News Media Quick to Implicate Games Again

While reading the news yesterday, this headline caught my eye:

Anthony Maldonado, 9, stabbed to death over video game while visiting family in Harlem

Being a longtime gamer and someone who is wary of the often misguided media sensationalism with regards to video games, I read the story with a careful eye.

The headline and the grandmother’s quote about the boy being killed “over a video game” are irresponsibly misleading, most likely incorrect, and say nothing about the actual root of the problem – which is the lack of responsibility in leaving a child alone with someone known to possibly be violent.

Unfortunately, a lot of people will see “video games” and “murder” in the same story like this and develop or allow their negative views of gaming to be reinforced. I realize that the source the highest of journalistic respectability, but it’s still extremely sloppy reporting.

The information that the young murdered boy was left in an apartment with an older man who, quotes from family imply, was known to
have behavioral problems, is buried way down in the article.

“He was a friend. I can’t believe this happened,” Carlos Juela said. “He doesn’t act right on the street but he always minded his manners in the house.”

If this 25-year old man had a violent or problematic history, what was he doing left alone with a child? Even bringing in the games is completely incidental, but the paper hypes and inflates the role such that one could be fooled, if not reading carefully, that gaming played some role. Also buried in the article — all the way at the bottom — is a positive quote about the child and how he loved his PlayStation. The article itself isn’t negative, but the headline irked me because it’s not only unnecessary, but misleading. Sometimes reporters don’t write the headlines for their pieces, so the fault may lie with the copywriters who might not have read the story in full.

My condolences to the family of little Anthony.

New York: Attempting to Replace Parents with Legislation

I honestly wonder if any of these legislators have actually ever played video games. Or were they simply spoon fed 30-second clips of acts, taken completely out of context, that you would not have to search hard to find in a book or a film? Fed scare tactics and one-sided surveys that say video games are dangerous or ruining children? I honestly wonder what led them to vote for these two related, yet completely misguided bills.

Last year, I abstained from voting in the New York Senate race because of a video game related issue. Hillary Clinton supported measures to criminalize the selling of M or AO games to minors, after jumping on the "Hot Coffee" controversy bandwagon. She even included this point in her campaign, and on that issue and Iraq, I could not vote for her with a clear conscience, so I abstained, knowing she would win, but that I could not choose her to represent me this time around.

Let's take a look at the facts here for a moment. The MPAA rates movies, and theater chains enforce those ratings as a matter of company policy only. There are no laws that criminalize or force compliance with movie ratings. Music is also rated independently. Some stores choose not to carry music with Parental Advisory labels, but not selling such music to minors is, once again, merely voluntary and subject to store policy. Books are not rated or regulated, and can be purchased by anyone, of any age. Some library systems offer parents the ability to restrict their children from borrowing outside of the children's section, but that doesn't limit what they have access to while in the library itself. Books are full of violence, sex, drugs, and other things that one will also find in games, but no one is going to try and criminalize book sales. Imagine the uproar.

There needs to be a similar uproar. These politicians are fast-tracking bills that will take away a parent's right to raise his or her child as that person sees fit. For example, my mother is disabled, and she couldn't always accompany me to rent or see movies, but if I cleared it with her beforehand, then it was permitted. Blockbuster had then, a provision where a parent could sign off on allowing a child on the same account to rent any materials from the store. My mom did that, but I still advised her about what I was seeing, and she knew she could trust me.

That is parenting for you. But if these politicians have their way, what my mom allowed wouldn't even be possible when it comes to video games. Such a thing would be a criminal offense for the person behind the counter. So much for mobility-impaired parents' right to raise their kids how they wish. So much for any New York parent that wants to take responsibility for their own child.

How ridiculous would it seem if these senators decided to take it upon themselves to try and outlaw minors from purchasing Shakespearean works, for example? They're full of murders, bawdiness, revenge plots, and many rather adult themes.

Books, like video games, are a form of interactive entertainment. As such, many adults with little gaming experience or knowledge, like many of these legislators, are scared by all the hubbub made in the media and by instigators like Jack Thompson, and fear that such interaction is dangerous. I read Lord of the Flies at the age of twelve. I didn't start having murder and coup fantasies about my classmates. I play Grand Theft Auto. I've never killed anyone or stolen any cars. What these politicians need to do is to sit down and learn more about the subject. Yet, how can we expect such a thing when only six out of 100 Senate members read a classified intelligence document prepared as a justification for the current administration's decision to invade Iraq?

Many of these legislators are parents, and it's understandable that
they wish to protect children, but this is an incredibly ridiculous,
uninformed, and shortsighted approach. Legislation does not replace good parenting, and yet encouraging parental responsibility is not on these people's agenda. Sadly enough, it looks like
they've even roped Governor Spitzer into their camp. I hope if these bills are signed into law, that they're quickly slapped with injunctions and declared unconstitutional. It makes me so
ashamed that my state is doing this. That it's my fine state, usually
the ground of many freedom-protecting laws and progressive thinking, is
falling flat on its figurative face with what is no more than
a hypocritical knee-jerk reaction to an element of modern culture that
most of those responsible simply do not understand.