A new bill currently under consideration by the New York Assembly would prohibit the sale of games featuring negative racial stereotypes to minors.
The bill, AO1474, was drafted by Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright, and seeks to prohibit “the sale to minors of certain rated video games containing a rating that reflects the content of various degrees of profanity, racist stereotypes or derogatory language, and/or actions toward a specific group of persons.” The first thing that comes to mind? Grand Theft Auto, obviously. Racial slurs abound, every other mission you’re killing “the Koreans” or “the Russians” or “the Irish”, and yeah, it’s pretty profane. But here’s the thing – the bill specifically seeks to prohibit sales of games “containing a rating that reflects” the allegedly malicious content. In the case of a game like GTA, it’s already rated Mature, and minors technically aren’t allowed to buy it anyway. For a lot of the games Wright presumably wants to keep out of kids hands, this is most likely the case: kids are already prohibited from buying them.
The intent of this legislation is certainly admirable, and it’s good to see someone care about the touchy subject of race in games. But Wright seems woefully out of touch with what he’s trying to stomp out, and sadly enough, he doesn’t seem to be alone. New York’s legislators seem to have a knack for redundancy when it comes to anti-game legislation. As GamePolitics points out, last year they passed a law that required that game packages show ratings and that consoles offer parental controls – two things that, as anyone who’s ever looked at a game box or turned on a console would know, already exist.
Now, cut that whole rating clause out of the bill and we might be onto something here. It’s not just Mature-rated games like GTA that are chock-full of racist stereotypes. Videogames on the whole, even the most beloved ones, are full of them. Considering you can argue for almost anything as a stereotype these days, well, maybe we could get sales of every damn videogame prohibited in New York. Nope, sorry youngster, you can’t buy Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo because Dee Jay is clearly a stereotype of Jamaicans. No, you can’t buy NBA 2K9, because it implies that all African-Americans play basketball. No, you can’t buy Ninja Gaiden 2, because no, Japan is not full of badass ninja dudes and evil monsters. That’s wrong. That’s racist.