As both a parent and a gamer, I can see both sides of the gaming violence controversy. As a parent, there are certain concepts and scenarios I don't want exposed to my children until they're old enough to understand the consequences. As a parent, I'm glad there are labels on the package that help me decide what fits within my parenting ruleset.
But as a gamer, I thoroughly enjoy my shooters, my corridor creeping and rooftop sniping. I understand it's all fiction, it's all not real. Even more, as an artist, I can appreciate the time and effort it takes to craft a perfect environment and story so that my reality can be suspended for a short period. The difference between violence in movies, TV shows and books when compared to games is that the latter is more interactive, putting the user more in the role seemingly in real-time.
However politicians coming out of the woodwork and calling these developers – these artists – virtual child molesters is going a bit too far. Ralph Nader is the latest to start the name calling, saying that the nation is in the peak of violence in entertainment. He even claims that Obama's gun control plan doesn't do enough to punish violent video game creators.
"Television program violence? Unbelievable. Video game violence? Unprecedented,” Nader said. "I’m not saying he wants to censor this, I think he should sensitize people that they should protect their children, family by family, from these kinds of electronic child molesters."
In the days following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., President Obama promised that he would direct the Centers for Disease Control to study the best ways to reduce gun violence. He also said that Congress should fund research into the effects that violent video games have on "young minds".
But the proposals he finally submitted had what critics called a very large hole: a lack of focus on the entertainment industry. That's likely because Hollywood is one of the biggest lobbies in Washington, suggested Dan Isett, director of public policy at the Parents Television Council, a non-profit organization. He said Hollywood outspends the National Rifle Association by a factor of twenty to one, in terms of maintaining the status quo in Washington.
Meanwhile, there are two proposed bills that are looking to impose restrictions on the sale of video games. One introduced in Missouri wants to amend the current tax law with an emergency clause that adds a 1-percent tax to violent video games. This money would by applied to a state fund dedicated to treating mental health conditions associated with violent video games.
Also proposed in the wake of Sandy Hook Elementary School was a reintroduction of the Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act in Utah. It not only bans the sale of games without an ESRB label on the package, but bans the sale of M-rated and AO-rated games to consumers under the age of 17 and 18 respectively.
In the aftermath of Columbine (1999), Virginia Tech (2007), Oslo, Norway (2011) and last year's Sandy Hook Elementary, the topic of entertainment-based violence, gun control and the world's youth is a highly sensitive one. But slinging names at the "artists" responsible for violent mediums isn't the solution. It's their job to entertain, and it's our job as consumers and parents to be more involved with what children do, and use the tools created to protect them from what is considered inappropriate content.