Inside Job: Censorship and You

Inside Job: Censorship and You

This month I am looking at the game censorship debate and offering, for your approval, the argument for why it is critically important that we initiate a positive, rational videogame PR movement, and why there is no better time than right now.

Read Full Article

Very good read, and really very true!

I honestly wish that the gaming industry would be viewed in an honest and good light, but as we know that isn't going to happen very soon.

The media need to wisen up, as do governments, and realise that the games industry is here and is here to stay. They need to realise that just because we are gamers doesn't mean we are sociopaths. We should not have to hide in the dark and be ashamed of being gamers.

The ESA is there, and it really should be taking a more active role to promote the gaming industry in a favourable light.

Thanks Erin for a level-headed discussion of the issue and for pointers to many accessible resources.

Erin Hoffman:
There are voices of reason on our side, and we need to support them more. One of them, Dr. Helen Smith, referenced in Gerard Jones's Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super-Heroes, and Make Believe Violence - which is an absolute must-read for anyone who cares about videogames, and I do in dead seriousness want all of you to go out and buy it right now - keeps a blog where she discusses real work on fighting and understanding youth violence. We need to be talking more about Helen Smith and less about Jack Thompson.

This is about a hundred times more useful than screaming about JT.

I'll play Devil's Advocate and put on my Psychology hat for a moment. There was a study* that showed a correlation between playing violent video games and aggression (and to a small extent, delinquency). It then later went on to show the causal relationship violent video games had on aggression - that is, increased aggression is caused by playing violent video games. Men are more affected than females, more video game playing causes a decrease in academic achievement, etc.

I don't think there's proof that playing violent video games actually causes antisocial behaviour per se, but it is quite logical to see that viewing violence does actually increase aggression in people. The media loves to draw the causal relationships - playing violent video games automatically leads to antisocial behaviour - without actually taking into account the other factors that may have caused the aggression - was the kid in a high risk neighbourhood, or was he hanging out with antisocial peers? Perhaps playing a violent video game can be a factor in creating aggression, but the media seems to always insist that it is the one and only factor that causes delinquent behaviour.

Juvenile delinquent behaviour used to be attributed to drugs, sex, and alcohol, and now the new fad seems to be blaming video games instead. I don't think that one is completely immune to the violence in video games, but neither are games the sole factor in predicting actual aggressive behaviour.

* If any of you guys are interested in the specifics of the study: Anderson, Craig A.; Dill, Karen E. "Video Games and Aggressive Thoughts, Feelings, and Behavior in the Laboratory and in Life". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol 78(4), Apr 2000, 772-790.

I'd like to see a study on how videogames compare to other positive and negative controls. Its a no-brainer that playing a video game will often get your heart going, and at least temporarily put you on edge, but how does this compare to say, football or paintball or swimming or playing hide n seek? Are they really measuring anything other than the effects of the sympathetic nervous system?

What could also be mentioned is that this blaming is very old in our society. In the fifties rock music was told to lead to criminals and suicide, after that movies were to blame. Hell, even before that, in the 19nth century, some books were blamed for sucuide amongst young people. I guess as people get more and more used to a medium, they'll stop ranting about it. Give it another 20 years.

that is indeed an excellent article, and i agree with you to the letter. i highly doubt video-games do affect people, as most crime is alcohol related, as is most violance, and you are highly correct about people having to be calm to play games, whereas i often lose my calm and lose the game. Games most obviously dont affect people, as if they did, im sure there would be a large number of people who played pacman sitting in dark mazes taking pills and eating cherry's all day long avoiding 'Ghosts'.

Games are nothing to do with reality, therefore it should not affect it, which is why i like the wii, its more abstract, breaks away from reality more; unless there is a whole secret society based arond pretending they can be plumbers by destroying large spiky turtles from clogged drains by jumping inside these pipes?

As a mom and a gamer, I'm going to say there IS reason for concern. However, I think the concern should not be about content, but the very nature of how video games affect the brain.
Read Daniel Amen

I can say with certainty video games ARE addicting to certain people---my middle child who has ADD exhibits classic junkie behavior when we force him to stop playing.

Rather than debate over whether or not video games can classify a form of addiction, I think it more prudent to realize that the very idea of censorship of ANY medium is unconstitutional. While I am not saying that minors should be allowed to do everything adults are, adults should be allowed to read, view, play, and purchase anything they want to. The idea of adult A telling adult B they cannot do something simply because adult A does not wish to do it goes against every connotation of the word freedom. Video game censorship is just one step down a bad road that ultimately leads to the government overstepping its boundaries and incurring upon our personal freedoms.

The most effective tactic might be a PR campaign that regularly smears the opposition. When they talk about how 'violent' these games are, bring up games like _Call of Duty_ and _Medal of Honor_ and get Americans to lump anti-game people in with PC anti-gun people. It might be that nothing is a better antidote to the hysteria in America about violent games than to wrap them in the flag, which frankly isn't too hard considering how big CoD4 is.

Not saying it's the right tactic, but, figured I would throw it out there for thought. Maybe the most effective tactic is to get to Congresspersons and voters to have the mental response of "Greatest Generation Shooter" instead of "Murder Simulator" when they hear the words 'violent video game'.

Thanks, all, for your comments.

Yes, I agree that one of the focal points should be addressing the censorship issue separately. But much of what allows the censorship movement to gain ground is that the public has a perspective on games out of proportion to its perspective on other hobbies. If we can correct this perspective, the censorship debate can be addressed in terms of facts instead of hearsay, because the level of hysteria will be lower.

Lisa, you bring up a good point in terms of the effects of games regardless of whether they cause direct violence, which it seems clear they do not. This is the next battleground in the general anti-game lobby. They like to characterize the pro-game movement as "they say games have no effect", which is a strawman argument because it would not make sense to say that games have NO effect -- *everything* has an effect on our thinking, and anything that we do to excess is going to impact our minds more. But what we do know so far is that the existing results on what exactly these effects are are inconclusive. And I think that determination should both be supported -- in terms of funding objective, scientific research on these subjects -- and left to experts, not press releases or pundits.

I think in terms of the effect on the mind specifically, medical professionals (and the parents who seek them) are equipped to deal with game addiction in the same way that they are equipped to deal with other behavioral addictions. The hoarding of physical objects or animals, for instance, is a form of addiction. Almost anything can become an addiction when pushed to excess. And this is where the censorship issue does come into play. A minority of troubled individuals hoarding cats does not result in the public calling for national pet ownership registration. Neither should the troubles of individuals -- which should be addressed on an individual basis -- result in the criminalization of their sale based on their effects on a minority. This is not to diminish the validity of those effects, but to empower parents in the welfare over their children, and to exercise extreme caution when effecting rights restriction when it is not necessary.

I fully agree with your points and would love to help in any way possible. If only I could get a job for a gaming PSA instead of the awful one I was in this year. Personally I find the bigger problem less of general censorship, but the defacto censorship companies are putting on themselves because of the few outbursts from the ESRB. A standardized system would definitely help in that aspect so developers knew well in advance where they were going without it being too much.

Amen, sister. I gotta find me 'dem books you mentioned.

As a fourteen-year-old who has serious intentions of stabbing my way throught the Holy Land before the week is up, I consider myself fortunate to have loving, caring parents who allow me to play whatever I want. They know that a game like Manhunt, where you use shards of broken glass in increasingly inventive ways, that I have no interest in playing because the violence puts me off just as much as in any fat, middle-aged, Bible-clutching, twitching, 'concerned member of the public.'

I would also like to mention that I, in the patois of the modern day, 'hang out' with people close to my age with just as much interest in video games and that we have no intention of shooting up our fellow students, and not just because Australia has strict gun laws.

Erin Hoffman
Just alil nitpicking at your title is confusing, this is about violence in media more than censorship, and it's like going to a BBQ restaurant and finding they only have hamburgers and hotdogs.
Anyway on to my droolings...

Society (or at least its elites) has always picked on new forms of media because it lacks better things to do... it always seems they pry and pander to look good over helping whatever issue they are whining about.It is time the ESRB stops dcking around with the issues there needs to be a true adult level for ratings so that retailers can chose to not sale that level or not, there also needs to be some polishing to the teen level it needs a T15 looking at euro land and other countries 15 seems to be a better stepping off point for basic mature content and yes M17 is not going to go anywhere but as it is it is being poorly used, look at Castlevina or even Halo the content doesn't warrant a 17+ they can do this now add the T15/M15 level to help make 17+ truly equal to a R.

Then after that when the console makers remove the tree from their rear and see adult content will not harm their family friendly image AO games can be made for consoles. Sure most stores will not carry them but that's the point AO games are "protected from life" 2 ways retailers and publishers pubs won't waste money on it easily and big box stores will faint on sight, the console makers really need to start owning up to what the medium is it's no longer a kids toy and the very fact they approve all games before they are sold means they can block the games themselves leading me to believe the wide sweeping AO ban is nothing more than a money saving tactic to reduce their approval systems and look good on camera like the politicians and their violent media banning crusades...."look maw I is doing somethings!".

Now a days there should be no "censorship" only slotting it to the concisus ly approved age ranges and let the populace decide if they want to spend money on it, morality should only tell us that we should give effort to block kids buying questionable media without the guidance of a parent anything more than that is petty elitism telling the many they cannot have steak because children love moo cows. . think of the poor poor moo cows . . . .

ErinHoffman:
Lisa, you bring up a good point in terms of the effects of games regardless of whether they cause direct violence, which it seems clear they do not. This is the next battleground in the general anti-game lobby. They like to characterize the pro-game movement as "they say games have no effect", which is a strawman argument because it would not make sense to say that games have NO effect -- *everything* has an effect on our thinking, and anything that we do to excess is going to impact our minds more. But what we do know so far is that the existing results on what exactly these effects are are inconclusive. And I think that determination should both be supported -- in terms of funding objective, scientific research on these subjects -- and left to experts, not press releases or pundits.

Yes, strawman doubled with false dilemna. Typical of the Sith.

Nice article. I agree with you, as I am sure most of the people on this site will. I think the silver lining for all this negativity that is directed our way is that it is unlikely to amount to much. Videogames are fun and people will continue to play them regardless of what the out-of-touch, better-living-through-paternalism types say about it. I highly doubt that the sale of violent video games will ever be legislated. And even if it is, it will go largely unenforced.

It's almost better to just stay quite for a while and wait for them to go off on a crusade against something else. Let the tatters of Jack Thompson's career be a warning to those who oppose us.

I can name, off the top of my head, some other social phenomena that supposedly incite violence, homosexuality, addiction, satanism and MURDER (often according to the same proponents):

  • Pen and Paper RPG's
  • Skateboarding
  • Dancing
  • Rock'n'roll
  • Hip hop
  • VHS
  • Harry Potter
  • Sex

Well, seems like everyone here agrees with this article. so include me in the yes-nodding club.

Anyway, i also heard that there's an older generation of people that guides newspaper, or what have you, into doing the stuff they want to report on. Maybe it's also because of this.

It's an excellent article, but it's not really we gamers who need to read it : )

Very nice article. I thank you for the in-sight, and well-writen...ness.

Oh, and this:

ZippyDSMlee:
Now a days there should be no "censorship" only slotting it to the concisus ly approved age ranges and let the populace decide if they want to spend money on it, morality should only tell us that we should give effort to block kids buying questionable media without the guidance of a parent anything more than that is petty elitism telling the many they cannot have steak because children love moo cows. . think of the poor poor moo cows . . . .

I agree. It's not the government's fault to say what I can and can't do, to an extent. It's up to my parents to decide, and so far, they seem to be doing an alright job.

A girl in my class tried to argue with me about the negative effects of videogames on people's personality and I made the point of saying that I have NEVER seen a videogamer get angry while playing a game, like in the article I said they would lose and leave the game. I also find that when I tell people that I hope to find a job working in the video game industry I get some wierd looks.....sorta like the ones you would get if you told them you were in the porn industry.

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here