Sen. Feinstein Says Congress 'Ready To Take Action' To Rein In Violent Video Games

from the maybe-just-punish-the-guy-who-did-the-actual-shooting? dept

Dianne Feinstein, whose post-Newtown assault weapons ban was defanged by Sen. Harry Reid before its inclusion in the Democrats' gun control bill, has decided to switch scapegoats. Now, she's determined to do something about violent video games, apparently unaware that the Supreme Court has already declared such regulatory "somethings" as unconstitutional.

Speaking to an audience of around 500 in San Francisco, Feinstein, who led the charge in the Senate on an assault weapons ban, said the video game industry should take voluntary steps to make sure it does not glorify guns in the wake of the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
That's an interesting choice of words. "Glorify guns." Sure, many games glorify guns (although I believe fetishize would be a more accurate word), as do many movies and an awful lot of rap music. There are also many, many websites (and magazines) that glorify guns. Here's a great site where pop culture intersects with gun "glorification," resulting in some very entertaining reading.

Then there's this part: "take voluntary steps." The video game industry has been voluntarily policing itself for the better part of two decades without incident. It's great (and rare) to see a legislator actually encourage or endorse voluntary behavior. But, this isn't one of those rarities.
She added that if the industry does not, Congress is prepared to take action, according to the Associated Press.
In other words, do it or we'll do it for you.

But do what, exactly? How does Congress keep the video game industry from "glorifying" guns without wading into territory expressly forbidden by the Constitution? Will the government set up its own ratings board and decide which games make it to retailers? Will Congress actually attempt to control content creation by exhuming the Hays Code? The Supreme Court has already declared that the government isn't allowed to regulate protected speech and yet Feinstein seems to be claiming not only that it can, but that it's being forced to by the industry itself.

Maybe that's the key. Skirt the First Amendment by setting up an "independent" review board and stocking it with like-minded former senators and representatives. Washington loves control and loves revolving doors and this would be both. The Hays Code would live again, cutting content, sending suggestions to developers and requiring every game to carry an official stamp of approval from the board.

According to Feinstein, there's no upside to video games, so why not use the cause du jour to craft a few laws and claw back the video game ratings system from the industry.
Feinstein said that video games play, "a very negative role for young people, and the industry ought to take note of that."

"If Sandy Hook doesn't do it, if the knowledge of the video games this young man played doesn't do it, then maybe we have to proceed, but that is in the future," she added.
Feinstein seems determined to get some sort of Newtown-related law on the books, preferably with her name attached. She's already worked her way through the Second Amendment and now is sighting the First. Once this legislation fails to coalesce, she'll be all out of amendments in that direction to use as doormats and will be running low on socially acceptable scapegoats. After that, there's nowhere to go but down. (Perhaps registration and a two-week waiting period for M-rated game purchasers?)


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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 10 Apr 2013 @ 2:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    So, you've evaluated a few games that focus as much on action as they do story/character and concluded that violence is the problem. Not that you've been playing action games, when what you apparently wanted was a pure RPG/adventure experience?

    I get what you're trying to say, but you seem to be questioning games based on a reading of a hybrid genre that's never, ever going to match a purer experience. Your reading of the genre certainly doesn't say anything about the medium as a whole, expect that some more action/violence-focussed games are very popular. But then, the same is true of every other medium. You're not usually going to find the films with the best characterisation, story or subtext at the multiplex. Most blockbuster films are filled with action/violence that add nothing to the plot, but which bring in the crowds. There's a million smaller and indie games out there with what you appear to prefer to see. But, they *do* exist, hence the idea that games depend on violence is wrong.

    You wanted a different experience in L.A. Noire? Fine, I agree. The games was clearly pandering toward Rockstar's existing audience who wanted more GTA-style gameplay than pure detective work. From what I've read, many in Team Bondi would agree, as well. But, this was a design decision by Rockstar, and means nothing more about the medium as a whole than what the film Gangster Squad says about the medium of film. In both cases, they made a product for their target audience. Different games/films address a different audience and so might fit your desires better.

    "Yes... my point is that the target market for these games are adults and yet most of this debate fly around "WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN"."

    Here, we agree. If parents would parent, and crusading politicians stopped attacking a fictional version of the industry then we'd all be better off. But as a gamer, you're not helping if you pretend that violence is a requirement, rather than simply a design decision made for commercial reasons by some of the less imaginative publishers. Pretending that the huge number of non-violent games out there don't exist because a certain subgenre happens to be the one that major publishers use to create their blockbusters does nobody any favours.

    The bottom line is that games don't *need* violence. There are certain types of game that feature violence that are very popular, and this can bleed into other hybrid genres as well. But this is no different to any other medium.

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