It is a very odd sort of patriot that would destroy the First Amendment to protect the Second.—- Jerry Holkins
I have written on, and discussed at length, the matter of video game violence and the effect it has on society. In our weekly podcast and on editorials written for this site, I’ve stated my position on the ESRB and the task parents have before them in choosing what content is streamed into their households for children to consume. This digital age we find ourselves writhing in does make it more difficult to assess what kids are viewing, but it is not an impossible task. This is all to be digested again on another day however, because there is something else I wish to attend to today.
The connection it has to dirty words is strange to me mostly for the fact I feel it is the ultimate dirty word. For as long as man has created things I suppose, one group or another has tried to silence it. Religious reasoning, economic reasoning, or for whatever agenda was popular at the time, censorship has often been the weapon forged and used by the many to silence those who would challenge, sway, or express. The early writings of Greek Philosophers, the musings of Karl Marx, the eroticism of Howl, and the blood soaked halls of Doom 3.
Whoa what was that last part?
Video Games are truly the beholden form of expression of my generation. Those of us sired from the late seventies to early eighties are about as old as the medium of video games. The blood in our veins flows to an electronic beat, our nimble fingers carrying us from world to world, adventure to adventure. It has proven itself time and time again as a valid form of story-telling and art, despite those who would toss it away as nothing but the musings of children and fools. While video games may have began simple, they have evolved into something far more important. A truly interactive art medium that allows a story to be not just told and heard, but experienced and believed. Technology as the beating heart has given rise to a medium that can like never before connect to an audience practically ravished for more of the kind. It is frightening to those on the outside how much we on the inside love this medium. News outlets would have you believe murder simulators are raping the minds of our poor children, but we hopefully know to discard their sensationalist reports as they would discard our rebuttals. There are those in positions of authority and power I fear that turn an open ear to such outrageous claims. Members of Congress, following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, were very quick to turn their attention to video games and their supposed role in the hellish turmoil.
Never mind the tenuous connection the perpetrator had to the medium, never mind the mental illness he was clearly afflicted, never mind the readily available tools of death he accessed, the problem must surely be games they declare! Video games could not be more of a scape goat if they were holding up signs that read “We are Scape-Goats”. While I believe that no media with an established rating system should EVER be censored, I will admit the embarrassment some games bring upon us as a whole. We can all face it, some games are violent simply for the sake of being violent. Shooters of every flavor, hack and slashers stringing entrails like Christmas lights, and profanity professed like it’s gospel truth. Some of the more, ahem, upstanding members of Congress would love nothing more than to legislate a veritable ball and chain to the video game industry, and shut down creativity at any level. What you could never convince them of is the honest emotion that games can express. How we all feel when a treasured character dies, how we leap for joy during a combined raid in our favorite MMO, the shared pain when a treasured story comes to an end.
Video games have moved into the same realm of story telling as all other valid forms of media. Games can stand now with books, movies, music, and all forms of art as a true medium. Like all other forms of art though, video games will have to fight their own battle against censorship and those that would shut it all down. As a gamer, an enthusiast of the electronic form, you have a duty in this. Write your congressman, even if he has never publicly made a statement on the issue, and let him know how you feel about censorship. Be civil, be honest, and let him know why it is important to you as a voter (or soon to be voter if your under 18). If we want to truly continue to enjoy this medium and the stories it can reveal to us, we must fight to keep it free from the powers that be. So put down the controller for a second if you can and let your voice be heard. The quote I wrote above from Penny Arcade writer Jerry Holkins rings very true these days, and doubt not that there are many preparing to shackle games to censorship. Be heard my dear friends, and protect your rights.