Double Standard On Video Games

The Virginian-Pilot © August 23, 2005
For as long as they have existed, video games have been the subject of much consternation, mostly among parents and politicians. Beginning with Mortal Kombat, much of the outcry focused solely on violence, but recently attention has turned to sex.
“Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” the latest in the Grand Theft Auto line of violent video games, has sent various organizations into a frenzy, not about the wanton murder, or the prostitution, larceny, theft and drug use rampant in the game. Instead, a short depiction of pixilated sex, only accessible using a geeky modification that is hard to obtain, has sent America’s moralists, including a jockeying Sen. Hillary Clinton, into a tizzy.
The game’s Mature rating was upped to Adults Only, effectively barring it from sale in most mainstream outlets, and forcing the company to edit the game’s code to remove the offending scene.
What is most troublesome about all this is the double standard involved. In the time it takes to download the Grand Theft Auto modification and install it, a 15-year-old can watch any number of characters engage in casual, unprotected sex on afternoon TV. In the time it takes to follow the in-game chain of events that lead to the sex mini-game, a 16-year-old can watch violent depictions of murder and mutilation on “Law & Order” or “CSI.”
-->The energy used to campaign against San Andreas could have been used to make parents aware that the average child is exposed to thousands of video murders every year.
Yes, San Andreas is a violent and offensive video game, but it is clearly marketed to adults. Seriously, do parents think a game named for a felony is going to be appropriate fare for their children?
Unlike many movies and television shows, actions have serious consequences in San Andreas. A player can end up in jail, in the hospital or dead if he gets caught breaking the law.
But video games are marketed to young men who sometimes play them in suspicious groups. That’s a demographic that includes few lawmakers or politicians, who prefer to condemn phenomena they don’t fully understand.
The problem here is not the existence of San Andreas, but rather the refusal of public figures to acknowledge that video games are every bit as legitimate a form of expression and entertainment as the raunchy and violent movies and TV that somehow seem to escape politicians’ pointed outrage.

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