A socially acceptable way to kill hookers?

I have been asked for proof of age three times in the past week. Twice, I was buying a delicious malted beverage that promised to hammer mercilessly on my inhibitions. The third time, I was purchasing a video game rated “Mature” by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. Slightly taken aback, I produced my driver’s license and allowed the clerk to examine it.

After some moderate prodding, the clerk revealed to me that there was a change in policy because of the recent controversy surrounding the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Errant code was found hidden within the game’s structure which allowed the player to take part in some sexual mini-games. As soon as this was discovered, democratic American senators playing to the center began attacking all video games as spawn born of Satan’s loins.

I was happy handing over my ID for a videogame depicting graphic violence, content in the knowledge that my parents will decide when my seven-year-old sister is ready to decapitate her first zombie. Asking for proof of age when a child tries to purchase a violent video game is now no different than if a minor were trying to buy a movie with equally violent content. This allows parents a certain amount of power and responsibility, but if we allow the government to make this call, then we’re taking the power not only away from the parents, but from the citizens as well.

“[Video games are at the forefront of] a silent epidemic of media desensitization stealing the innocence of our children,” said Hillary Clinton, all but winking and giving a thumbs up to the Christian right. It has since been suggested by certain elements of American congress that video games be rated by a board in the employ of the government, rather than the current independent one. The clerk at the video game retailer agreed with Hillary, explaining that “studies which indicated violence in teenage males showed a correlation to the amount of violent media they were exposed to.”

While a ten year old absolutely should not be playing a game allowing him to beat up hookers and shoot police officers, studies regarding the link between violent tendencies and violent video games have been unsatisfactory. Indeed, a recent study where participants played a violent game over the period of a month showed no change in their behaviors, with none showing the slightest inclination to attack a prostitute.

The widespread aversion to video gaming in American congress could simply be due to a generational gap akin to the one that caused American politicians’ utter hatred of rock and roll music in the ’70s. New forms of artistic expression are usually met with a certain amount of discomfort from the older generation, but we’ve made it this far without having to build pyres of electric guitars or R-rated movies. Video games are often viewed as toys, but in this brave new technogeneration they have to be more than that. If the politicians get their new prohibition on video games, we can’t see it as different from censoring any other medium.

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