The video game industry, compared to the movie industry, is young. This media is an unknown in the minds of the baby boomer generation as they watch their children grow up playing. To their generation and the generation before, this unknown is a scary hobby unlike baseball cards and model cars. The media, hungry to cash in on this fear, fuels it with articles of video games and their influence on children. So, the claim that video games beget violence and corrupt children is not a new one, with many “experts” and media outlets using this as a springboard to their platforms on censorship. As the industry grows in size, money and influence, and opinions sway away from “child’s toy” to entertainment venue, we must continue to fight the ignorance of “experts,” mainstream media and lawmakers.
Blind prejudice against video games was never as blatant as the Fox News segment on Mass Effect where Jeff Keighley was submarined by a news anchor and so-called “experts.” Cooper Lawrence claimed the scenes were “pornography” just moments before confessing that she had not played or seen the game prior to the segment. She later admitted to having “misspoke” on the subject of the sex scenes in Mass Effect, saying “I really regret saying that, and now that I’ve seen the game and seen the sex scenes it’s kind of a joke.”1
Video games are assumed to be the cause of so many evils, so much so that the presidential candidates throw it out as a simple platform at the beginning of their speeches that “everyone” can get behind. These are the attitudes we need to change. These are the attitudes we’re working to change.
What the gaming industry needs is the kind of clout the motion picture industry has. Motion pictures has the kind of acceptance amongst the older generations that allows for the shrug-off of the medium’s influence on society, on children in particular. I am not today going to entertain the active/passive interaction debate; my point is that one medium has the acceptance of the mainstream where the other does not. Both types of media demonstrate sex and violence, but for one, it is considered a part of our culture and for the other, it is a tool aiding in the destruction and demoralization of children.
A perfect example of this was in an article I read on msnbc.com on Friday, June 20th. Girls in a Massachusetts high school made a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together. Many of these girls were under 16 years of age. One piece in particular blew me away:
David Landry, a researcher at the Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based nonprofit group focusing on reproductive issues…cautioned against attributing the trend to Hollywood following the recent hit movie "Juno," in which a teenager gets pregnant and decides to have the baby, and "Knocked Up," a comedy about a one-night stand.
"The trend emerged before those movies," he said.2
How easy it is to dismiss a medium of entertainment when it is an accepted and popular piece of our societal culture. As if there were no movies before these two movies that involved kids in high school having sex and getting pregnant. I must say that I do feel confident that if there were a video game that involved you, as a character, having sex and getting pregnant – regardless of the characters’ ages – it would have been referenced in this article above.
The trend of child violence occurred before video games. This evidence is conveniently forgotten by the media. The sensationalism of crucifying video games and its creators sells papers, magazines and advertising on television, where parental apathy does not. Parents need to be a part of their children’s lives and that includes the ERSB ratings on the games their children desire. That means monitoring what they play and for how long. Being more invested in their children’s lives will foster a better relationship with their children and, to a lesser extent, enable an understanding of video games as an industry and a medium.
This acceptance and understanding of the gaming industry and culture is going to take time and education. Time is something we have aplenty as the first large batch of gamers are now only reaching their early 30s. Education is something we need to keep taking to the streets. We want to educate our parents and grandparents and, really, anyone who will listen, that gaming isn’t for a small crowd on the proverbial “outside looking in,” but now includes a lot of us who work along side with, pay taxes with and most importantly, vote with the very people who call out against what we do.
1 – From Gamepolitics.com
2 – From msnbc.com