Sticking The Knife In – More Political Nonsense

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

We haven’t had something to get worked up about in at least a day, so how about the impressive and unhelpful display of nonsense from Plymouth-based Councillor Michael Leaves, Cabinet Member for Streetscene and Environmental Regulation. It seems that because a mystery shopper exercise by Plymouth’s Trading Standards officers tested whether various shops would sell knives or 18 rated videogames to teenagers, the two must be linked! Knives and videogames, together at last.

Following a similar exercise with knife shops last year (one out of 23 stores sold a knife without checking the age of the shopper), Plymouth bigwigs tried the same again, this time adding an investigation into games shops. Two out of 25 knife stores broke the law, while five out of nine gaming outlets failed to ID the customers. Step in Cllr Leaves to explain why we must all hide in upturned bathtubs in our basements.

“It’s vital for shops not to sell youngsters knives and I find it very disappointing that any in Plymouth have done so. As for violent video games, I believe they must have a detrimental influence on any children who play them and I would not be at all surprised if there was not a connection with the knife crime issue. Everyone who sells these games must take extra care to ensure they only sell them to those who can legally buy them.”

(We’re assuming that he either meant that he would be surprised, or that the Plymouth Herald muddled his quote. It would be nice to think he was playing a clever trick on everyone with a sneaky double-negative, but that seems unlikely).

Statement of clarity: We could not be more behind enforcing age restrictions on videogames, and condemn the stores for failing to do so. It’s essential that age restrictions be respected in order to maintain an adult’s right to play adult games. If it can be proven they make no difference to sales, then the censors will be in a position to impose restrictions on what adults can play. Oh, and we don’t know what detrimental effects violent games might have on kids.

What’s so sad about this story is the lack of informed comment from all involved. From Mr Leaves’, “I believe they must,” (it’s hard to believe he would use this phrase if he had done any research whatsoever before giving his public, governmental opinion), all the way, rather disappointingly, to those in Trading Standards. Lynda Braddock, who spoke for the body, began by explaining their investigation was inspired by Byron’s report, and then gives the impression that she might not have read it. She expounds,

“Games are becoming more and more violent and more and more interactive. Youngsters are using them for four or more hours a day, living the life of a gangster. You must lose your shock factor if you’re continuously killing people – and then get rewarded for being violent.”

That word “must” appearing again. (We’ll ignore “more and more interactive” out of politeness). So much easier than actually having the facts in front of you, to just say what you think “must” be the case. The reason this is so frustrating is two-fold. They could be right! It could be incredibly harmful for under-age kids to play violent videogames. But so long as the approach to the subject is so astonishingly dismissive that nonsense like the above is acceptable, it will never be taken seriously. And, far more seriously (since there so far is no evidence at all), it distracts from focusing on the real causes of violence amongst young people. For as long as we blame the videogaming bogeyman, we’re avoiding what are far more likely to be real issues. Issues more difficult to regulate than age restrictions on boxes. Issues that would involve hard work and money. Issues like poverty and abuse. No, quick! Blame Grand Theft Auto! For goodness sakes, let’s not think about it any more!

This isn’t funny. Violent crime among young people is deadly serious, and being grotesquely trivialised by lazy authority figures. Conflating two utterly different issues because they were investigated at the same time is so ludicrous it becomes a joke. But a joke that’s rapidly wearing thin.

It’ll be interesting to see how much sillier it can get. I have a strong feeling that this will manage it.

Via MaxConsole.

41 Comments

  1. Naurgul says:

    I’ve come to expect such. Oversimplifying issues and fitting them into their agenda seems to be the politician’s job, unfortunately.

  2. dhex says:

    Violent crime among young people is deadly serious, and being grotesquely trivialised by lazy authority figures.

    well, it’s not like they can suddenly turn the human animal on its ear and upend thousands of years of evolution and somehow legislate violence away – everyone knows this – but they can’t up and say that out loud. it takes away from the mystique.

    but seriously, how does the ratings system work over there? 16 and over for “adult” titles? 18?

    (insert lazy joke about cooking titles being adult because you have to cut ingredients)

  3. DSX says:

    Famous old bash.org (now defunct) quote: “I’m going to become rich and famous after I invent a device that allows you to stab people in the face over the internet”

    Clearly just getting a head start on averting this catastrophe.

  4. BaconIsGood4You says:

    Controlling the plebs from on high is whats in these days.

  5. Simon says:

    Why did they take a smaller quantity of game shops that knife retailers for their survey? Clearly to say “Only 8% of knife retailers didn’t check ages, but around 60% of game retailers didn’t! Scandalous!”

  6. Nimic says:

    If anything, playing video games gives you a respite from real life, and sharpens the boundaries between the two ‘worlds’. I watch a lot of CSI right now, and recently watched NCIS, that doesn’t mean I’m ready to gut some navy fellow any da now.

    Every time someone who has touched a video game in the last 20 years smokes a bunch of crack and does something stupid video gaming is blamed.

  7. Colthor says:

    @dhex:
    link to bbfc.org

    18 is the highest ‘normal’ rating, and R18 is for porn.

  8. Premium User Badge

    John Walker says:

    I’m surprised Plymouth had 9 games shops, let alone more.

  9. MetalCircus says:

    Like any sane fellow I ejected any last vein shred of “trusting” in politicians out of the window years ago, so this is utterly unsurprising. What does surprise me, though, is how dense these people are. Even more surprising is that there are people that will read this bile and nod their heads in agreement and go on a moralistic crusade to save the children.

    sigh.

  10. JamesOf83 says:

    Cowboys & Indians. Cops & Robber. Armies. Plastic guns and knives. The playstuff of kids for decades before we had videogames, yet I didn’t grow up to knife or shoot anyone.

    I don’t get all the fuss. Violent games are rated. Don’t let your kids play games they shouldn’t. Yes I am clued into games so I’ll know what my kids are playing and I’ll vet anything they play. But even if I didn’t know, that’s what ratings are for. My parents would watch 15/18 movies first before deciding if we were old enough to watch them, parents should do the same for games, or at least read up on it.

    It’s not rocket science!

  11. KindredPhantom says:

    It got silly when a couple of misinformed adults decided to flap their mouths about something they have little knowledge about.

  12. Leeks! says:

    You nail it with the “videogame boogeyman,” John. The important thing to remember, though, is that there’s always been one. Even Goethe was accused of corrupting youthful minds, once.

  13. Dracko says:

    Knife fight simulators are the new beat ’em ups.

    It would only be honest for a title named Street Fighter

  14. rocketman71 says:

    You can tell him what you think. In a CIVIL way. His mail is here:

    link to devon.gov.uk

    (I’m afraid to post it, don’t know how the law is about posting mails in UK, so just in case…)

    Although seeing his face, I don’t think he’s going to care much:

    link to bbc.co.uk

  15. Him says:

    My word! I live in Plymouth, and can categorically state that I have heard of no incidences of game-related stabbings in the city, or its surrounds.
    Come to think of it, I also cannot think of any places where I can buy a violent game *and* a knife. (Although I can think of ten places in the city centre where a chap or chapette with a mind for video games could purchase one).

  16. Darth Benedict says:

    I once stabbed a hooker to death with a snapped GTA CD so I could get my money back.

  17. Noc says:

    Tangentially relevant: I HATE Bullshit. It’s comment-trolling level stuff. And it’s even worse that they tend to take positions that I agree with. And the worst thing is that people I know – people who should know better – can’t see the difference between analytical and fact-based debunking and ridicule.

    Also, Simon: the survey wasn’t the problem. The survey is FINE; the survey was of stores in Plymouth, and it’s not out of the question to suppose that there were simply less stores. It’s just a look at how rigorously age restrictions are enforced across different fields. For instance, I’d imagine that dedicated porn shops would be more likely to enforce age restrictions . . . and that there’d probably be less of them in a given area.

    Liquor stores might give you a similar set of results. As might cigarettes at gas stations and convenience stores, though there would probably be more of them.

  18. LionsPhil says:

    While Bullshit may indeed fail at arguing a point properly, as entertainment, I can’t wait to see Jack Thompson on there. This is going to be some kind of epic.

  19. Caiman says:

    Has anyone ever considered that underage “videogame” kids are probably the most likely ones to obtain said “violent” videogames through torrenting and other methods, and that regardless of how draconian shops are at enforcing purchasing laws these kids still have a very easy channel to obtain them?

    I have no direct evidence for this, save for my own experience of once being a kid who loved videogames. I didn’t have quite the same morals (or I didn’t really care) back then and had zero problems about pirating the occasional game – it was the way of things. Of course, I also bought hundreds of legal games in stores as well because a) they were all UKP4.95 or UKP1.99 (except for those dastardly Ultimate games) and b) they didn’t usually feature violent depictions of gore. Ok, they were all ZX Spectrum games, but I can imagine someone was traumatised by Miner Willy getting crushed by a giant foot (missus).

  20. Esha says:

    “Come to think of it, I also cannot think of any places where I can buy a violent game *and* a knife.”

    This caused a raised-eyebrows response, and of the amused sort. It just highlights how ridiculous studies like this are, if one tries to put it into any kind of context, it’s just amazingly silly.

    I’ll take a copy of Grand Theft Auto: Spite City and… [the buyer leans in close] the special kid’s bonus. You know the one.

    Si Señor, here ees GTA game and box of pineapples. Tasty, fruity goodness!

  21. A-Scale says:

    Goodbye, England. We knew ye well.

  22. Tom says:

    So in Plymouth, there are more shops that sell knives than there are shops that sell video games, interesting…

  23. Rustkill says:

    As an Aussie I feel it is my duty to point out:

    “That’s not a knife.”

  24. Riotpoll says:

    “I would not be at all surprised if there was not a connection with the knife crime issue.”

    Owned by the double negative!

    (If I’ve made a fool of myself it’s my 3am brain ;-) )

  25. Nick says:

    You can buy knives and games in Asda.

    Satan’s work, I blame Walmart.

  26. Ben Abraham says:

    For as long as we blame the videogaming bogeyman, we’re avoiding what are far more likely to be real issues. Issues more difficult to regulate than age restrictions on boxes. Issues that would involve hard work and money.

    Hear, hear!

  27. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I think everyone who writes for and posts on this website probably played violent video games and watched violent movies all day long when they were kids (i certainly did) and they turned out fine, I think it’s apparent there are far more effective social factors and it is certainly not just one thing.

  28. Larington says:

    Theres a really good book written on this issue called Grand Theft Childhood which reveals just how poor some of the research done into the issue is.

    For example, one study involved a ‘test for aggresion’, first the seemingly obvious flaw – Theres more than one kind of aggression, like the competitive kind seen in sports. Secondly, the test was to get two groups of people together and separate them with a wall, get the first group to play a ‘video game’ (Hate that term) for 15 minutes and the second group don’t. Then give both groups a blow horn and get them to compete against eachother to make the other person jump and apparently the game players holding down the blow horn for 0. something of a second suggests gamers are more aggresive.
    Flaw 2 the first 15 minutes of playing a game can be rather frustrating if you’re having to learn a new game and this is going to skew the results somewhat.

    Also: link to gamepolitics.com

  29. Crane says:

    [calvinvoice] I’d like to shoot the idiots who think this stuff affects me! [/calvinvoice]

  30. aldo says:

    It’s not games make me feel violent, it’s idiots like this masquerading as public servants.

  31. Cataclysmyk says:

    I know this is a generalisation, but knife crime and muggings tend to be more linked to teens who spend alot of time hanging around with groups of the same on the streets and who do not really play computer games.

    I feel a person who is not capable of attacking an innocent person with a knife will not suddenly be swayed into doing so by playing a violent game; the same way if your morals say its ok to attack innocent people, you will not suddenly change your morals by playing Hello Kitty.

    *I’m gonna go out tonight wiv ma mates, drink some cider and punch some kid up*
    **Realises little sister has left Hello Kitty on and runs about in the world**
    *Aww, such a cute little kitten, why did I have those evil thoughts earlier? How could I possibly want to hurt an innocent person?*

    -Disclaimer- I understand my post has various pigeonholes and generalisations. I only use these as a simpler way of expressing my point.-

  32. Ian says:

    @Rustkill: It’s a spoon!

  33. Myros says:

    While I agree with the OP for the most part I do sometimes have an issue with people who talk about the whole concept of ‘video games and their impact on young people’ as if it was a totaly impossible correlation. Who give arguments against the idea with pop-psychology such as ‘I played video games and I’m not violent’ as if that proves the issue.

    The fact is that everything experienced, seen, heard and felt has an impact on a developing personality. Every action taken and the observed consequences gets hard coded into the brain to define a ‘moral’ framework. It’s not a question of wether violent games have an impact but rather how much of an impact.

    The key point for most of us is that we get a good range of input … sure we may see and experience violence but we also see and experience the range of positive influences ie love, compassion etc and our brains have a great ability to balance the equations.

    The problem is, of course, that we are all different. What might be an acceptable level of negative input for one person might be in another the limit that would push them more towards becoming a violent personality.

    Politicians are probably the worst offenders obviously as they look to single out one “cause” to blame for political reasons. Yes, it’s a moronic thing to do but that doesnt negate the issue. Take a 12 year old kid playing video games 4 hours a day … of course it has an influence, it would be impossible for it not to have an influence. That’s just the nature of the brain, everything gets absorbed.

    But then again, that’s a parent responsability and for the most part goverments should stay the hell out of it ;)

  34. phil says:

    As an ex-Plymouthian I’m not surprised the council is seeking something, anything to distract from its greviously poor decision-making.

    This was a few years ago, but things haven’t really improved:
    link to news.bbc.co.uk

    Cllr. Leaves is just a ridiculous rent-a-gob and the Herald share the owners and attitude of the Daily Mail, hence the above.

  35. Optimaximal says:

    I’m surprised Plymouth had 9 games shops, let alone more.

    Would it surprise you to learny that ‘game shop’ defined every single retail outlet that just happens to peddle computer games, including (but not limited too) supermarkets, stationers and mobile phone shops offering Wii/Xbox/PS3 bundles.

  36. groovychainsaw says:

    Interestingly ,you could conclude the opposite of what they are clearly seeking with this study. 1. Knives are dangerous. People know that, so are strict about selling them to kids. 2. Games are less dangerous, people are less strict about selling them to kids. Likewise, I bet you age ratings are enforced more strictly on… explosives, dangerous chemicals etcetc. and not enforced on toys very strictly (age 8+ on difficult jigsaw puzzles etc. ‘Oh no! you bought it for a 7-year-old! He’ll be stabbing people tomorrow!’)

  37. Gorgeras says:

    Details about this ‘study’ seem sketchy. Did it look for shops that do not check the age of every customer or just the ones that ‘look young’?

  38. Bascule42 says:

    The issue of selling games to under age kids is one that really grinds my gears. I was in Game a few years ago. Chrimbo time, the years GTA San Andreas came out. I was in a queue behind a couple of mums who were buying some games for the kids Christmas box, and I noticed GTA:SA in both of these mothers hands. I heard a snippet of conversation about “…when he gets in from school”. Oh dear I thought. So I politely asked, “Hope you don’t mind me asking, how old are the kids you are buying that game, (GTA) for”? One said, proudly, yes proudly, he’s 8″. The other didn’t say anything. Again politely pointed out that the game is rated 18 for a reason, and tried to give a few examples of why it has the 18 rating. Including a milder version of the desert scene with Kent Paul & Macca, (you know, “I was wanking over a fat birds tits when this twat woke me up”). “Oh no”, she says, “he’s played worse”. Worse? Not much I could do, so I gave her one of those loks that are reserved for when a parent gives a kid a damn good slap in ASDA, (it probably happens more often in Netto, but I wouldn’t know).

    This illustrates the point that all this postering and lazy conjecture by politicians and supposed professionals, (re snorting WoW is the same as injecting heroin), tend to miss one key point. Lazy can’t be arsed, shove little Timmy in his room with an XBox, get him what he want or he’ll cwy, spend no time with the kids, too much hassle, attitude that a greeat many parents seem to have.

    So this to the parent buying GTA for an 8 year old. Next Chrimbob, get him 20 B&H, a bottle of Thunderbirds, £50 spending credit at your local casino, and any film with Justine Jolie in it. ROOOOAAAAR! Oh and a great big f*** off knife.

    • Bascule42 says:

      EDIT: when she says he’s 8 yrs old, it’s not 8 inches, it just looks that way.

  39. John says:

    Given that statistics suggest far more people under 16 are sexually abused than under 16 year olds harming each other.

    But there’s almost zero coverage of this, yes stranger danger is covered ad nauseum but the fact is that sexual child abuse happens in the home and is mostly perpetrated by relatives and people well known to the victim.

    But no one talks about this

    Perhaps the causes of sexual abuse and child on child violence is linked. Perhaps the cause is the very nature of our society and the frankly warped power relationships between children and adults.

    Foe instance children are powerless how do they consciously or subconsciously deal with this. It’s like the American dream some people work hard some people become drug lords or thieves. Some children furiously want top grow up, some children hate themselves and hate those around them, or adopt criminality to give them power.