Game On!

By Eric Lam
Epoch Times San Francisco Staff Dec 01, 2005

Customers try the new game Xbox 360 by Microsoft at the Tokyo Game Show in September, 2005. The increasing use of violent and sexist content within the industry has spurred California Assemblyman Leland Yee to author a bill which would prohibit the sale of violent games to minors. (Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images)
High-res image (2400 x 1600 px, 300 dpi) The traveling "Game On" video game exhibition, consisting of over one hundred video games from past to present, made its way to the Tech Museum of Innovation in San José this Tuesday. The exhibition was originally organized by the Barbican Art Gallery in London in collaboration with the National Museum of Scotland.

This hands-on exhibition allows you to play classic arcade games like Ms. Pac-Man, Asteroids, and Donkey Kong. Other playable games included more recent ones like Street Fighter on Nintendo, Tomb Raider for Playstation, and multiplayer action games like Super Smash Bros. Melee for Gamecube, and Halo 2 for X-Box. Also it showcased what it considered to be the ten most influential game consoles of all time, from the Atari, the first home game console, to the Sega Saturn, to the Playstation.

The exhibition, initially meant to illuminate the history, culture, and development of video games, has taken a new turn at the Tech Museum of Innovation. The museum, in collaboration with Santa Clara University, has also raised for discussion the ethical issues surrounding video games.

As video games have evolved from the simple ping-pong simulation, Pong, to the violent zombie slaying series Resident Evil, the question of the influence of video games on users has been increasingly debated.

A forum, entitled, "Video Games: Playing with Ethics?" was held midway through the exhibition to discuss the issue of ethics in video games. Panelists included California Assemblyman Leland Yee, author of a recent measure to prevent the sale of violent games to minors, Mike Antonucci, a popular culture writer for the San José Mercury News, Kristin McDonnell, CEO of LimeLife, a video game developer for women and girls, and Caroline Ratajski, a student of Santa Clara University and a gamer.

The discussion revolved around Assemblyman Yee's bill, and the topics of whether video games are addictive, racist, or sexist, and if they promulgate violence.

Many people think that the government should not interfere in determining whether or not kids can buy certain video games. Currently, video games are rated by the Electronic Software Rating Board (ESRB). Video game vendors, on a voluntarily basis, check each buyer's identification to make sure he/she is old enough to buy the game according to the game rating. Yee's bill will prohibit the sale of violent video games to persons under 16.

Assemblyman Yee defends his bill by saying society has already determined kids should have certain limitations, citing the prohibition of the sales of alcohol and tobacco to minors as examples.

All of the panelists agreed that video games are addictive and somewhat sexist by reinforcing traditional gender roles such as the damsel in distress or having a sexy female hero in skimpy clothing. However, Mike Antonucci of the Mercury News contests that primetime TV on public broadcast channels depicts the same violence and sexism video games portray. Sex sells, and it's not a problem of the media, but of the culture that consumes it.

The panel discussion ended with a question from the audience, "Which is more morally offensive, the damsel in distress or the sexy heroine?"

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