I’m normally against all forms of censorship, but the recent overturning of a proposed California law to ban the sale of violent video games leaves me perched rather precariously on the fence. Don’t get me wrong, I love violent video games. Whatever games console I have lying around usually gets updated around the same time the next Silent Hill or Resident Evil instalment comes along. I also thoroughly enjoyed playing the notorious Manhunt. However, I’m not sure twelve-year-old kids should be playing these games.
Attitudes are changing now that the Nintendo and PlayStation generation have grown up and are old enough to have children of their own. Video games have grown up too and are no longer seen as solely for children’s entertainment.
Not everybody appears to have caught on.
It always reminds me of a (possibly) apocryphal story about a video/DVD rental store clerk and a certain, highly notorious, Japanese animated film.
Dad walks up with two young sons in tow and puts a copy of Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend on the counter.
Dad: I’d like to rent this film.
Clerk looks down at fresh-faced young boys.
Clerk: Um, I’m not sure it would be suitable for them.
Dad: Whaddya mean. It’s a cartoon. Action, explosions, giant robots, that kind of thing.
Clerk: Um, it’s quite . . . extreme.
Dad: Don’t be silly. It’s a cartoon. Rent me the goddamn film or I’ll call your manager.
Clerk (hands up): Okay. Whatever you say.
The next day.
Dad storms back into store and slams video down on the counter.
Dad: You sick fuck! What are you doing renting me this sick filth! Fucking pedo! I’ll call the police on you.
Clerk: Um, I did say it wasn’t suitable for minors.
I don’t mind age restrictions. They’re good defence when the moral meddlebutts try to use the Think-of-the-children! card when they want to ban something. Britain, I think, uses a similar ratings system to the one used for movies, which seems sensible to me. When the moral meddlebutts next get in an indignant froth about the latest GTA or Manhunt and how children shouldn’t be playing such sick filth, it’s easy to counter by pointing at the 18 certificate and asking how children are playing the game in the first place. Think-of-the-children! becomes Where-are-the-parents? and draws a lot of venom out of the meddlebutt’s attack. I’d rather developers had the freedom to create games for adults covering adult themes, without worrying about a latter-day Mary Whitehouse whipping up a moral panic and shutting them down.
Like the original blogger, I’m not sure if this is a victory to be celebrated. It’s always hard to know with these things. The moral meddlebutts are getting sneakier at depriving the public of things the meddlebutts disapprove of. There are ways to ban things without explicitly banning them, in the same way a NC-17 rating will financially destroy a film in the US. Maybe this was a battle that needed to be fought and won.