Monday, 21 January 2013

The States and Games

What's to be done, and what it might mean.

It's no secret that ever since the Sandy Hook tragedy that there have once again been a number of fingers pointed at violent media, video games and movies included, by people who argue that exposure to and participation in acts of dramatized violence are what lead to events like what happened. I don't think I really need to make clear where I come down on this issue, if I do then you're either new here (in which case welcome!) or you haven't been paying enough attention.

I can understand that after such violence occurs people naturally want answers, or perhaps it's more fitting to say that they want closure. They want clear factors that can be seen as contributing to what happened; the human mind, for the most part, doesn't take well to notion that horrific things just happen randomly and without cause. Rather than a crazy, messed up gunman, it had to be a teenager who never could have been capable of such a thing before watching Breaking Bad and playing Call of Duty. It's not correct, but it's understandable.

That being said though, along with the long, long overdue discussion about gun control (hoo-boy I'm staying away from that one forever, ok thanks) I do believe that there is a level of necessity to discussions about video games, both violent and non-violent. To that end I find myself agreeing with the course of action that the current administration is taking.

President Obama wants, among other things, to conduct a study on violent media and if and how it affects young minds. It's worth noting that so far no study has found a correlation between playing violent games and having violent behaviours. It's true that some studies have, but it's more often than not found that these studies were questionable in their rigour to begin with. I firmly believe that even if the proposed CDC study actually does even give a link between such behaviours that it will be a step forward, because then at least we'll know and start taking rational, reasonable steps to deal with it. I should still note though that I'm fairly confident that no definitive link will be found, if only because of the track record of such things.

Of course, that's not the only course of action that the government wishes to take. Obama also wishes for the various media industries to have more tools for parents to use, and it's a sentiment somewhat reflected by a bill that a senator wants passed as well. The thing about these measures is that, well, they aren't really anything different from what we have already. While things like ESRB ratings aren't guaranteed to be on absolutely everything (to use a somewhat pertinent example Hotline Miami is not actually rated under the ESRB, although if it had a rating it would most definitely be M), they're also more than enough in most cases.

No, it's not more tools we need, it's that we actually need more people to pay attention to what they're doing. Any semi-active Call of Duty or Battlefield player that uses pubs can probably relate to the number of times they've had people micspamming that sound a hell of a lot younger than the recommended age of 17.

To be perfectly honest the incredibly bitter part of me wants to say that if indeed games that are violent enough to be rated M are so dangerous, then there should be the same provisions with them as there are with alcohol and cigarettes: make it illegal to sell them to anyone underage and also illegal to buy them with the intent to distribute them to underage people. I know though that doing something like that wouldn't solve anything.

When it comes right down to it, the industry can only do so much, people have to actually be willing to meet it halfway. Words like responsibility, culpability, and the like aren't just things to be trotted out after the fact. People have to actually exercise a little responsibility themselves, to make sure that things don't get out of hand in the first place. In most cases that's as simple as actually giving a shit about what your children want to play, and making sure they aren't in over their heads. It's not rocket science people, it's common sense, please use it.

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