Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Governments' Need to Leave the Gaming Industry Alone

"Warning: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior"

This is the phrase that congressmen Joe Baca and Frank Wolf wanted to see on the vast majority of video games with the bill that they attempted to pass. The bill in question is named 'The Violence in Video Games Labeling Act, H.R. 4204' - at least they're honest and outright with the name, I guess.

Part way into reading the article, I realised that the branding would be on all interactive video game media on the market - and the only titles exempt from this classification are those that have been rated EC (or Early Childhood) by the US Video Game rating board, the ESRB. This means that so many games, that while are not for younger children due to their level of complexity or themes, will be branded with a message relating to the link between violent content and aggressive behavior - regardless of whether or not the game actually has any violent content in the first place.

Now - you'd tell me that's absurd, right? I'd tell you the same. However, the fact that they're even considering creating a bill that affects the video game industry in a fashion such as this is odd, especially since studies that link aggressive behavior to violent video games actually don't have much grounding (come on now, 329 people is not exactly a wide study).

'Cooking Mama' would have to bear a warning about violence and aggression, because it rated 'E'.

There have been countless studies like this one to determine if there is any correlation between violent video games, and in fact media in general, and real life aggression, and very few actually yield solid results. I'm not saying that they're irrelevant entirely, but it's a bit dodgy to apply the mentality of a select few to every person in the world.

Let's forget about the studies into media-caused aggression for a moment - surely these games that contain copious levels of violence are actually intended for a mature, adult audience - and shouldn't the mature, adult audience that these games are quite obviously aimed at be allowed to choose for themselves if they want to play the game regardless of it's content?

With this bill, it's very unlikely anything will come of it - it's their third try at putting the bill through, and Joe Baca was also a co-sponsor of SOPA, if that says anything about the bills he's tried to pass - but even if it did, this bill isn't really devastating to the gaming industry.

However, there are other places in the world that push bills that are harmful to the gaming industry. Australia has a track record for banning violent video games because they don't actually have a rating above 'MA15' for their interactive digital media. From here, the video games will either not be released in the country, or will be subject to incredible amounts of censorship, removing things like blood, gore and stronger language - anything that wasn't deemed appropriate for a fifteen year old audience.

Postal 2 was banned in Australia due to its violent content.
The thing that bothers me is why shouldn't they make an 18 rating? Surely that makes it obvious that the content is for adults only, and you could make it legally binding for kids not to be able to purchase the game from the store? If the child still gets a copy of the game, it's the parents fault, but it's incredibly unlikely to cause any aggressive behavior in any child. So why worry so much, I mean the other countries seem to be okay.

There's also Germany, who ban similarly gory things and give violent content that in any other country would receive a '12' rating a '16', while completely outright banning any product with any reference to Nazi's or Swastikas ever. 

Don't expect to see a Swastika in your video games in Germany.
We get it, Germany, you're sorry about the war. We (well, some of us) forgive you. Now let your citizen's play some games - and the same goes for you, respective politicians that want to put censorship, branding or banning into the gaming industry.

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