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Video Games: The New Black Trenchcoats

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Not long ago, Congress was preaching from their pulpit on the evils of song lyrics that glorified violence and other dark themes. Violence onscreen, be it big or small, is also apparently responsible for all the world’s ills. Or was, rather. Now? It’s time for video games to take their full turn in the spotlight of demonization. Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), big proponents of the useless-blowhard school of government, have announced that they intend to put forth legislation that will ban the sale of mature titles to minors.

This is really getting old. First of all, such legislation would have little to no actual power or impact on anything that exists outside of Congress — in, y’know, the practical world. Look at the restrictions on movies and music. Does it mean it’s a bad idea to prevent the sale of mature material of any type to children? Not necessarily, but I’ll dig into that in a moment. What it does mean is that, at the end of the day, the kid at the cash register is tired and cranky and is thinking about a math test or their favorite band, and really doesn’t give a shit who’s buying what, when, or where, because they’re underpaid and unconcerned.

Legislation like this cannot possibly be fully enforced, and it’s ridiculous to think that it can. And aren’t we bleeding enough money as it is? Instead of passing a law that will require new people to undertake new tasks for the government to do something utterly useless, why don’t we — and I know, this is really radical — try educating parents on dealing with their children, and then trust them to do so?

Is it a bad idea to prevent the sale of this material to minors? In theory, no. In practice, it’s impractical and it’s treating a symptom, not the problem. People kill people because there is something wrong with them. Period. Some kid emulates a scene from a video game and jumps off a building? Maybe his parents should have been paying attention to what he was watching, doing, and interacting with, and explained things like, gee, if you jump off a building, you will splatter over an eight foot radius. I mean, kids don’t wake up one morning and, say, decide to blow away a dozen of their schoolmates because they listened to a depressing album or they played Grand Theft Auto for a couple of days, and they don’t do it because they have a penchant for wearing all black, either. They do it because they feel trapped, ignored, outcast, and they see no way out. They do it because something is wrong with them, something deeper and bigger than most kids experience, and they don’t have an outlet.

I’m no psychoanalyst. I can’t say that there is NO LINK between a penchant for violent media and crime. But I can say this — I’ve worked in retail, and most parents don’t appear to know or care what their teenagers are renting, buying, playing, and watching. They turn them loose in video stores, in malls, and when prodded by clerks who say, ah, your thirteen year old is clutching Manhunt, most parents shrug and mutter that it’s fine — if you can get them off their cell phones long enough to pay attention.

When it comes to troubled kids, the government — at the state and local levels — seems to be locked into a pattern of pointing their collective legislative finger in all the wrong directions, and this time, it’s at video games. So great. Pass the law. Throw money at the problem. Set up a commission.

But where will you turn next, when this doesn’t solve the problem? When is it time to take a step back and try looking at the problem from another angle?

I guess when we run out of sales to legislate.

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About Alisha Karabinus

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    You know, me and Ken were talking about this the other day. In all the editorials we have here on the site on this same topic (gaming violence in general, not just the bill), there has NEVER been a single person who came here and commented for the “other side” if you will. We’re obviously an opinionated group of people, writer for the site or not.

    Sure, I’ve had people disagree with me on a point or two, but never so much the “games are evil, protect the children” comments. These people do exist, right? If so, where are they? Do they just read what the newpapers have and end it there?

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Ken Edwards

    Its Jack Thompson, oh and FOX “News.” Then it spirals off to CNN, and then Congress and Senate pick it up. It’s all a wash.

    I find it interesting how there is no ties to youth violence and video games. Nothing solid – ever. Games get more violent, yet youth homicide goes down. How could that be? You mean they are not related?

    And for the LAST TIME – Parents need to be responsible for their kids. Not the video game store clerk, and not the government. It seems as though parents have a scapegoat here, does it not?

    But as Matt said, I have never gotten into an argument (depressing, really) with someone for the “other side” of this debate.

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    It’s not youth homicide. It’s general youth violent crime that is at its lowest point since 1985. It’s funny, beacuse it peaked just two years after the Mortal Kombat/Night Trap debate started, and it’s been straight downhill since. Seems to me like they’re having the opposite effect compared to what this crappy “research” shows.

  • http://www.suddennothing.net Alisha Karabinus

    ::And for the LAST TIME – Parents need to be responsible for their kids. Not the video game store clerk, and not the government. It seems as though parents have a scapegoat here, does it not?::

    It’s utter crap is what it is. Complete crap. Yes, parents should be responsible.

    Didn’t one of these laws just get overturned?

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    This’ll make up for all the bad news of the day right?

    riiiiiiiiiiiight.

    The section editor chose this as a pick of the week. Go HERE to find out why.

    Also, as a part of being a pick you get to make a pick of your own for anytime from Dec. 3 on. Click the same HERE link to find out how.

    Thank you.

    Temple