And sticking it to him. It’s a relatively quiet time for the industry, all the big trade shows have come and gone, the line up for Christmas is pretty much now set in stone and the gaming news networks are wondering how to fill all the space they have between now and the avalanche of holiday releases. So as it goes, when news isn’t happening, one must make it oneself.
A perpetual bogeyman for the industry has been the spectre of government interference and censorship. From time to time someone with an agenda will pop up and suggest that perhaps letting kids play games in which they have to chainsaw bits off their friends isn’t such a great idea. Occasionally something particularly sad will happen, some troubled individual will unleash all their confused teenage frustrations on their classmates and, people who should know better will triumphantly hold up a copy of the latest digital scapegoat and proclaim that all of said troubled individual’s issues stemmed from cutting bits off his digital friends with a digital chainsaw. Of course! It all seems so clear now. Except that of course that the history of messed up kids doing dumb things is much longer than the history of computer games – or violent movies or heavy metal music etc.
So the Jack Thompsons of this world get given their ten minutes of infamy to declaim on how things would be so much better if it weren’t for those damn video games. And the really messed up part? We give it to them. We the ‘gaming public’ validate them and give their viewpoints the exposure that they crave. I was prompted to write this when I saw a GU comic on the subject. Woody was linking to an initiative by the Videogame Voters Network to produce a Wall of Protest. Everytime I see something like this I grind my teeth. It’s not that I don’t approve of the sentiment, really I do but it seems all so superficial. What are the odds that any anti-gaming legislator is going to read the site and see the pictures and be scared off from a course of advocating strong censorship on videogames as a result? Practically none I’d warrant.
While I believe it’s important not to roll over and ignore rumblings from the legislature I do think it’s naive and somewhat patronising to ‘mobilise gamers’ as though we were some secret underground movement and not for example a multi billion dollar industry with professional lobby groups and very high powered political focus groups. The government isn’t going to take away video games for the same reasons it hasn’t taken away action movies or porn or gangsta rap. The people who make money from it are also the people who are dipping into their pockets for election campaigns. EA or SCEA or Ubisoft or Microsoft independently have enough clout to marginalise the lunatic fringe who pop up in opposition. Collectively they are a huge industrial juggernaut on the same level as Hollywood or Big Tobacco. Nobody who is sane seriously believes that playing video games makes you a monster. Those who profess that they do, are generally making noises to appease a loud minority safe in the knowledge that there is zero chance their proposals will even reach a debate let alone be signed into law. They are playing both sides and we are giving the opposition the validity they need. If we ignore them they will go away.
Frankly the sooner we stop giving column time to uninformed activists (on both sides of the debate) and more time to properly educating the public on how to look after their damn kids then the happier I shall be.