Yesterday, US politicians attempting to have grown-up videogames be made exempt from Constitutional law regarding freedom of speech and be treated on a par with hardcore porn lost their six-year battle. The industry was hugely relieved, but inevitably the losers are not going gentle into that good night, with Californian senator Leland Yee, author of the defeated bill, posting a rebuttal of the Supreme Court's verdict. He's continuing to toe the line that games are turning our children into psychopaths:
“Unfortunately, the majority of the Supreme Court once again put the interests of corporate America before the interests of our children. As a result of their decision, Wal-Mart and the video game industry will continue to make billions of dollars at the expense of our kids' mental health and the safety of our community. It is simply wrong that the video game industry can be allowed to put their profit margins over the rights of parents and the well-being of children.”
Yee also draws attentions to comments made by lone dissenting justice Breyer, who commented in the ruling that “What sense does it make to forbid selling to a 13-year-old boy a magazine with an image of a nude woman, while protecting the sale to that 13-year-old of an interactive video game in which he actively, but virtually, binds and gags the woman, then tortures and kills her?"
At this point, I have to question which games Breyer has been playing, or which forums he's been reading. What on earth is he talking about? I can only presume he means Manhunt, in which case as well as exaggerating it somewhat he's confusing one nasty game that nobody likes very much and which very probably won't see another sequel with every game ever. Because that's the thing: these guys aren't interested in researching the medium well enough to single out and combat the stuff that arguably does go too far (or at least to the point where more stringent efforts are necessary to further ensure it's kept away from kids) and thus fight a righteous fight. They just want to nuke the whole lot and sidestep any debate whatsoever.
Adds Yee, “Every major national medical association – including the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics – has concluded that exposure to violent video games causes an increase in aggressive behavior, physiological desensitization to violence, and decrease pro-social behavior. Thus, society has a direct, rational and compelling reason in marginally restricting a minor’s access to violent video games.”
He's neatly ignoring a whole lot of evidence to the contrary, once again dismissing the US games industry's own ratings system and enforcement thereof out of hand, as well as seeming to insinuate that small behavioural changes shortly after playing an interactive electronic entertainment product are exactly the same as transforming into John Wayne Gacy on the spot. Again: I'd question the wisdom of anyone who denies that there are studies to be done and precautions to be taken regarding children and violent games. The march of technological progress and the march of research into its effects don't seem to go hand in hand, sadly enough. It's such a shame that the anti-game lobbyists aren't interested in improving that and being absolutely sure that their opinions are backed up with science before they embark on their witch-hunts.
Incredible photo via SFCitizen.