May 18th, 2006

Editorials Weigh in on Louisiana Games-as-Porn Bill

As reported by GamePolitics, the Louisiana House unanimously passed Rep. Roy Burrell's HB1381 on Tuesday. The bill, which applies the so-called Miller obscenity test to video games, is typical of the recent "games as porn" legislative tactic seen in several other states.

Louisiana's newspaper editors are weighing in on the bill. From what GP has seen, they're not happy. Managing Editor Jeffrey Zeringue writes in The Daily Comet, "...Why does government feel the need to parent children? ...Few will be persuaded that violent video games or movies have a negative effect on children. It's only a game. It's only a movie. People are smart enough to distinguish the difference, some believe. ...As for me, I believe I can give better guidance to my children than Baton Rouge or Washington."

In the Houma Courier, editor Mike Gorman is even more blunt:

"I could watch football from now until the cows come home and I wouldn't be able to throw like Brett Favre... And I could play Grand Theft Auto for the next 12 years... I don't think I would be looking for policemen to murder or prostitutes to pimp. That's because - and let me phrase this correctly so that even the solons in Baton Rouge can comprehend the message - IT'S JUST A GAME."

"It must be frustrating for our legislators to be in the seat of government and not have people and institutions bend to their every whim... The Legislature, which can't even find the intestinal fortitude to limit the number of assessors in New Orleans, can be moved to action."

"The bottom line is this: If you don't like what your kid is doing or watching, change it. If you don't like what my kid is doing or watching, butt out...
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Furor Over Columbine Game Builds

Video games rarely capture the attention of the mainstream press. When they do, it's usually a sensationalized story about violence or sex or some other hot-button issue.

So it is with Super Columbine Massacre RPG, a non-commercial game available only as a free download via the Internet. Thanks primarily to a story in the Rocky Mountain News, the mainstream press is all over this one. In addition to the coverage in the Rocky, the Associated Press has written about Super Columbine Massacre and the game has been linked on The Drudge Report.

The story has gotten such wide play in the last couple of days that there's really no point in regurgitating the facts here on GamePolitics. At this point, the public reaction to the game seems to be the defining part of the story.

Like many GP readers who track developments in the video game space, I became aware of Columbine Super Massacre about two weeks ago when word of the game began to make the rounds of video game blogs. I chose not to address it at that point. Perhaps I should have, but for me, Columbine remains an open wound - not in the sense that I knew anyone there, but along with September 11th, the trauma and tragedy of the Columbine shootings was seared into my brain by live television coverage. Both are generation-defining events. For me, the Littleton community seems very much like my community and Columbine High School much like the schools my kids attend.

It probably comes as no surprise that initial reactions to the game are negative. Families of Columbine victims, of course, were sought out by the media for comment. Necessary, I suppose, but somehow distasteful. What are the families to say? What would you expect them to say? If even a jaded gamer like GP is uneasy with the Columbine Super Massacre, it has to be an incredibly raw nerve for the Columbine families. And it is. The Rocky Mountain News piece quotes several surviving relatives:

"It's wrong," said Joe Kechter. His son, Matt, was gunned down in the school library.

"We live in a culture of death, so it doesn't surprise me that this stuff has become so commonplace. It disgusts me," said Brian Rohrbough. His son, Dan, was killed outside the school building. "You trivialize the actions of two murderers and the lives of the innocent."
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