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We don't need governmen to police video games

By Scott Tibbs, December 20th, 2004

The Governor of Illinois is playing Scrooge to video game fans, just in time for Christmas.

Dec. 15 -- Decrying violence in fast-selling video games, Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) wants Illinois to make it illegal for anyone younger than 18 to buy violent or sexually explicit games. Among the targets would be the Grand Theft Auto series, Halo 2 and Mortal Kombat.

Well, I guess it is better to have this done at the state level instead of at the federal level. Nonetheless, Joe Lieberman would be proud.

Video games have been violent for years, from the more cartoonish violence of the "Super Mario Brothers" series to the more realistic (but still cartoonish) violence of the "Mortal Kombat" games. And yes, "Mortal Kombat" is cartoonish. When someone loses two gallons of blood from an uppercut, and is sent flying across the screen, it is cartoonish violence.

Sexually explicit games, while more common today, were rare ten years ago when Lieberman pursued led an effort in Congress to restrict video game content, but that did not prevent Lieberman from complaining about them.

Blagojevich said the legislation would define "violent" games as those in which characters physically hurt one another.

I guess that rules out football and basketball games too. Both the "John Madden" football and the "NBA Live" basketball games feature injuries to players. The "Madden" games on the old Sega Genesis system had an ambulance come out on the field when a player was injured. I guess that leaves out boxing games as well.

Ironically, sports games have been targeted in the past. Electronic Gaming Monthly reprinted a newspaper editorial over a decade ago lamenting the violence in "John Madden Football". They appropriately titled it "psycho letter of the month".

The video game industry, under pressure from Congress, implemented a rating system for video games to inform parents of game content. Ultimately, that is where the responsibility has to lie. If you are using the PlayStation as a babysitter, the problem goes a lot deeper than whether your child is playing "Grand Theft Auto" instead of "Mario Kart Double Dash".

Politicians have never learned that video games have evolved beyond being a child's toy. Gamers range from kids playing "Pokemon" to guys in their 20's playing basketball simulations, role-playing games and others. It is no different than movies; some movies are appropriate for younger audiences and some are not.

While we may want to "protect" children from harmful things, government cannot be expected to rear children properly. Only parents can do that, and they do not need the help of a "nanny state" to do it.