Thursday, September 25, 2008

Best Of - An Open Letter to Conservatives on Video Games

Originally posted December 6, 2006

To Whom it May Concern on the Right:

I am a graduate student, an Evangelical Christian, and a staunch conservative. I support ideals of the Reagan Revolution: low taxes, limited federal governance, states rights, and strict interpretation of the Constitution. I don't just understand the conservative movement, I am a part of it. Yet, there is something brewing within this movement which I just can not wrap my head around. Where did the strange obsession with video game legislation come from? We have seen similar types of legislation from such noted leaders of the left like Hillary Clinton, but from those of us who wish to see a second Reagan Revolution, it confuses me to no end. The reasoning should become clear to you shortly.

Let me begin by reintroducing conservatives to video games. In the same vein as film and television, video and computer gaming is merely a form of media. As such, the audience of this medium ranges from children to a more mature audience. To reflect this diversity in gaming, the video game industry followed the path of other visual medias in establishing for itself a working basis for the rating of games. This body, formed completely independent of the government, is known as the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). In the past few years, the ESRB has done an amazing job in the past few years of making the citizenry aware of their existence and the current rating scheme. Even the National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF), a strongly anti-video game violence group which has been incredibly critical of the ESRB in the past, has acknowledged how well they've done in the past year at catching possible ratings violations and increasing awareness. More information on the ESRB can be found on their official website here (http://www.esrb.org/).

Now, one common misconception among those who wish to legislate games is that they are attempting to protect children. This would imply that the primary audience of most video games are children, but statistics do not support this assertion. With the recent increase in casual gaming, video and computer games are becoming a large part of many peoples lives both young and old. In 2005, the Discovery Channel performed a study of the average video gaming audience and found that 62% of the console market is over the age of 18. With such an adult market, the concept of developing mature gaming content is not only feasible but, to a certain degree, a necessity. Games such as Grand Theft Auto and Doom were intended to be played by a teenage to adult audience, not by children. Games, like all other medias, mature as their audiences mature; this is expected as the generation who first was exposed to video games continues to enjoy them into their adult lives.

With all this in mind, is there any reason why any child should be exposed to violent or adult oriented video games unless their parent or another adult exposes them to it? Of course not; how would a child both collect the money and then purchase a game unless some adult helped them along the way? What this tells us is that if your child is playing violent video games, then it is you, the parent, who has allowed them to do so -- not the gaming industry. We can not continue to blame industry for the faults of the individuals. Are we to hold automobile manufacturers responsible for every accident that occurs? Or are we to hold firearm manufacturers responsible for every armed robbery? Of course not, these would be a ridiculous infringement upon the free market and would completely avoid the problem entirely. The same holds true for video games. Responsible parents need to become aware of the video game rating system and the games their children play. We need more awareness by parents not large-scale impediments into the free market in order to "protect the children" from their parents. The ESRB and others in the video game industry have been working to make certain that parents are aware of these issues; what have you done to help them?

So, I say to those conservatives who wish to interfere in the gaming industry to hold back for a moment. Think first about what you stand for -- limited government; remember that which governs best, governs least. Show your true clout and conservatism by keeping out of the affairs of video games; there is an entire generation rising up that believes in limited government while appreciating video games. These people are your constituents and, unlike youth in the past, they vote. If you wish to continue to preach the cause of individual responsibility, this is a chance to put it into practice. I implore my fellow conservatives to leave this issue be and allow the American people to have a chance to learn for themselves; believe me, we will thank you for it with our votes.

Sincerely:

Matthew Newman
Conservative, Graduate Student, and Video Game Enthusiast

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