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TK's MORNING BUZZ: The Government Has More Important Things to Do Than Threaten Legislative Action Against Violent Video Games

26 Jan, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Fears of an upcoming recession are mounting, as retailers report weak holiday sales and the phrase "softening economy" appears in the press almost daily.

The California energy crisis threatens to leave millions of people with rolling blackouts, and word is that other parts of the country might soon be affected as well.

The Middle East is in a state of perpetual turmoil, and our own country's military readiness is constantly being questioned.

And what do our brave federal lawmakers do? Join forces with a media watchdog group to "scold" video game makers for allegedly continuing to market violent games to children, and once again threaten to take legislative action.

Get real, guys. Aren't there more serious issues out there to resolve than to once again try to legislate morality?

It's the usual suspects, Sen. Joseph Leiberman -- apparently rested up and in fine form after his failed bid for the Blair House -- and some of his cronies.

They credit the industry for getting nearly all game makers to use a voluntary ratings system. And yet they still plan on introducing a bill next month that would punish companies for marketing violent games to youngsters.

"Practically everybody in the industry still markets inappropriate games to kids, practically every retailer regularly sells these games to kids, and practically all parents need to know more about the rating system," Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, like Connecticut's Lieberman a Democrat, said at a news conference.

What a load of crap. I say the game industry has bent over backwards to limit access to its violent games, and retailers have also done a bang-up job of keeping mature stuff away from the little ones. Even the Federal Trade Commission, on the heels of its much-ballyhooed attack on Hollywood, hailed the game industry's voluntary ratings system as the best and most informative ratings system in the entertainment industry.

The onus for the problem of kids playing violent games, if there is a problem, lies squarely on the shoulders of the parents. I'm a big advocate of parental responsibility; as the father of two boys, 5 and 2, I see myself as the last line of defense in regard to inappropriate material. I won't let them watch certain videos or certain TV shows, and I won't let them play certain games, like those real gruesome ones showing actual blood and goring and dismemberment, that had the good senators in such a tizzy.

I agree with Doug Lowenstein, president of the Interactive Digital Software Association, who fears the Lieberman camp's threatened legislation will hurt the game industry's self-regulation effort and also could violate the First Amendment.

He further notes that of the 218 million video games sold in 2000, a mere 7% were rated 'M' for mature audiences. And of the 20 best-selling games, only one, Diablo 2, carried an 'M' rating. Three were rated for teens, while the rest were deemed suitable for all players.

Keeping a tiny minority of games out of their kids' hands shouldn't be a daunting task for parents, particularly with the ratings boldly emblazoned on the game boxes and most large retailers either not carrying mature games at all or strictly enforcing who gets to buy them.

To me, this is clearly a case of parental responsibility, first and foremost.

I'd like to see the senators legislate that.

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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