Saturday, June 9, 2012

As Gamers Age, is legislation for video games even necessary?

 It would surprise many that this Jeffersonian-Republican and political activist didn’t used to care about politics at all. The first election I was old enough to participate in was the now infamous Bush v Gore. Gore scared me off when he promised to give the entertainment industry six months to clean up their act, should he be elected… or else.
What’s worse is that he brought on anti-gaming activist Joe Liberman as his vice president. You know, the guy that, when the market created the ESRB to self-regulate violent video games, decided it wasn’t enough and continued to push for the government to do something, even after his former side-kick on the right John McCain announced the free-market based ESRB was an adequate solution… ? That guy! AKA Senator Palpatine…
 At any rate, Gore’s vow to take on the video game industry was a small, barely noticed issue for most. Likely most of you won’t even remember it, but for me it was a huge issue. Why? Well, Mormon I may be, but I grew up in an era of mass desensitization and confess to not being as easily offended as my elders. I grew up on Mortal Kombat, Doom, Wolfenstein, etc. However, I came out okay. I don’t exactly have an extensive criminal record, ya know. In fact many of my friends are police, lawyers and legislators. I love and respect them all, even when we disagree on some issues, as I am sure some may here.
 This week I was at an event where a representative of the Eagle Forum was giving the speech. Now I love these guys half the time and I civilly disagree with them the other half. In example, I think their stance on the Con Con is a lot of fear mongering, which is preventing a civil and rational discussion that I think this nation needs to have… if only as an absolute last resort. I will get into the details as to why I support a Con Con in a video as we start up my re-booted unapologetic apologist show. We are still in the planning stages though so bare with me. We will have a full 45 minute show on that and Eagle Forum will be invited to make their case against it, but my school of thought, the Thomas Jefferson Center will be invited to make the case for it and you will be able to decide for yourself…
 Nevertheless, I agree with them on Common Core, States Rights and a number of other key issues. But I had a hard time holding my toungue when the speaker started berating video games and the Utah State Attorney General, Mark Shurtleff, for standing up for the free market and fighting against legislation designed to criminalize selling certain games to minors, an event which almost never happens as selling T and M rated games to underage players is both against every store’s policy and impractical, as those kids almost never have the cash since their parents command the almighty wallet. Games are a mightily expensive hobby and the idea that a six year old would wander into Gamestop alone with $60 worth of cash is laughable.
 Mark Shurtleff’s position on this matter was dead on correct. Monitoring what games kids are playing is the job of the parents, not the state, period. Irony is that, as I recall, Eagle Forum has pushed for parents to take over Sex Ed and getting it out of the public schools, a position I happen to agree with. If it’s the parent’s job to teach kids about sex, it’s their job to stay on top of what games their kids are playing… or are they even playing?
 The market is changing and, in fact, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all lost huge amounts of money this year. A lot of experts credit that to the advent of the smart phone and the I-Pad. Kids are just not playing games the way their parents are. In fact, a new study shows that the average gamer is now 30 (-1) which makes sense because I am 32 and my wife is approaching her 30s soon as well. We have not been blessed with children, but we do have nieces and god children, who we do not allow to be exposed to mature games. And, while there is one approaching his late teens that still plays on the consoles, most of the younger kids are more interested in the innocent Angry Birds than they are Mario and Yoshi, let alone Mortal Kombat. But even when they do play on the consoles they are skipping through the story sequences and getting right to the action sequences, unlike me who watches every story sequence with zeal… They just don't have the attention span for the stories. They want to hop on, play for a few minutes and then go do something else.
 Tastes between the generations are not the same, attention spans are not the same, the market for the very games that the Eagle Forum is concerned about has aged. The kids grew up, and their kids aren’t interested in the same kinds of entertainment in. The I-pad era is rendering the whole debate over criminalizing game sales moot.
 But even if it wasn’t moot... look, I don’t like some of the content which ends up in some of the games out there, but I cannot use the government as a tool to impose my beliefs on the masses. It is hypocritical for me to expect Liberals to stay out of my wallet if they cannot expect me to stay out of their private lives. Simply put, the Free Market will sort this out. There’s a reason there’s a new Mario game, several in fact, every year, and Mortal Kombat only rears it’s head once in a blue moon. Most games sold are neither to minors nor are they M rated. A better approach for the Eagle Forum to take would be to buy their kids and grand kids the more child friendly games for Christmas. However, odds are that if it isn’t a quick, easy game on a cell phone it won’t get played... which goes back to my original point that this argument is moot since kids are neither buying nor playing the games in question and those that are, are either approaching, or are already 30.


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