Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Bark/Byte: The Videogame Rating Debate

If there's one thing that's guaranteed to annoy the living hell out of me, it's a politician trying to make the bleeding obvious sound like something no-one's ever thought of before.

The level of ignorance displayed in this whole debacle appalls me. Just because something's labelled or called a "game" doesn't mean that it's for kids. Naked Twister is a game, but you wouldn't let you kids play that, so why let your 10 year old angel play a game that's CLEARLY LABELLED as 18-rated? It's not like parents should be unfamiliar with a BBFC rating symbol, which appears on most 18-rated games, and the PEGI voluntary ratings are equally clear - people just want to use the non-standardisation of age rating advice on games as an excuse for their inability to take responsibility over what they allow their kids to play.

The "videogames are for kids" argument is as fatuous as it is tedious, and one indicative of an ignoramus who has probably never played a videogame in their lives. The call for violent videogames to be banned is likewise misguided - like the "video nasties" of the '80s, videogames are simply the social scapegoat for a country slipping beyond the control of the government. It's the same old tired argument (parodied wonderfully in GTA: Vice City with the "Degeneratron" adverts) that somehow violent games, films or TV can somehow incite violence. To this, I say "BOLLOCKS."

Videogames are not media that portray reality. Like films, they mirror the real violence in society, but as an exploration of why that violence appears in society, not to inspire people to recreate it. Videogames are fantasy - and anyone failing to understand that belongs in the Funny Farm, quite frankly. Many films, books and videogames have explored the cathartic property of violence, and where the representation of this violence is uncomfortably realistic (and that's the correct response to have, discomfort, if you want to truly understand the violent mind) access to these works has been rightly restricted to those capable of distinguishing fully between fantasy and real life - i.e. adults over 18 years old.

Trying to ban films, books or videogames doesn't address the real issues behind the tragedies they get blamed for - videogames no more corrupt today's youth than watching Neighbours or Sesame Street. Even the videogames angle in the infamous "Manhunt murder" in Leicester is simply a smokescreen over the real problem. The game was actually owned by the victim, and not the murderer (and who exactly bought that 18-rated game for a 14 year old boy?), plus the victim was a drug addict, killed over a drug debt. I'd love to know just how much the parents knew about that - having a drug using son is hardly a ringing endorsement of their parenting skills, is it? Whilst it's natural to want to blame someone after such an undoubted tragedy, people need to look harder at themselves, and take some responsibility for their own failings, not blame something just because they don't understand it.

Another infamous case in the US cited Vice City as the cause of two teenage children shooting at cars, resulting in several serious injuries. Surely the issue isn't two teenage kids having access to violent videogames. It's two teenage kids having free, unsupervised access to their parents' firearms. But God Forbid anyone in America try to ban guns. Guns don't kill people, videogames do.

Another wonderfully inaccurate statement I heard during the current furore was "videogames teach kids how to use guns". Now, I've used real weapons, and there's absolutely no correlation between aiming a real pistol or rifle and using one in a videogame. Operation Flashpoint is the game that gets the closest to reality, but even that doesn't come close to recreating the nuances of firing a real gun. I'd gladly challenge any 15 year old Medal Of Honor junkie to a target shooting competition with a G36 over 300 yards.

Unfortunately, with the mainstream press loving a scandal and the chance to instill fear into the hearts of the proles, the chances of getting any balanced coverage is pretty minimal, letting the government and parents gloss over their own failings and pass the buck of responsibility, whilst doing very little to actually make changes that might help. And people wonder why society is falling apart...
Post a Comment