous, and just plain abhorrent.
Video games stores are already required to check for identification; I've seen this in action in New York City. I walked into a GameStop and some fifteen year old looking kid tried to snare a copy of some M-rated game. The clerk said he couldn't without a parent present. The kid called his mom on his shiny cell phone (ooh, guess that makes you adult), his mom asked to speak to the clerk, and I heard the clerk tell her that he couldn't without valid identification or without her presence.
That made me angry. No, not the clerk; he did the best job he could and I laud him for it. I'm talking about the mom, who, at home, didn't know what in the world her kid was buying, just giving the go-ahead on the phone. And if she DID know what the kid was buying, that's even worse. Perhaps, I suppose, the mother has been doing her job as a mother and has educated the kid on the matter at hand. But I hope you understand when I say that my faith in the competence of today's parents isn't exactly, well, existent.
The sad part about that little experience is that, according to what I've heard from other places, stores don't always follow through with their I.D. checking. The other sad part is that, when they do, and they try to explain to the parent what is being sold to the child, the parent is prone to saying, "Well uh, he's played it at a friend's house. It must be alright."
This is a rant, so there probably isn't a point, but let me get to the point (huh?): Parents, not the government, are responsible for the content that their children see. And, PARENTS, not videogames, not music, not movies, are responsible for making sure that their children are educated as to what's acceptable or not. Your children are in school until 3 p.m. From then on, its YOUR turn to watch the kids. (A thought just dawned: why not introduce a school class on explicit subject matter in the media? And don't make teachers gestapo... make them actually EDUCATE. This is America dammit.) A five-foot high shelf is not going to stop the kid from trying to get that game. Don't be an idiot. Learn about the ratings system, learn what the game contains, learn how to educate your child. Just because you're parents doesn't mean you stop learning. Get with it.
Here's a great letter written to Dr. Yee, which will probably never be read, by Robert Miller, a PGC Forum user. Take the time to read it.
I read the interview that you gave with the website www.homelanfed.com and disagree with your proposed bill very strongly. After looking over your website, you look like you would be a member of the senior citizen age group. The ones who have never had anything to do with games unless they were computer programmers until now. This bill of yours is nothing more than a shot to make you look better for a re-election to the mass voters (usually 30+ age). But what many fail to realize, is that age group is very quickly being flooded with gamers my age who grew up on games in the eighties.
These gamers (those who know the difference between games and life) are always being trounced on because of some nitwits who choose to think that they can relive the activities in the games for themselves. Why punish all of us because of the moronic actions of a few.
Your examples are heavily flawed. It sounds that you feel that since Grand Theft Auto (GTA) has come out, there has been a new activity called car jacking. Sorry, but it dates back to at least the 1920's with organized crime which is also present in GTA. And crime lords like Al Capone are nothing but fiction. Medal of Honor, which is mentioned in the interview, does not have any blood or gore in it. Yes it shows shooting people and the beaches on D-Day. That is real history, sorry.
You claim that these games with violence in them causes a rise in violent behavior, well I heavily beg to differ. Why at QuakeCon, any Professional Gamers League tournament, or any Cyberathlete Professional League tournaments are there never any outbreaks of violence with all the violent games being played by hundreds of people of all ages? They play games such as Quake, Doom, and Counterstrike. All three of those are first-person shooters. In fact, back in 1998 when you held a position on the Francisco Board of Supervisors, there was a Professional Gamers' League championship held in San Francisco at Club-i, a cybercafe. There were almost 2000 competitors and no incidents of violence of any kind.
The problems are the store employees and the kids' parents. My parents would not let me buy my own games when I was younger. They bought them all. I have played all types of games by now and have never been in a violent confrontation or situation. Retail stores are required to ask for identification when games rated M are brought to their register. It is their obligation to be informed on the products that they are selling and to inform their customers of their purchases. Parents have the right to watch over the child's gameplay activities because they are minors and it is in the parent's house. It is my belief and many others that parents have gone soft in recent years with watching over their kids. It is lawmakers like yourself that make these laws that help to take the responsibility of being a parent out of parenting.
You are not trying to make it "better" for the kids. If anything, it will cause more violence from the kids who will try and steal the games that they can't buy. It will cause retail companies to lose sales. You are trying to put a mark on an industry you know little to nothing about. You even state in the interview:
"I have not personally played these games, however many of my staff members have. I have seen numerous footage pieces of these games, which clearly shows the need for such legislation."
I'm willing to bet my bank accounts that you have never been to an organized gaming event. You have not even touched a single one of your targeted games. If you want to gain any type of backing for this bill and earn respect for your voters, you have to put yourself in the situations to see what it is like. Otherwise they will not give you the time of day with apparently ignorant remarks and bases. I sincerely hope that you will do some more personal research and find that your bill is off base and completely not needed.
Gamer and resident of San Jose, CA,
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