Governor's Crusade Against Violent Video Games Backfires

from the wrong-URL dept

Someone who prefers to remain anonymous writes “Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich had his crusade against violent and sexually explicit video games backfire when his office promoted the wrong Web site. The reported site also included links to pages on where the games the governor believes are offensive can be easily purchased. Kinda serves the Governor office right for not registering the .com when registering the .org.” It’s amazing how many times this sort of thing happens, where someone promotes a .com instead of a .org — but this time, whoever bought the .com made sure that it was very much opposed to the plan.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Governor's Crusade Against Violent Video Games Backfires”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Chris Falco (user link) says:


Thank god someone who has some common sense got the domain and put it to a damn good use.

As for the issue, I recently wrote a letter to my local paper after a letter to the editor was printed supporting the proposed law.

My letter is the following:

After reading the letter by The Illinois Family Institute?s David Smith praising Governor Blagojevich?s proposed legislation to prohibit the distribution, sale, rental and availability of mature video games to children younger than 18, I was disturbed and quite honestly frightened by the reasoning used to support such a law.

First, I should state that The Illinois Family Institute?s intentions are noble and quite understandable, however, the slippery slope that this legislation would create should have most citizens concerned.

Most people will agree that media have become more sexual, violent, and profane over time. This could be said for television, movies, music and of course video games. Even the evening news is filled with descriptions of violence. There is no problem with the need to protect children from such potentially harmful media, but this is not the way to do it.

Are video games violent? Yes, some are, others are wonderful at teaching or providing non-violent entertainment. Are movies violent? Many are, but others are wonderful at telling stories, providing humor, or teaching about history. Is some music explicit? Yes, but there is also a wealth of music that avoids profanity and is just as easy to dance to.

Movies are rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. Television is rated based on guidelines established by the Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board. Music that may be offensive carries a parental warning sticker, usually placed by the recording label. The Electronic Software Ratings Board was created a decade ago to rate video games with age-based ratings:”E” for everyone, “C” for early childhood, “T” for teens, “M” for mature, “A” for adults only, and “RP” for rating pending. The ratings are displayed on the game box, as well as the content descriptors, to help consumers and parents make appropriate choices.

Between July 1996 and December 2003 over 5600 movies were rated by the MPAA. 67% of all the movies rated during this time period were classified as ?R? (Restricted), meaning typically not suitable for children under 17 years of age, because they contained graphic violence, sexual situations and strong language.

By contrast, in 2003 only 10% of video games were given a rating of ?M? (Mature), these games have content that typically are only suitable for persons ages 17 and older.

The average price of a video game in 2003 was $30.70; the average price of a DVD movie is $14.72. A movie ticket in 2003 was $6.03.

An argument can be made that there is a greater need to regulate movies. There are a higher proportion of violent movies and they are cheaper to view or own. That should logically make them easier for children to obtain right?

However, there are no laws in Illinois penalizing those who allow a child to view a rated R movie, or listen to ?explicit? music, or watch television rated ?Mature?. There is no reason video games need such legislation now. If a law restricting access to video games based on content is passed, what will the Governor target next? Movies, books, newspapers?

I have no problem with restricting access to violent material to children, but it’s the parent’s job. Most retailers are already carding children and not selling violent games to them, and I expect no less. Creating legislation to take the decision of when a child is mature enough for certain things and giving that decision to the state legislature is wrong. Deciding maturity based on predetermined ages does a disservice to everyone. I know fourteen year olds who act more mature than some forty year olds I’ve met.

Parents are, and should always be the ones that control what their children watch, listen to and play. What appears like a decent law at first glance becomes dangerously chilling when given a closer look. As a citizen of Illinois I believe there are many other issues facing our state that Governor Blagojevich and our elected representatives should be spending their time on and resources on. Leave the parenting to the parents.

Chris Falco

Steve Mueller (user link) says:

Maturity Legislation

Creating legislation to take the decision of when a child is mature enough for certain things and giving that decision to the state legislature is wrong. Deciding maturity based on predetermined ages does a disservice to everyone.

On one level, I agree with Chris. It does seem rather arbitrary to pick an age when somebody should be allowed to do something.

However, that argument also has its own slippery slope. Should we then eliminate other laws that extend privileges based on age? If so, there go legal ages for voting, driving, gun ownership, drinking, smoking and pornography. (And, yes, I have heard proposals to eliminate or reduce the voting age, but a person won’t get hurt by voting.) More troubling, there go laws prohibiting statutory rape, something Michael Jackson, Mary Kay LeTourneau and Roman Polanski would be grateful for.

So what do we do? While it sounds nice to say “let the parents decide”, parents aren’t always the best judges, either. How many clueless parents do you know who think their “little angel” couldn’t possibly have done something they were arrested for? Also, with more and more families requiring two incomes to survive, the generation of latch-key children is getting larger and parental supervision is declining. This isn’t the 1950s when most moms stayed home.

We could have objective tests administered by the state to determine when somebody was competent to engage in an activity. However, many of the areas I mentioned aren’t suitable for true proficiency tests (imagine the sex proficiency test). The one area I mentioned where we already have universal proficiency tests, driving, still has minimum age constraints. (Some places may also require classes for gun ownership, but that certainly isn’t universal.)

Also, the driving tests are usually pretty much a joke, weeding out only the worst drivers. How many 16-year-olds do you know who smashed their first car they had despite having passed the driving test?

The other testing alternative would be psychological profiles. However, I’m not sure I really want the government doing that. Allowing the government to conduct psychological screening seems even more troubling.

Another problem with testing is the cost. How much would it cost to set up and administer testing centers? Maybe we could multi-purpose motor vehicle departments, but I suspect we’d still need more people and space.

Regarding movies, I also thought theaters could be sanctioned for allowing people under 17 into R-rated movies. There may not be much enforcement being done, but I thought there were laws covering it. Sales of tobacco and alcohol, as well as driving and sex age limits, certainly are enforced.

So, Chris, what do you propose we do to fix these situations?

TJ says:

Re: Maturity Legislation

On most of these issues the bigger question may be whether such laws have any value. Aside from driving, voting, and statutory rape, most of these laws don’t prevent anything. They just harshly punish the occasional person who gets caught. Do laws stop teens from smoking, drinking, enjoying porn, getting access to violent video games? No. We are already hip deep in laws with little value, countless people are thrown in prison for drug offenses, often with stiffer sentences than for rape, murder, etc.
For things that matter enough to have a law like driving, and frankly voting, decent tests could certainly be devised to more reasonably allow the capable while denying the clueless. Of course then there will be lots of 40 year-olds still not allowed to drive and/or vote. If clueless 40 year-olds can vote, then why not clueless 12 year-olds? As for statutory rape the arbitrary age makes all the difference. Illegal to get sexual with an 8 year-old, of course. But do we think a 16 year-old can’t make an informed decision of who they want to have sex with? That’s just silly. Sure some teens aren’t mature enough for a sexual relationship, but neither are some twenty-somethings.
Sadly there aren’t any easy answers. The best I can see is making as few laws based on arbitrary ages as possible. For those laws we do have: The maximum age should never exceed one other key age limit — the age at which someone can join the military to possibly fight and die for their country.

Chris Falco (user link) says:

Re: Maturity Legislation

You make excellent points.

Anyways, I am just streaming my thoughts to this site, and I may revise my thoughts later. Sorry about spelling and typos, it’s 3 am and I’m going to bed, I felt getting this out in a timely manner is more important that proving my english skills (which I do have)

Here’s my response:

The problem with the law my state’s Governor has proposed is the way it’s written.

One, at first glance it sounds great, protect kids from harmful images. However, you then have to ask, how should this be enforced?

What ends up happening is retailers are targeted for making the product available. You’ve taken the very last line of defense, the store clerk and threatened them exclusively with punishment.

I think that if such a law is passed, it will be mostly ignored and end up screwing people that really have no impact on the real problem.

Such as when a gas station clerk sells a pack of smokes to a kid that’s 17 who is working for the cops. What happens there? The clerk gets a big fine, but does it stop kids from smoking? It just makes it harder to get. The most persistant children will eventually get what they want, and get away with it. (off topic:maybe thats an arguement that they are smart enough to avoid getting caught)

These laws should be enforced for extreme cases, such as when a clerk is selling to minors intentionally.

Now how is this different than video games?
Tobacco is known to be dangerous to a childs physical well-being. Same with drugs, and alcohol. There are known amounts of these substances that will kill you, no matter what your level of maturity. Therefore, it is in the best interest of society to prevent children from accessing such products, until the government says you are accountable for your own actions. (18 or 21)

With video games, movies, music, there is no lethal dose, no uniform proven guideline of dangerous levels.

Force a 10, 30 and 50 year old to drink 2 quarts of everclear and they will all die.

Force a 10, 30 and 50 year old to watch violent movies, listen to profane music and play violent and sexual video games, and they will all respond differently.

To me, rebutting my argument that if we cannot apply age limit legislation to video games, why can be to substances; the issue becomes
chemistry vs. psychology.

Chemistry is fairly consistant throughout all humans, psychology varies greatly.

Consistant results vs. variable.

So who should hold the key to questionable content? I would venture to guess that psychologists would feel the most comfortable having that power in the hands of the person that knows and understands that child the best.

To me, that would be the parent.

I have a hard time thinking of anyone that would have more information to make a better judgement, and if there is (grandparents, teachers, etc), they, as adults, have the responsibility to protect a child that is not being protected properly by their parents.

That’s why there are child welfare services across the country. To stop gross neglect.

As for driving, I believe that society has decided that if one can demonistrate the ability to safely operate a car, they are permitted to drive.

It is understood that people are human and can make mistakes. There is a system to penalize those mistakes and revoke the privilage should someone prove they are unable to safely operate the car, either due to driving tendancies (speeding, reckless behavior) or physical imparment (blindness, reaction problems, etc)

Sex is interesting because typically an age is decided, and if the law is broken the older participant is charged. I would think there is a trade off here, a mature person will avoid someone that isn’t “legal” out of respect for the law.

However, there are avenues around the law, many statutory laws make exceptions for marriage. Parents can give permission for marriage. A truely mature person would be able to control themselves until they are law abiding in the law’s eyes.

Objective vs. subjective.
seems to me to be a sticking point.

Current laws that are upheld by courts are ones that have uniform scientific evidence showing predictable quantities that are harmful.

Those that have been thrown out, usually have no such reference point and many times have to deal with the balance between an adult’s right to express or possess things not suitable for children.

Usually courts rule that mature persons can openly express themselfs, in the privacy of their own home without fear. Since most children live with their parent / guardian, it again falls on the parents.

In other news, aparently Illinois’s governor wrote a letter to newspapers in the state and my local paper is going to run my letter side by side this weekend.

I will come back and post a link when it is published.

feel free to contact me at my email addy.

Battery AT chicago2600 DOT net

Chris Falco

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...