April 23rd, 2006

EDITORIAL: Obama, Too, Plays the Video Game Blame Game

There is a subtle yet virulent strain of video game bashing that runs through the non-gaming mainstream, day-in and day-out. And it simply drives GP crazy.

It takes many forms, but its bottom line message is always the same: games are bad, games are a waste, games are a drain on society. The latest politician to push this line is U.S. Senator Barack Obama, (D-IL). As reported by the Barrington Courier-Review, Obama spoke at Barrington High School last week.

While addressing students about their future, Obama said he would try to reduce the deficit, improve healthcare, advance the economy and move away from dependence on fossil fuels. So far, so good. But then, needing a cultural whipping-boy to invoke, Obama trotted out video games:

"The bad news is you're going to have to work harder," Obama told the assembled students, criticizing youth culture as "watching TV, playing video games and avoiding tough classes in school."

Obama also expressed concern for American students' collective low scores in math and the sciences.

GP: We have no problem with Obama's setting high goals for young people. But why blame video games? How about talking about some real problems, instead of this red herring?

Sure, there are many problems and challenges facing the United States right now. Most of them were either created by or exacerbated by our elected officials. As such, those issues are uncomfortable for elected officials. So Barack Obama blames video games. And he's far from the only one.

As for low scores in math and science, is that a problem in Japan? No. Korea? No. Are video games huge in those places? Yes.

Please, Senator Obama. Stick to the real issues and don't perpetuate the unfair characterization video games as some sort of cultural drain on American society.

Editorial Roundup: More Bashing of Failed Michigan Game Law

Editorial boards around the state of Michigan continue to kick Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) while she's down.

As reported on GamePolitics, a federal judge ruled Michigan's controversial video game law unconstitutional late last month. Since that time, major newspapers around the state have been withering in their criticism of Granholm, the driving force behind the failed legislation.

The latest harsh assessment comes from the Detroit News in its editorial, "Michigan's anti-violent video game law shoots blanks."

Saying, "it's time for Gov. Jennifer Granholm and like-minded legislators to concentrate on more important issues," the News calls Michigan's video game law "a bad idea to begin with," and concludes:

"The video game industry, like the motion picture industry, rates its products to help parents determine what's suitable for children. That's the appropriate protection, not misguided government intervention."

Maryland Senator Responds to GamePolitics Reader

"Where the hell are all of these gamers coming from?"

In his mind's ear, GP can just hear that question echoing around the marbled halls of Capitol Hill as thousands of gamer e-mails flood into offices of U.S. Senators. The influx, of course, is triggered by the ESA's recently-established Video Game Voters Network (VGVN).

GamePolitics readers have been sharing the responses they've received from politicians and we've been printing them. The latest GP'er to check in is SquirrelofWrath, who received this back from Senator Barbara Mikulski(left) (D-MD):

"...I want you to know that I am concerned about violent and sexually explicit video games. Many video games contain subject matter that is not appropriate for all age groups. Some video games are designed for adults or for older teenagers and should not be played by children. I want to make sure that parents have the tools they need to protect their children from inappropriate video games."

"...I understand your concerns that the Family Entertainment Protection Act could negatively affect creativity and consumer choices in video game entertainment, and that the bill could impose regulations on video games that are inconsistent with those on other forms of entertainment. This legislation is currently pending before the Senate Commerce Committee. Your views on this issue will be very helpful to me should any legislation concerning this issue come before the Senate for a vote."

GP: We savor the thought of a dialogue between a United States Senator and someone named SquirrelofWrath. Only in America! GP readers, keep sending us your responses. We'll keep printing them.

Michael Moore on Video Games & School Shootings

Michael Moore is one of those uniquely polarizing figures. People either love him or hate him. It pretty much goes like this:

-Conservatives: Hate him.

-Liberals: Love him.

-South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker: Really hate him - witness Moore's devastating portrayal in Team America World Police.

Over at Gamer Andy, there is a brief (don't blink or you will miss it) interview with the director who made the N.R.A.'s Charlton Heston look like a complete jackass in Bowling For Columbine.

In the Gamer Andy exchange, Moore flatly dismisses any linkage between video games and school shootings. It's topical this week, of course, because of the failed school shooting plot in Riverton, Kansas.