Politicians and Video Games just don’t mix……..

Following the murder of Rhys Jones in Liverpool, politicians have gone into 'soul searching' mode, and everyone has come up with their own solutions to the perceived epidemic of gun and knife crime in the UK. And as usual, one of the usual suspects is in everyone's firing line, video games.

Last week, opposition leader, David Cameron decided that it was time to clamp down on video games. Some excerpts from his speech are below:

"We are never going to deal with crime unless we look at the broader context and say, 'Yes, tough laws, strong action on the police, but also action to strengthen our society'.

"And that includes, I think, video games and things like that where we do need to think of the context in which people are growing up."

 Then today, the Prime Minister himself has decided to jump on the bandwagon. Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Brown said he was "aware of growing concern about the effect of screen violence on youngsters", adding that he wants to draw up new legislation for the promotion and sale of video games.

"Parents are concerned about whether children are exposed to harmful violence and sexual imagery in games and on the internet."

Ok, whenever I hear these arguments, it really ticks me off. And one thing is blindingly obvious. Neither David Cameron or Gordon Brown have played a video game in their lives. I don't blame them. My generation grew up playing games, and most of us are now in our thirties now at most. Our so called leaders are of a generation that grew up thinking that video games are for children.

Well, one thing needs to be said. While we grew up, video games grew up with us. I remember a long time ago playing 'Midnight Resistance' on the Commodore 64 all those years ago. You ran around shooting people with a gun. It was a classic shoot-em-up, like many others at the time like Super Contra. This was the age of innocence, when you shot people in the game, they just turned to dust.

Then in 1992, along came Mortal Kombat. Unlike it's rival at the time, Streetfighter 2, Mortal Kombat brought something to video games that changed the entire industry. Blood and wanton violence. When you beat people up, blood splashed everywhere, and after winning you could execute a 'finishing move' like tearing their heart out of their chest, or chopping of their heads. I might be wrong, but for me, that was when video games grew up.

So today, violence, foul language and sometimes, sex are commonplace in video games. And politicians, who remember the age of innocence have decided that enough is enough, and it's time to clean things up.

My argument is that what is needed is not new legislation, or censorship, but EDUCATION. Let's look at one of the games that comes up whenever anyone wants to talk about how video games are poisoning the minds of the youth, Grand Theft Auto. In the most recent release of this game, you can among other things, kill policemen, have sex with prostitutes and then kill them afterwards to get your money back. You steal cars to get around. It's violent, and I agree, kids should never play such things. But let's look at the game cases.

I've included the covers of both the UK and US versions of the games. Now, look at the bottom left hand corners.

UK - (18) The game is rated 18

US - (M) Mature 17+

Just like movies, video games have been self regulating for years. In theory, you cannot buy this game in the UK if you're under 18. And to be honest, most of the time that works, most retailers won't sell a game to you if you're under the limit. However, there is one problem that is often overlooked. Parents.

I cannot count the number of times I've seen parents buy games for their kids that are completely inappropriate. And they have the same problem both David Cameron and Gordon Brown have, they have never played video games before, and as far as they are concerned, it's 'kids stuff' and there can't possibly be anything in the video game that can corrupt the minds of their young ones.

So once again, I put it to you that the solution to this problem is EDUCATION, not of the kids, but of the parents. Just like the Internet, parents need to take an interest in what their children are doing, and make sure that their children do not view or use material that is inappropriate.

There is most definitely no need for new legislation, all that is needed is to enforce what we already have in place. Make sure parents know that just like they wouldn't knowingly let their children watch a porn flick, they have to knowingly keep their children away from inappropriate video games for their age.

The government can do nothing about it. It is in the hands of parents.


  1. [...] Clark Politicians and Video Games just don’t mix…….. » This Summary is from an article posted at BOSO.ME on Wednesday, September 05, 2007 Following [...]

  2. I'm afraid I can only partly agree, Boso. I do think that the parents who buy these things need to be educated - in some cases at least, although some know and still buy, which is even worse. But, I firmly believe that while I am generally pro-personal freedoms and against too many laws, something as violent and vulgar as GTA should have no part in our society. It's sole aim is to glorify criminality and violence, so I think it would be fair to ban it and games like it. Why should anyone fantasise about killing police and prostitutes?

  3. Pete, in the same way, let's ban horror flicks and any movies that glorify violence. The game is only meant for adults, who should see as as just entertainment, not a way of life. I've never felt like running over a few people after playing GTA, and I suspect majority are like me.

  4. While I am in favour of censorship of film to some extent, there is a difference because Games put the person in the situation, it's a participative medium as opposed to viewing something, you're controlling it. I firmly believe over time it makes society more and more accustomed to such things, it makes things less and less shocking and more and more pedestrian.

  5. One question? Do you play games?

  6. Pete, banning GTA will only create more problems. It will not solve the issue at all. I agree with you on one thing though. GTA sounds pretty vulgar!

    As Boso said, education is a big part of the solution.

  7. 'fraid I remain old fashioned on this issue, and on some films and some music. Society can't be educated, because the people who will be educated and will learn, are usually not the ones who need to, the ones who need to are your common or garden chav who really don't care.

  8. Three generations of parents in this country have forgotten how to raise kids. The problem is entrenched now...

  9. There are fundamental flaws in the society/parent/kid relationship in this country.
    Goodness, not every way of life can be codified in law. The bottomline is - for as long as parents & adult society at large treat kid rights above their discipline, these issues are bound to be here.

    The government has given the kids the freedom to live freely, and they should live with it.

  10. I've played violent video games, listened to rap music which is supposed to encourage me to be violent and have watched horror films from when I was 8. Violence has been all around me all my life, from being at home to just playing on the street with my friends but I'm not going to going to attempt to murder everybody I see. In fact outside my imagination I'm a very very laid back calm person to most people that meet me.

    So for me I don't think it's the video games, Films, Music or anything that creates violence. I believe that these things are merely a scapegoat for the fact that at the end of the day, kids are isolated in society after a certain age.

    For me the one thing that infulences me is other people, not what I can do on Grand theft auto, not what Eminem or Jay-Z say on a rap record, not how slick Arnold Schwarzegger looks with heavy artillery in an action movie.

    If people give kids guidance and direction most of them WILL grasp it. Yet often I believe people like the idea but don't want to go long term with it. They don't want to go the whole distance.

    How long before this whole Rhys thing vanishes again. Can you remember the names of the kids who were killed in London not long ago? Will someone blame Disney if an attacker has video games and videos mainly from that company? There is a problem with kids in this country but I think rather then blaming things around them and start confronting the problem.