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Violent Video Games

Friday, Oct. 07, 2005 12:19 AM

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California State Assemblyman Leland Yee has successfully shepherded AB 450 to the desk of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bill addresses the sale of violent video games to minors, a concern that became a cause cÚlebre after the discovery of a 'mod' to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas that unlocked hidden content - content which included depictions of sexual acts. This content would have required an AO (Adults Only) rating for the game.

The Legislature has seemingly done its homework; the bill affirms findings that minors are adversely affected by such fare, with a decrease in frontal lobe activity and an increased likelihood of aggressive and/or antisocial behavior.

We're not talking the average run-and-gun first person shooter, but about games which may be classified as cruel, depraved, or feature heinous acts of torture and/or serious physical abuse.

If the industry is actually making games that meet those standards, it's a pretty disturbing statement about our entertainment, particularly a venue that is perceived as being a young person's diversion. (There are adult gamers - I'm one of them - but Grand Theft Auto is not marketed in my direction.)

Personally, I find the whole Grand Theft Auto series to be repulsive. Gaming often involves fantasy; in a fantasy, we can be heroic. We can be handsome/beautiful, rich and successful. We can be better than we are, the unstoppable soldier, the no-holds-barred champion of a brutal sport in a far-distant and alternate future. Yet the GTA series is set in the here and now, and players engage in gang-related criminal activities.

Still, this isn't about Rockstar, its parent company, or even their lame excuse as to why the objectionable material was on the game disc to begin with.

Yee's bill makes an attempt to keep violent video games from the hands of minors, levelling stiff penalties against adults who knowingly sell them to underage consumers. Salesclerks are protected; they cannot, simply by operating the register, be held liable under the law; a manager or business owner can be.

Oddly enough, an adult may purchase the game and then give it to a minor without any penalties at all.

I can understand not wanting to legislate parental discretion, but if I buy an alcoholic beverage and give it to a minor, I am contributing to the delinquency of a minor. I can be held liable.

Why is violence, particularly when the Legislature refers to brain activity and the impact of violent games on minors, somehow more acceptable, or less serious?

UPDATE: Governor Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law on Friday, October 7. It takes effect on January 1, 2006.

AND STILL MORE: Doug Lowenstein, a spokesman for the Entertainment Software Association, released a statement that says, "... parents will be no better off for this effort to damage one of the state's fastest growing and most exciting industries that is providing some of the most compelling entertainment in the world today."

Yes, it's detrimental to our kids, but gosh, it's so compelling! And, while the ESA has a handy 'fact sheet' about kids and violent games, they dispute the claim of violent games leading to violent kids by playing the other side of an unproven correlation. Namely, if you can't prove that violent games leads to increased violence by youths, then it's also incorrect to assume that the decrease in violence is attributable to those games unless you can prove that a sample population would have otherwise gone outside and committed crimes in the absence of games.

Is the law constitutional? That's for the courts to decide.




The Ministry has received 1 comment(s) on this topic.



Brin - 2005-10-07 03:22:47
Isn't GTA the one that was advertised by Tony Hawk leaning down and puncturing a tire? And didn't that commercial get edited for content? Holy merde. It's a pity parenting skills and common sense cannot be legislated.