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Friday, December 02, 2005

Illinois Gov Talks Games With Gamecloud

It's a pretty decent interview, even if the good Governor spends a decent amount of time either being factually incorrect or just plain lying through his teeth ... depending on your current level of cynicism. Here's some points.

Parents don’t need government to raise their kids. That’s their job. But government can help them protect their children from influences they may not want their kids exposed to. This law is all about empowering parents and giving them the tools they need to protect their kids, and giving them the ability to make decisions on the kinds of games their kids can play.

Really? If the problem is that the parents aren't enabled to keep their kids from wandering into a Best Buy with $60 in their pocket ... then why is that the parents are largely buying the games for the kids? Ignoring this simple fact is one the biggest problems the anti-game legislation has ... they're offering a solution that doesn't fit the problem.

Like drugs and alcohol, violent and sexually explicit video games can cause long-term harm to kids. As a society we’ve agreed that children do not have a right to certain things that pose a risk to their health or development, like cigarettes, alcohol, and pornography. We know that violent and sexually explicit video games pose a direct risk to kids, so we should make every effort to keep them out of kids’ hands. And we can do this while – at the same time – continuing our efforts to make sure every child in Illinois has healthcare, investing more in education and expecting more from our schools, and working to keep our communities safe.

The "video games are a public safety issue" is completely fallacious. There is no justifiable science on the long term effects of interactive media on children, except of course all the thirty year old gamers reporting very little problems. The best support science has suggest potential behavioral issues ... but you can't quite compare that to lung cancer and drunk driving ... now can you?

This is not a frame for an argument based on fact, but on desperation. Every time they've tried to compare video games to movies or literature, these measures get their asses kicked by the First Amendment. By framing it as a public safety concern, they hope to sidestep this fate. Just because no facts support this position would never stopped a politician from making it.

Studies show that video games – because of their intense interactive nature – impact young people’s brains in a way that music and other more passive mediums do not. In addition, unlike the motion picture industry, the video game industry has not developed an effective self-regulation system that keeps adult material out of the hands of minors. A child can’t get into an R-rated movie without an adult, but they can easily walk into a store and buy an M-rated video game.

This is an inverted argument, or at least a somewhat contradictory one. Rob begins by scaring you into thinking that video games impact your brains in a special way, then uses non-interactive media as a basis for comparison and gets both wrong in the process.

First, studies have shown interactive medias have a different effect, but there's little hard science on what that really entails. Second, kids are just as capable of entering an R rated movie as purchasing an M rated game ... it's all about the guy behind the counter (apparently Rob isn't aware of current Illinois law ... unless I'm confused here).

Our law enforcement officials will determine the best ways to enforce these laws. Our job is to make sure that these laws are on the books, and we have done that.

Rob has apparently missed out on the news reports clearly stating the Illinois law enforcement has very little interest in enforcing these laws. In other words ... the best way to enforce a silly law is to not.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the negative impact playing violent and sexually explicit video games has on minors. One such study, completed in 2003 by four experts, including Douglas Gentile from the National Institute on Media and the Family, concluded that adolescents who expose themselves to greater amounts of video game violence were more hostile, reported getting into arguments with teachers more frequently, were more likely to be involved in physical fights, and performed more poorly in school.

This is probably the most respectable science out there right now. Sadly people like Rob are ruining the argument by making into a capital case of public safety. If you are trying to compare misbehaving children to kids dying of lung cancer ... you're blowing your own argument.

Time and time again, people seem forced to use hyperbole in this discussion. I suppose it's because if they don't, these laws would be seen as stupid as they really are and people would lose their media coverage. It's sad because it's a distraction from the very real conversation we should be having.

The problem parents are having today is keeping up with the media their children are being surrounded by. The problem is not a child buying God of War ... the problem is that mommy has no clue what that is and goes ahead and buys it anyway.

When is the last time you heard someone in these interviews talk about trying to help educate parents about games and movies? Offer any kind of resource? Any kind of real help?

Never, because it's not nearly as entertaining as just trying to scare people and make headlines. The problem with this debate is that there are too many attention whores and not enough rational thought.

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