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.