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House of Rep. Idiots Hold Hearings with other Idiots

Filed under: Video Game Politics
Posted by Jeremy on June 15, 2006 9:27 AM
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The other day I wrote a piece on the Oklahoma Violent Video Game bill and how I'm getting so sick of politicians who don't know what they're talking about using video games for their own political ends. The rash of state bills over the last year is now filtering up to the national level. Yesterday, the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection held hearings titled, "Violent and Explicit Video Games: Informing Parents and Protecting Children". It should have been titled, "Old white men who think video games are responsible for all of society's ills hear from witnesses who reinforce that idea."

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At the hearing, the only two sensible witnesses were Patricia Vance, head of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) and Doug Lownestein, president of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). Both of them were treated with hostility despite the fact that they are two of the most informed and sensible advocates for keeping violent games out of the hands of kids.

Three other witnesses read like a list that Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council would have put together. First, we have David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, who publishes a yearly Video Game Report Card which the ESRB has already debunked as faulty. Next, is Harvard assoc. professor, Kimberly Thompson, a self described video game researcher who said one of the stupidest thing I've ever heard during the hearing (something to the effect that if food is labelled, shouldn't our media be too?). Another winner, Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, continues to fuel the myth that, "a significant percentage of children sent in as undercover shoppers are still able to buy these (M Rated) games."

These witnesses served to reinforce the lawmakers' preconceived notions about video games. And what are the preconceived notions? That all video games are 'Grand Theft Auto' and that video games are for kids. In fact, a great deal of time was spent on GTA with chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL) "noting the numerous objectionable actions players can perform in the game, finishing with the ability to fly a plane into a skyscraper." (GameSpot) Obviously, Rep. Stearns was attempting to associate GTA with 9/11, as if the hijackers had played GTA to practice their mission (actually, if they wanted to practice, they would have used a flight simulator which would be rated "E" for everyone).

The other lawmakers kept bringing up the idea that the core market for games is kids. Actually, the average gamer is 29 years old. And, how would a kid get $50 to buy a game? Oh right, their parents buy the game for them. The idea of a 13 year old walking into a game store with $50 and asking to buy GTA is absurd. Sure, every once in a while a kid will be able to buy that game, but most of the time, he won't. Have lawmakers succeeded in preventing all kids under 18 from buying cigarettes or underage drinking?

I'm just so angry at all of this. There are other points I want to make and other things I'd like to discuss, but I'm sure I'll have ample opportunity to do so in the future. I'm fed up with politicians wanting to use violent games as the latest attempt to appear to have "family values". If they really wanted to show that they have such values, they'd offer health insurance to every kid in this country, help fund schools and teachers, offer after school programs and early intervention education, provide school breakfasts and lunches, make phys. ed. more demanding, etc.

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