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The Game on Your Wii: Now Rated R

Parents — not the nanny state — should protect kids from pixelated sex and violence.

by
Michele Catalano

Bio

July 31, 2008 - 12:00 am

New York Governor Paterson on Monday signed into law a bill mandating that all video games sold in the state of New York display ESRB ratings on their packaging. Sound familiar? It should. Bills like this have been voted for, voted down, and had lawsuits filed against them in almost every state.

This new waste of resources and dollars also maintains that new consoles must be equipped with controls that would prevent the display of indecent/violent video games. You know, parental controls. Which the Wii, Xbox 360, and PS3 already have.

This law will also see the creation of an advisory board to examine issues such as how violent video games affect children. Yes, that sounds familiar as well.

This redundancy in passing a law that has previously been deemed unconstitutional seems to be just another step in New York’s race to become the official nanny state.

Senior vice president of communications and research for the Entertainment Software Association, Richard Taylor, is none too happy about this law. “The state has ignored legal precedent, common sense, and the wishes of many New Yorkers in enacting this unnecessary bill. This government intrusion will cost taxpayers money and impose unconstitutional mandates for activities and technologies that are already voluntarily in place.”

Indeed, the passing of bills and laws regulating video games has cost taxpayers over one million dollars. That’s one million dollars of your money spent to do something parents should be doing without the government enacting a law telling them to do so.

This law, sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza (R-I, Staten Island) seems especially near and dear to the heart of Senator Martin J. Golden (R-C, Brooklyn): “No child should be playing ‘games’ that involve mutilating people with chain saws, having sex with prostitutes, or dealing drugs. This hyper-violent material is mind-boggling in its brutality, and our kids should simply not be exposed to it. These commonsense proposals will better inform and empower parents throughout our state, while also helping to prevent our kids from gaining access to these video games.”

There’s a real simple way to not expose children to this. A way that won’t cost taxpayers money, that doesn’t need a committee to study it, that won’t require our elected officials to spend time debating it. It’s called parenting. And we need to stop expecting the government to do that job for us. Politicians should stay out of the gaming business and let parents determine what their kids can and can’t play. It’s part and parcel of the nanny state that is made of both sides of the political spectrum; the “we know what’s best for you” mantra of liberals coupled with prurient conservatism leads to ratings and enforcement of those ratings via retailers. It shouldn’t be up to a senator, a governor, or even Gary the EB Games clerk what our children can purchase. That’s a parenting decision that shouldn’t be legislated.

Once again, the government of New York thinks its citizens are too dumb to make choices on their own. Maybe some of them are. But it’s not up to elected officials to make up for the ignorance of parents who buy Grand Theft Auto for their five-year-olds. There are those who say that the plethora of violent video games available makes it harder to raise their children decently. How? How does it make it harder? The challenge of parenting includes boundaries, guidelines, and saying no to things you don’t want them to play, read, watch, or listen to. It also involves teaching your kids that people who die on TV or in video games — wait for it — don’t die in real life! It’s fake! And here’s a challenge: Instead of being so shocked that your kid is robbing pixilated taxi drivers and humping cartoon hookers that you cry to your senator to enact a law to forbid it, you take the game away from him. Better yet, do a little research before you buy a game for your child, and don’t send him alone into the store with a wad of cash and no guidelines on what he can or can’t purchase with it.

While once again trying to legislate personal responsibility, New York is ignoring the fact that similar laws have been struck down in California, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, and Washington. The Family Protection Entertainment Act, a bill sponsored by Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman that was supposed to protect children from violent video games, suffered a slow, silent death and never became law. Clearly, Governor Paterson and Senator Lanza did not look into precedent when putting this into motion. If they did, they would have only had to look back to last year, when then-Governor Eliot Spitzer tried and failed to regulate video game sales. Sad thing is, this isn’t even the most inane video game bill pushed by a New York politician.

Richard Taylor sums up the problem with laws such as this: “It also unfairly singles out the video game industry over all other forms of media. One wonders where this overreach by government in New York will end. If New York lawmakers feel it is the role of government to convene a government commission on game content, they could next turn to other content such as books, theater, and film.”

Overreach, indeed. While some people are happy to have information about video games laid bare for them — in much the same way they are happy to have the government count calories for them — we have to wonder where this will lead us. Not only are we looking toward a day where our government strips us of our ability to make our own decisions on our day-to-day life events, but the monumental waste of taxpayer money being spent on babysitting and hand-holding adults who should be responsible for themselves and their families without government interference is shameful. Our politicians are creating crimes under the guise of protecting us from ourselves. And it is costing us money to fund these studies, to put these bills through, to have panels formed that will spend years and dollars duplicating research, coming up with the same vague results as panels before them did, and then having their nanny laws shot down as unconstitutional anyhow.

Michele Catalano lives, writes, and takes photographs on Long Island.
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