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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Open Letter to Mayor Lang

I don't normally respond to someone else's e-mail, but I'm willing to offer up an exception in this case. Over at Game Politics, they've posted a response from Mayor Lang, who just recently lumped video games into reasons for a murderous hate crime, and it goes a little something like this:

Dear Andrew:

When you get a chance please explain to me the social benefits behind police and military video games for the future of our children.

While I am not familiar with these videos I have seen enough to know they can provide no healthy education for our children. Lastly, there is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Robida played these video games on a regular basis as he was completely obsessed with weapons, violence and destruction. See his my space website for more details. I sincerely appreciate your comments.

Best regards.


Scott W. Lang
-- New Bedford Mayor e-mails GP Reader on Robida Game Connection

Well, allow me to take that chance for a moment.

To Scott Lang, Mayor:

Kids often game as a social outlet, to be around friends and sometimes even with parents. Some "police" or "military" games, as you put them, may certainly sometimes contain content inappropriate for young players and yet some games with law enforcement or war themes can also build teamwork skills, strategic thinking and, once again, social skills. It's funny because people like yourself enjoy pointing out that the military uses video games for training, and yet you never bother to figure out what skills they actually train. I'll give you a hint: it's not how lock and load an assault rifle.

Content of video games is currently being controlled by a ratings system that by nearly all evidence, does actually work. While some people like to point to the extremely specific examples of ten year olds buying M rated games, the truth is that the vast majority of all games rated above T are purchased by adults. Truth is, kids don't have to buy M rated games since some parents will simply buy the product anyway.

And when this occurs? When kids play games outside of their content rating? Well, when you get a chance perhaps you can show me the evidence which makes any link between that and violent crimes. I've read plenty of material on this matter and the worst I've been able to find is a link between games and aggressive behavior. Of course, most rational people realize that there is a distinction between violent crime and aggressive behavior. You might encounter aggressive behavior nearly every day you go out into the public. Violent crime, however, is something distinct and in a class all on it's own. Many people go their whole life without witnessing one.

Video games might make your teenager more unruly. It will not make them into a homicidal racist. And before you make such a connection again, I would challenge you to find any concrete proof to the contrary.

In actuality, violent crime isn't much of a mystery. It's fairly obvious to most people that social factors like unemployment cause an increase in violent crimes. How does the city of New Bedford hold up in terms of unemployment? In December of 2005 it was 5.5%, well above the national average of 4.6%. Between the years of 2000 and 2003, New Bedford went from one murder annually to eleven and doubled the number of rapes.

So I ask - why do politicians feel the need to seek out mythical reasons when the obvious ones are right in front of them? New Bedford is a predominately white community with a high unemployment rate, low median income and a high rate of crime for the state of Massachusetts. However, when something really bad happens ... something really tragic ... you claim it was video games?

Do you think we're that stupid? For too long now, certain people with outlets to the media have assumed that video games and gamers are an easy target to for which to paint their problems. They'd do better to remember that a lot of gamers these days are eligible to vote.

Best regards,

I have not actually sent this along yet. Partially because I haven't bothered to dig up his email address, mostly because my track history of believing that the recipient will actually take this kind of correspondance seriously is pretty low. But there it is.

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Brinstar said...

I vote for you to send it.

Patrick said...

I would re-draft it to be a bit less inflammatory and more concise. If you expect a response you should aim to take up as much time in your mail as the Mayor's first response took of yours. Also, he does have a point that there is a heavy militarized aspect to many games, particularly the FPS genre, and while this doesn't make people killers it can culture the killer that lurks in some people.

Don't get me wrong, I'm trying to release a storyworld by the Fall that explores the REAL issues that alienate people and drive them to kill.

I just wish they hadn't taken the guy's MySpace page down, that would be an interesting artifact.

BTW, you are quite prolific man! You blog and link more posts in a day than I do in two weeks!

Josh said...

Yeah, I might take some time to distance and review before I hunt down his email ... though I guess it's more honest to send it rather than not let someone respond at all.

To be honest, I've got all sorts of crazy stuff going on at work right now ... so editing to make it more palatable to the Honorable Mayor isn't high on the list.

It's not like I expect him to take any responsibility, no matter what I write. His claim here is beyond ridiculous ... there's nothing connecting the two from the investigation to the science. Nobody is even looking for this except the politician.

Yeah, I've had a bit more time for the morning crawl and afternoon recap ... not sure how long that will keep up though.