The New Tobacco: Video Games

It’s old and somewhat insignificant news, but Frank Wolf (VA) and Joe Baca (CA) of the US House of Representatives want to force all games not rated for Early Childhood to carry a “health warning label”, similar to cigarettes, that would read:

 “WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior”

Now these jokers, and other clowns like them, have tried this many times — this one bill having been proposed a full six times since 2002, so I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. What bugs me is the junk science being tossed around to try to enforce this idea and the obvious implications with free speech and so on.

There is no conclusive evidence that states video games cause violent behaviour. There’s been suggestions of correlation, but never has it been proved conclusively, and that’s incredibly important. Cigarettes, for example, can be said to be objectively bad for you. Even if you’re crazy enough to argue there are health benefits, the cons definitely outweigh the pros, and there is a wealth of scientific evidence to back that position. And it’s conclusive, solid, and air-tight — at least enough to say, without a doubt, smoking is bad for you. The representatives are obviously pushing this as a health concern and not as a first amendment thing or a societal concern or anything like that. Obviously, they’re trying to make things seem much more dire than they actually are and it’s actually awfully sickening.

What bugs me the most, I think, is where responsibility is being passed off. You need to be a certain age to buy certain video games — maybe these rules should be better enforced (I support it), but there’s already a system in place. The idea is, I think, that maybe when your son is playing GTA V and you walk into his room, you might notice the game with the fat warning label on it. And then maybe you’ll ban it, or whatever. But that is kind of my problem: the buck is being passed off to lawmakers and so on to do the basic job of parenting for their kids. Too often you hear of parents suing game companies or stores or movies or whatever, claiming their products made their kids violent or angry or bad at school or whatever. But the catch is this: if parents did their jobs and watched their kids, it wouldn’t be an issue. If you know what your kid is doing, he can’t be playing violent video games that you’d otherwise forbid. Sure, you can’t know where your kid is 24/7,  but no one is asking that. I know people who flat-out don’t watch their kids or care what they’re doing or take a part in their lives. They’re bad parents. If you start blaming Netflix or the internet or Rockstar Games or the TV because your kid got a hold of something you don’t want them to have, you’re an idiot and that’s all there is to it. Watch your kid and it won’t be a problem (let’s ignore the fact that the average new release costs like what, $60? Until I got my first job it was pretty tough to get a hold of $60, let me tell you). Don’t pass off the parenting.

Obviously the issue of freedom of speech is important to me (and anyone who has a blog, watches movies, reads the newspaper, plays video games…) and that’s one that bugs me. Sure, there might be a cause for reasonable limits on that freedom (I think most people will agree that hate speech isn’t right — defining hate speech is obviously important in this case), but slapping the warning label on video games doesn’t seem right from an aesthetic point of view. You wouldn’t do it to a Picasso, you wouldn’t do it to a movie, why do it to a video game? It’s stupid. There seems to exist this idea in society that we need to shield children from everything, whether it’s talking about death in front of kids, sex, violence, or swearing. These are all things that we’ve decided are either immoral or inappropriate for kids to know about, when the truth is that there are studies that suggest that youth who are exposed appropriately to these things are more knowledgeable about them and better able to make informed decisions. A kid who has heard that drugs are bad or sex without a condom is risky is more likely to say no to drugs and wear a rubber than one who hasn’t heard either talk.

These are the things that bug me about this, over all. I remember trying to buy violent video games as a kid. One that stuck out was Manhunt,  which is one of the most violent video games of its time. The clerk at my EB wouldn’t let me buy it without ID, so I eventually got my cousin to pick it up for me. So, I beat the system that way and ended up playing it only when my parents weren’t around. Once, I was playing GTA: San Andreas and my dad walked in the room. There was a scene where Mike Toreno (James Woods) says something about a “blowjob”. My dad was offended and told me I couldn’t be playing that game with that kind of language. Of course, now I’m an adult and can do all sorts of things legally so an M rating on a game doesn’t make me even bat an eyelash. I don’t care that kids can’t buy Mass Effect 3 without an adult, but that’s me.

In any event, this bill is bull and won’t be passing, so it’s kind of a moot point… and even if it did, I’m in Canada, so, booyah.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s