The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Tuesday, June 10, 2008
AN ANONYMOUS INTERVIEW: Here's something I found cleaning old files off my computer. It's an interview someone conducted with me last year. Or more of a questionnaire, actually. I don't remember who sent me the questions; I can't find the text online, so I'm guessing it was a student rather than a journalist.

Q: Do you support restricting violence in video games or do you support the artistic freedom that programmers have when making games? Why have you chosen to take this stance?

A: I think the First Amendment should protect the makers of video games as much as the makers of books, movies, and music. The government should not be in the business of regulating artistic choices.

Q: How do you feel violence in video games affects underage children with developing minds?

A: I'm sure it affects different people in different ways, some positive, some negative, and some neutral. Even if it were desirable for the government to weigh all these effects and then craft its regulations accordingly, I don't think it's possible for it to do so.

As for the academic literature, it's
inconclusive at best.

Q: Parents are often blamed for poor choices when buying games, even though the game has a big black “M” and have pictures of guns and blood on the cover. Afterwards they go home and see their kids playing a violent game that depicts carnal sin, blaming the gaming industry. What do you think parents could do to take more precaution to their children and preventing them from playing violent games?

A: They could either (a) actually pay attention to what their children are playing, or (b) pay attention to its effects on their kids' behavior, and if the games don't have a negative impact, let them play what they want.

More broadly, the best thing parents can do isn't to shield their kids from pop culture. It's to encourage the development of good character, so the kids aren't reduced to getting their values from a toy.

Q: The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) was made in response to a rise in video in 1994; it is comparable to the ratings system used by movies (MPAA). The ESRB is criticized by many crusading anti-violence protagonists to be too lenient, and that they should update the ratings. For example, what was T-rated 10 years ago is now rated E and so on and so forth. How could one improve upon the ratings system or how could they revamp it? Should they be more strict or keep changing with our ever-changing culture?

A: While I understand the usefulness of shorthand like "T," "E," and so on, what's really useful isn't a prefab rating. It's listing what potentially objectionable elements a game contains, and in what proportions, so parents can judge for themselves whether it's appropriate for their kids.

Q: How do you feel that practicing illegal actions in a game affects the chances of an adolescent practicing it in real life seeing as there is no consequence in a video game?

A: I doubt that there's a direct relationship most of the time, though I'm sure you could find some anecdotes of idiots imitating something they saw onscreen.

Q: Ten years ago, Mortal Kombat became controversial when it added blood and bones. Considering the fact that more gore, blood, profanity and carnal sin have been added over the years, do you feel that the industry is willing to stop at any given standards for good or will it continue to progress to more creative ways to show violence?

A: Creative people will always find creative ways to show everything, violent or not.

Q: In conclusion, do you have any statements that you might want to share or clarify for us?

A: (evidently I didn't, because I left this spot blank)

posted by Jesse 5:11 PM
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