Stop Picking on Video Games - and Video Gamers

Politicians are always looking for an edge to be seen to be doing something, especially if it involves children. Never is it more likely than during an election year or the lead up to a general election. Politicians all over the Anglosphere are eyeing the video game industry with ill intent.

US government leaders are examining slapping extra taxes on game transactions, justified by the supposed link between video games with violent behavior - which also bolsters the cries for censorship. The latter is occurring despite evidence that video games do not lend themselves to encouraging bad behavior. There is a recent study showing that video game paranoids are completely off base.

Surprisingly, for some, it seems that it's not violent games that make children violent, but the dysfunctional families they live in. Just like with the recent spate of college shootings, it seems that sick, violent people, when allowed to roam free, act out on their proclivities. Messed up people, off their medication, do messed up things. Is this news to some people? Obviously it is, if one reads some of the rants against video games in the media these days. As we found out in the recent Mass Effect kerfuffle, some of the people who are venting about video games have never actually played the games they are criticizing. There are even commentators who are proud of that fact. Though, to be fair, the person involved in the Mass Effect fiasco actually apologized later, after she had played the game in question and viewed "the sexual situation" people were going on about.

More amusingly, there is a study that actually suggests that violent video games have the opposite effect on their players, relaxing them and providing them relief from the frustrations of every day life. Someone actually spent money studying this fact, even though any video gamer could have told them this.

Of course that doesn't stop everyone -from mayors of major US cities, like Tom Menino, to Prime Ministers, like Gordon Brown- from attacking the video game industry with ill informed charges and populist rhetoric. Gordon Brown hired some TV "expert" who believes video games are "like heroin" to write a report.

This is, of course, at the same time as ├╝ber-violent movies are allowed to be shown in normal cinemas and released on video. Movies likes Hostel II or the Saw series celebrate gore and torture, even bragging about it in their marketing. This type of twisted, voyeuristic entertainment should be viewed in a similar light to games like Manhunt II, if not more harshly, yet these two are the ones that get a general release.

Of course, a libertarian like me does not believe that either should be banned. However, if there are standards to be applied, they should be applied fairly, no matter what the means of delivery. It should be pointed out that the video game industry is now larger than the movie business worldwide, and the US/UK produces a great deal of content for the genre. Of course, if politicians continue to meddle, game companies could move to more friendly places like Quebec, Scandinavia, or even Eastern Europe, which is starting to produce some quality products.

Then again, this is par for the course these days. People don't care what the government bans as long as it's not something they like. And, let's face it, the stereotypical nerdy young man, the perceived video game player, is fun to pick on whether outside the pub or with the help of the government.

Parents should be informed by a rating system and then allowed to make a decision. The trouble with government is that it uses a hammer to crack a pistachio. Like with high taxes on booze to prevent underage drinking, the honest get screwed.

Gamers are not idiots and should not be treated as such. It's a clear case of parents needing to act like parents and stop expecting government to do their job for them. It may be easy to pick on video gamers and treat them as geeks or nerds who won't fight back, but is it really a good idea for politicians to do their best to hurt such a big industry?

Don't they realize that video games are now a huge growth industry, employing thousands of highly intelligent people, that provides pleasure, relaxation, and escape to millions of people worldwide?

As with many things that politicians go on about in complete ignorance and angst, video games are the latest whipping boy. Unlike some of the other groups politicians prattle on about in ignorance, there is a large contingent of clued up, highly motivated, and intelligent people who like video games and are keeping tabs on them.

One has to wonder if we will soon see a politician taken down by an organized campaign to unseat him, led by annoyed video gamers. Watch this space.

Andrew Ian Dodge blogs at Dodgeblogium.