Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Louisiana's attack on video games

I've posted before about Jack Thompson and his war on video games. Sadly, it looks like one of his brain children is about to get passed into law in Louisiana.

There, HB 1381 has already been unanimously passed by the house and looks to be moving through the senate now with ease.

So what is this bill?

At heart, it's intended to keep violent video games out of the hands of minors. However, this bill goes ridiculously overboard.

To protect children, it seeks to move video games into the same category as pornography if they don't make the cut of what's considered decent. So what's ok? Well, if it meets these three standards, it's banned:
(a) The material incites or appeals to or is designed to incite or appeal to the prurient, shameful, or morbid interest of minors.
(b) The material is offensive to the average adult applying contemporary community standards with respect to what is suitable for minors.
(c) The material taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.
The problem with this is that the language is extremely vague. What defines "contemporary community standards"? Who decides what incites "prurient, shameful, or morbid interest"? What thresholds does a game have to meet to have literary value?

Sadly, for some reason, I have a feeling that the Left Behind game I posted about earlier would make the cut.

While fundamentally flawed due to gratuitously vauge language, the bill is ridiculous in other ways. While some games will obviously cross this line (which is why they're stamped with a big M rating, meaning mature), this bill puts these games in the same category as pornography.

So what's that mean? That means that it is illegal for kids to go into a store to purchase games if the store does not pull these games from the shelf. The exact wording:
It shall be unlawful for a person who is not the spouse, parent, or legal guardian of the minor to invite or permit any unmarried person under the age of eighteen years of age to be in any commercial establishment that exhibits or displays any item
So what do stores have to do to carry such video games? Same thing that video rental stores must do to adult movies: make an entirely different section for them which minors can't access.
A commercial establishment shall not be in violation of this Section if the commercial establishment provides for a separate area for the exhibition or display of material harmful to minors and designates said area "NOT FOR MINORS" or similar words and the commercial establishment prohibits unmarried minors persons under the age of eighteen years from seeing or examining the contents of material harmful to minors.
Perhaps I fail to see the difference here, but how are these video games any different than an R rated movie? Both can contain violent or sexual content. Both are currently carried in commercial establishments. Both are required to have display boxes that are not pornographic or vulgar. Neither can be sold to minors under laws that are already in place.

Thus, I ask, why is it that video games get special treatment? If such things are harmful, why not requre that places that sell movies also have a zoned off area for R rated movies?

So what we have here is a law that overzealously defines adult video games as so horrible that they can't even be viewed in their packaging by minors. "Who cares if kids can't buy them! Just seeing them will corrupt them!"

Not that what constitutes such a game is well defined. After all, pretty much any game out there will have a bad guy that deserves a whompin. So perhaps the only game that's left as safe for minors will be Tetris. After all, falling blocks is safe. Isn't it?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You know, Jon, I just found this site today. After commenting your "Brother Jeb" blog, I started checking out some of your others, and I'll give you that your blogs are at least coherent, and I'd want to agree with much of what you say, if you'd allow even the slightest room for the fact that YOU MIGHT BE WRONG.

First of all, let me say that I grew up in south Louisiana. Directly on the heels of that, let me say that my home state, location of my beloved LSU Tigers, has often embarrassed me with some of its thought processes (can you say David Duke for Congress? Geez...). I say this to demonstrate that there is no blind loyalty to my home state in this rejoinder to your essay.

I'm not informed enough of the whole scope of the legislation to make a comprehensive comment (and I suspect that the same may be true for you). When I was younger, I may have felt exactly as you do (hell, there's no "may" about it--I could have written a rant to end all rants when Tipper Gore advocated ratings systems and dragged Dee Snyder before Congress). But now I have a 13 year old niece. I already see her watching rap videos and emulating the dances and singing the lyrics there that objectify and dehumanize women. I try to teach her that it is not OK for someone else to treat her as a "ho," and that she should be very careful about wanting to project that image. If she is as impressionable as a result of playing adult video games (and let's be real, if she wants to, she'll find a way) as she is with those suggestive videos, then I applaud any effort that inhibits her attempts to get her hands on them. I mean, is it not enough that the media suggests (based on the overwhelming volume of coverage) that Holly-sluts like Paris Hilton should be taken as a role model, and Victoria's Secret now has a junior department?!?! When she's old enough to realize the full scope of consequences to the image she attempts to project, then let her make her choices and deal with the consequences she's mature enough to envision. Is limiting her access to a video game going to change the course of her life? Doubtful. Is the effort to guide our young people onto paths which provide them with lives that are fulfilling a noble one? Abso-frikkin-lutely.

My point--once again--is to encourage you to recognize the fact that, although you may possess a superior intellect, you do not, at age 24 (am I remembering your bio correctly?) possess the scope of wisdom that would lend credence to your absolutist essays. Entitled to your views though you absolutely are, it seems that there is a lot of room for the capability to recognize and accommodate the views of others.

And I'd close by saying that my respect for you as a person, and, by extension, for the validity of your opinions, is diminished by that .gif of the Twin Towers, the implication of which is disrespectful to the people who lost their lives on that awful day. Surely a person of your intellectual prowess should be able to find a more suitable means of expressing the same point.