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frankenstein's video game monster was created by parents, not the industry

Jimmy Ballard has a good rant up today about this Penny Arcade comic, the comic that inspired it and the whole sordid subject of video games turning kids into killers.


[click for larger image]This is the political cartoon in question. Tycho at Penny Arcade is seething over it, and I agree with him 100%. He wants us to print out today's PA strip and send it to any local papers that ran the Horsey's Dr. Frankenstein strip (It ran in the Seattle-Post on August 1, so check the online version of your paper for that day, if they carry Horsey).

Tycho writes: [Horsey] should try producing a work that does more that tweak the nose of power, something that asks serious questions of it, something that combines cleverness and art into a weapon and see how far it gets with his editor. Then, perhaps the First Amendment won't be some ethereal concept worthy of ridicule when it protects other people and something tangible and obvious when it governs his own creative output.

What Horsey fails to realize in his effort to be both witty and profound at the same time is that this is not a First Amendment issue at all. The First Amendment does not force parents into buying these games and systems for their children. Just because someone makes it, does not mean you have to buy it.

I've been through this issue - sort of - twice in the past week; once with The Case of the Adult Comic Book and once with The Case of the Adult Films (sorry, I'm in Encyclopedia Brown mode today). Clearly, with Horsey's idea that video game creators are indeed creating monsters as well, we have yet another adult who does not grasp the idea that freedom of choice means freedom of not making the wrong choice. In fact, Gabe at PA touched on this issue as well [I really wish Gabe and Tycho would discover the wonder of permalinks]:

So why donít people lend the same legitimacy to videogames that they do to film? Itís because they still think videogames are for children. Those of us who cut our teeth on Atari games are pushing thirty at this point. Is it so unreasonable to expect that as an adult I should be able to purchase an M rated videogame that includes adult material in much the same way I might see an R rated film that contains the same. The fact that pornography exists does not mean that film as a medium is inappropriate for children.

Which applies not only to the argument I'm making here, but to the comic book industry as well, as evidenced in the Castillo case. Yes, there are comic books for children, but that does not mean that all of them are appropriate for children, just as not all video games have singing dinosaurs and prancing ponies.

A parent who cries that her son became violent because of video games should be smacked upside the head and then made to go to parenting classes. There, she could learn the basics of saying no to her child as well as learn what is and isn't appropriate for a child her son's age to be playing with.

My son is ten. He wants to own Vice City. He wants to go see Freddy v. Jason. He wants to watch South Park. No, no and no. When we take him shopping for a video game, we look at the rating. Unlike a lot of his friends' parents, my husband and I are avid gamers so we know what the games are like. Even if we didn't, we would to a bit of research before we bought him a game. As a parent, there are places where you have to draw a line. Once you cross over that line, you leave yourself open to all kinds of consequences and you can't claim the producers of the entertainment you purchased for your child are to blame when he shows negative effects.

Even that leaves me suspect. Personally, I've never seen a child turn into a murderer, a monster or even a low-grade purse snatcher because of video games and movies. I have, however, seen children "go bad" because their parents do not teach them right from wrong, they don't set guidelines or follow through on rules or teach their offspring any kind of appropriate behavior standards. One thing goes with the other. You can't expect your children to learn all of life's lessons from the entertainment industry, nor can you expect that the lessons you teach your child need only be taught once. In the face of every increasing intensity in in all forms of entertainment, with the violence in just the news alone, you need to hammer home your points to your kids again and again.

Like the strip says, video games are not babysitters. You can't expect to throw your kid in front of the Playstation for hours on end and not expect his grades to drop and his temperment to change. Even if he was playing a G-Rated game for for five hours straight, he would probably have some adverse effects.

The blame train needs to stop. If your child is grossly overweight, over aggressive, violence prone or a bully, if she or he has carpal tunnel syndrome, is plotting to run away with an internet friend, curses like a truck driver or tries Jackass type stunts resulting in injury, you need to take a long hard look at yourself and stop looking for a lawyer and someone to sue. It is not the fault of video games, the movie industry, the television, McDonald's or the internet. It is your fault for not keeping a closer eye on them, for not setting standards and keeping to them, for not imposing limits and for not knowing how to say no to your child.

The world is not your babysitter, nor are the citizens of this world surrogate parents to your foul-mouthed kid. The creators of M-Rated video games are not concerned with your child when they make their games because your child does not fall into that M rating.

It does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a parent who thinks before they buy.

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» Videogames and violence from Dodgeblogium
Lack of parent's reponsability causes violent children, not video games. Michele has a long post on the subject, as well as a particularly obnoxious cartoon about the video games industry. I have made further comments below the post.... [Read More]

Comments

I am reminded of this exchange during the PMRC Congressional hearings (subject to fragile memory -- boy, does this date me...):

Congressman: Do you listen to all your child's records?
Dee Snider: Yes.
Congressman: Do you think it's reasonable to expect all parents to do that?
Dee Snider: Being a parent isn't a reasonable thing.

Having ranted some myself yesterday over Newsweek's teen prostitution story, I'm in the choir for today's sermon. Preach on!

There is one thing in the anti-drug radio spots running these days that no one can deny: Somebody has to be the grown-up.

I agree with almost everything you said, except for a slight difference on the "village" part. In an ideal world, it should be possible for non-parental adults to correct a child when they see him doing something wrong in public. It's utterly amazing to me that so many parents get mad at other adults when they object to a kid misbehaving.

When I was a kid, I knew that I'd get in trouble if I did something wrong and it got reported back to my parents. A large percentage of parents these days are fearful of and hostile toward strangers, while raising little monsters who feel free to terrorize everyone around them. Attempting to say anything to someone about their out of control children is virtually always a lost cause - it's a sad state of affairs.

Here here! Well said!

Just wondering...who did the cavemen sue when BamBam got snatch up by the sabre tooth tiger?

Great!

Those "let your kids be who they are" commercials fall into the same category.

"NO!"

They can be "who they are" when they are no longer under my roof, or have the mental software sufficient to think through the wisdom of permanently scaring their face with sticks and ink.

Where ever you draw the line, they will try to cross it. Argue over "their right" to PLAY video games at all, not whether or not they have "a right" to own any game.

As a father who is an avid video-game-playing-comic-book-reading geek (yep, that I am), I'm astounded by the amount of people who seem to think it's okay to blame TV or videogames or books or comic books for their kids behavior. For pete's sake! Watch what they watch, play what they play, and if you aren't interesting in what they play, then monitor it, and read what they read, or at least find out what they are reading! When did people become so lazy that they expect other sources to baby-sit their kids, then get upset when they start doing things they think are inappropriate?

How dare you ask parents to take responsibility for their children's upbringing?

Michele, if you knew how many times I was told "We can't supervise them 24/7" in response to my arguing the same things. Oh, that's when they don't immediately discount my views because I have none of my own.

MikeR: I agree with what you said, but I don't think that detracts from the "it does NOT take a villiage" argument. Non-parental correction is not necessary to ensure that a child doesn't turn into a monster. Does it help? Sure... but with good parents children don't NEED that to turn out well.

"It takes a villiage" is just an easy way for folks to blame their own poor parenting on the falling of society, when the blame should probably be pointed in the other direction.

Michele, I've encountered what seems to be a logic error here. Maybe you can set me straight.

I don't see how the message you outline in this post past the point you stop condemning Horsey's cartoon is that much different from Horsey's cartoon.

As I understand it, you're saying that parents are ultimately responsible for the stuff their children see and hear, especially in the home. Parents should be responsible enough to not let their kids play GTA: Vice City or watch South Park or Freddy v. Jason or what-have-you.

It seems to me that Mr. Horsey with this cartoon was saying a lot of the same thing -- parents have to play a role in parenting and not leave it up to the video game industry or any potential legislation of the video came industry (hence the remark Software Engineer Frankenstein makes about the First Amendment).

It really seems to me that the only difference between your and his opinion is the notion of video games turning little kids into monsters. Mr. Horsey is quite obviously playing to the kneejerk fear of parents here. It seems that this has to be a fear that you possess on some level, else you'd not have demonstrated for all of us just what you consider unacceptable for your son to watch or play.

And a final point -- I'm not sure how Vice City was advertised in your community, but here in Seattle it was advertised on the sides of Metro buses. I think actions like this by the videogame industry just back up Horsey's point -- the industry doesn't care ultimately who buys their games, and hence they don't care who they advertise to, no matter if the game has an 'M' on the box or not.

I don't really want to earn your wrath, and I'm not trying to belittle you, but I am curious.

Chad,

You have some points there, but you must think of how this "cartoon" irks quite a few people. It depicts a doctor ("the video game industry") and a child ("ze frankenstein") but does not depict the parent ANYWHERE in that image. Yes, it was a kneejerk display, but a bit on the mis-information side of things. We, as parents, have to raise our children responsibly - and that means stepping in the middle of that little pair. You also have to remember that video games are not JUST FOR KIDS, just like movies are not for kids - and they display Terminator 3 on the sides of busses as well (and, no, it still doesn't make it right).

So, we could go on for hours stating how the media is EVIL and is trying to mis-guide our children, but when it comes down to it, we are the ones that have to guide our children away from them and educate our children in what is right, and what is not.

Actually, I get the impression Chad is confusing the Tycho and Horsey cartoons...

I'm not sure how Vice City was advertised in your community, but here in Seattle it was advertised on the sides of Metro buses.

It was advertised on the side of city busses in San Diego, as well... so are family planning services, medical insurance ads, TV/radio talk show ads, and a host of other adult-oriented advertisements. Metro bus ads are adult-targetted ads, because adults are the main people riding the busses. If they'd advertised during Power Puff Girls I'd be more inclined to think they were after the kids.

The fact is that the makers of Vice City didn't aim their product at children. Hell, it's set in the 1980s and is packed full of references to "Miami Vice" and stupid 80s sitcoms. They even hired Philip Michael Thomas to voice the main character's black sidekick. No kids are going to understand the humor in the game; the people who do are people like, well, me -- 30-somethings who loved Miami Vice back in junior high and high school.

This is beside the point, though. The truth is that there's no real evidence that video games make children violent, or sociopathic, or anything else (besides fat from lack of excercise). The people who work in the video game industry quite rightly do not believe their product hurts children, or anyone else. Video game executives are not Big Tobacco, plotting to get kids hooked on carcinogenic substances. They sell entertainment, to people who want to be entertained.

Pete,

I agree that having a civil society doesn't really require a village in the strict sense of supplementing parental authority, but I also think that the severe erosion of shared expectations for acceptable behavior is a big part of how we got to this mess we're in. Parents ought to be mortified when their children behave badly in public, but unfortunately that's a rare circumstance these days.

Amen! Well said Michele!

As a person who has worked with kids and taught them, I wish there was a way to make those parents listen, but it seems that they are too busy passing the buck to actually pay attention. It is sad to know that there are parents out there who expect other people to raise their kids, be it teachers, nannies, tutors, babysiters and the trusted box that sits so prominently in thier kitchens, livings rooms and bedrooms.

MonkeyConQueso says:

"...but does not depict the parent ANYWHERE in that image.

Yes, I do believe I noticed that. In fact, that's why I stated that I thought that Horsey's opinion was not far off of Michele's. In my mind, this is saying that if you are a parent, and you are not actively putting yourself in the picture, then you are the problem. The videogame industry is going to be the videogame industry -- parents have little direct control over them, except via mass pocketbook revolt. Parents do have the ability (and responsibility) to get in the way, and it seems to me that Horsey is saying that not enough do. Maybe he just hasn't met the group of parents that frequent A Small Victory; nonetheless it seems like a legitimate concern.

McGehee says:

"Actually, I get the impression Chad is confusing the Tycho and Horsey cartoons..."

I don't think I am. Horsey is saying that parents not parenting is a problem, Tycho is saying that parents parenting badly is a problem. They aren't necessarily the same issue, although there is obviously a lot of crossover.

Dan says:

"It was advertised on the side of city busses in San Diego, as well... so are family planning services, medical insurance ads, TV/radio talk show ads, and a host of other adult-oriented advertisements. Metro bus ads are adult-targetted ads, because adults are the main people riding the busses. If they'd advertised during Power Puff Girls I'd be more inclined to think they were after the kids. The fact is that the makers of Vice City didn't aim their product at children. Hell, it's set in the 1980s and is packed full of references to "Miami Vice" and stupid 80s sitcoms. They even hired Philip Michael Thomas to voice the main character's black sidekick. No kids are going to understand the humor in the game; the people who do are people like, well, me -- 30-somethings who loved Miami Vice back in junior high and high school."

When you were a kid, did you ever notice ads for insurance, health care, family planning (if there were ads for that at the time)? I'll bet if you were a kid today and you saw an ad for a Mature-rated videogame, that would pique your interest a hell of a lot more than an ad for Vern Fonk Insurance or KTTH (The Truth! in talk radio).

The lovely parents that post here notwithstanding, as sure as the day is long there are kids in America playing Vice City. I tend to agree more with Horsey that this happens from parental apathy than Tycho that it happens because of parental malice.

I've been a resident of San Diego as well, and even though most of the people riding the buses there are adults, I do remember a goodly amount of children on them as well. The fact of the matter is that children comprise a large amount of the traffic of any metropolitan transit system. You do make an excellent point about not seeing advertisements like that during cartoons like PPG, however. But that being said, I don't think that videogame companies really care if their advertising falls out of their target audience for a mature product and into the mind of a ten year-old kid. If the kid winds up buying the game, the company certainly isn't going to care where the money came from.

You're probably right that modern kids would miss a lot of the humor in Vice City and that casting Philip-Michael Thomas, Jenna Jameson, Burt Reynolds, Ray Liotta and even Deborah Harry (among many, many others) to voice characters in the game shows that Rockstar intended it for people of our generation. That certainly doesn't mean that kids would get no or little enjoyment from playing the game. To take one of your earlier examples, the PowerPuff Girls were initially aimed at college-level kids. Two PPG episodes that are the most memorable for me are "Meet the Beat-Alls", a complete punnerific parody of the career of The Beatles, and the episode where the girls want to join A.W.S.M., where the final battle scene is rife with innuendo.

I don't think the kids care about the things they don't know about.

And I have to agree with Dan that there hasn't been a study saying that videogames, media, whatever necessarily lead to children's violence. But obviously there is some deep concern by parents that it might -- even parents that don't agree with Horsey -- otherwise we'd not be having this discussion.

I agree with the post, except for two little details. For one AFAIK when the topic came up in my psychology course we were told that, while no study has demonstrated a clear link between video games and violence, a number of studies have shown an influence via third factors. So it's not as if video games had no influence.
Second, I side with Chad, noting that while it's parents responsibility to control what their kids have access to one must keep in mind that the job is hard enough as it is without the extra challenge of fighting the ad efforts of a multimillion dollar industry. I wouldn't want to limit the right of the companies to advertise, but to the extent that concerned parents fight against what they perceive as an extra burden, I wouldn't want to limit their right to fight it either. And if the industry claims to have nothing to do with the fact that kids want these games, parents should in turn be allowed an equally false statement, namely to lay the blame on the industry IMO.

Without consulting any studies, I can tell you that violent video game use and violent crimes perpetrated by kids are linked. Any kid who lives in an environment permissive enough that they are spraying gore pixels all over for four hours a day is going to be a mess. The lack of limits, moderation, and emotional, spiritual and social guidance that the presence of such crap indicates should tell you most of what is relevant about the kid's environment.
The studies of such influences have been, and will be, a load of hooey. Anyone who thinks they've got a controlled experiment with a subject as complex as a whole family is putting you on, or is too involved in the methodology to acknowledge its fundamental flaws. The only real study of child rearing is published in that journal of human behavior called history. (See the 900 section of the library.) That renowned journal is fairly clear on what happens to kids without strong parental limits.
p.s. As a new reader, I extend to you some mad props on a good site.
Dennymack

I'll bet if you were a kid today and you saw an ad for a Mature-rated videogame, that would pique your interest a hell of a lot more than an ad for Vern Fonk Insurance or KTTH

And? Ads for Playboy magazine piqued the hell out of my interest when I was 13 years old. So did HBO blurbs advertising "A Clockwork Orange", which I had to sneak into the living room and secretly watch at night. That doesn't mean I was the target of the ads; it just means that kids are often attracted to things they aren't supposed to have. :)

The fact of the matter is that children comprise a large amount of the traffic of any metropolitan transit system.

I fail to see your point, unless you're saying "any ad placed where kids can see it is aimed at children", which is obviously completely false. Unless your point is that ads for "child-unfriendly" products should only be shown in places kids can't see them, in which case I respectfully disagree. I see no reason why I should have to live in a G-rated society just because other people are shitty parents.

Vice City costs $50 -- it doesn't matter if ten-year-old kids "want" it or "would like" it, because they cannot afford it. Not unless (a) their parents give them big piles of cash to be spent unsupervised or (b) the parents buy them the video game without noticing or caring that you play a violent psychopath who drives around running over hookers in a series of vintage 80s sports cars.

"Vice City" and "Postal" do not advertise themselves as being about green meadows and fluffy bunnies (except for secret memos, distributed only in Barney the Dinosaur fanzines, detailing the secret, pornographically violent, content). They advertise themselves as being about guns, drugs, hookers, random acts of brutal violence, and profanity. They use the fact that they're condemned by the Fraternal Order of Police as free advertising. Hell, I bought the original "Grand Theft Auto" because I saw a CNN scare piece on what a horrible, evil little game it was -- with ten minutes I was in my car on the way to Electronics Boutique.

Do kids like this sort of antisocial content as much as me? Sure, but so what? The point is that there is no way that an even marginally-aware parent won't know what the games are about, which means that as much as those kids want the games, they will not get them unless (a) the parents think the games are fine or (b) the parents are lazy jackasses. Neither of which is in any way the fault of the gaming industry.

"And? Ads for Playboy magazine piqued the hell out of my interest when I was 13 years old. So did HBO blurbs advertising "A Clockwork Orange", which I had to sneak into the living room and secretly watch at night. That doesn't mean I was the target of the ads; it just means that kids are often attracted to things they aren't supposed to have. :)"

These are bad analogies. It's against the law for a retailer to sell a child a Playboy. It's not against the law (in most places) for a retailer to sell a child an M-rated videogame. Your analogy for HBO is closer, but HBO airs what it airs because it trys to keep a family-friendly reputation, which it finds good for business. Rockstar and other game studios are seldom under such pressure, so far as I can see.

"I fail to see your point, unless you're saying "any ad placed where kids can see it is aimed at children", which is obviously completely false. Unless your point is that ads for "child-unfriendly" products should only be shown in places kids can't see them, in which case I respectfully disagree. I see no reason why I should have to live in a G-rated society just because other people are shitty parents."

I see no reason why any of us should live in a G-rated society, either. But my point, which you've managed to miss twice now, is that when you advertise on the side of a metropolitan mass transit system, you have no target -- or rather, your target is 'everybody'. The last time I checked, children were still a subset of 'everybody'. I'm not saying this is either bad or good, it just is the way it is. The industry does not care who buys their games, and thus does not care who sees their advertising.

"Vice City costs $50 -- it doesn't matter if ten-year-old kids "want" it or "would like" it, because they cannot afford it. Not unless (a) their parents give them big piles of cash to be spent unsupervised or (b) the parents buy them the video game without noticing or caring that you play a violent psychopath who drives around running over hookers in a series of vintage 80s sports cars."

Vice City costs $50 -- now, and new. It will not cost that forever. It doesn't cost that used. In fact, Vice City currently costs $30 used at a store across the street from the nearest mall to where I live. And if you're a really lucky kid, you've got a friend with a PC version and a CD-burner. Manymanymany M-rated games cost a Jackson (new) and are stocked at the eye-level of a four year-old. As far as the parent not noticing or caring, that's what Horsey's cartoon was about, in my opinion. Clearly this is not true of every or even most parents in America today, but it is likely that many are guilty of this sort of behavior.

"Do kids like this sort of antisocial content as much as me? Sure, but so what? The point is that there is no way that an even marginally-aware parent won't know what the games are about, which means that as much as those kids want the games, they will not get them unless (a) the parents think the games are fine or (b) the parents are lazy jackasses. Neither of which is in any way the fault of the gaming industry."

And that's exactly the point I've been trying to make. The bulk of you looked at Horsey's cartoon as being an indictment of the videogame industry. I see it as an indictment against overly permissive or uncaring parents -- the parents that are not in the frame of the picture. It is their very absence that he is using to indict them with.

The videogame industry doesn't make it easy on them. But then, there's no reason why they should.

http://www.popmatters.com/books/reviews/k/killing-monsters.shtml

Recommended reading, Y'all... along with the book reviewed.
"Killing Monsters" by Gerard Jones

Glad to hear you and your husband actually pay attention to what your kid is able to play, Michele. Having worked in the gaming industry, it was amazingly frustrating to have people ask if Vice City, Hitman 2, whatever was okay for their 7 year old, I'd explain what it was about, suggest that maybe they want to look for something else if they think it isn't right, and they just shrug and say "what the hell, he'd get it anyway". Don't fucking have kids if you don't want to pay attention to them. They aren't goldfish.

Video games do produce violent, dangerous children -- when said games raise the children. Games/tv/etc. aren't meant to be parents, though -- only when they are the sole model for kids to learn how to view the world do we get in trouble. If parents would pay attention and take some responsibility, there wouldn't be a problem.

Chad, you have yet to prove that the video game industry has displayed malice in it's advertising campaigns. When i start seeing Outlaw Beach Volleyball and Vice City being advertised during Pokemon on Cartoon Network, then i'll buy that they're targeting kids inappropriately. Also, i think you're being a TAD unrealistic in saying that by advertising on the buses they're somehow being unfair or apathetic to whoever buys the games. the goal in advertising is to reach as many people as possible. where in god's name, with the exception of porno mags and bars are they supposed to advertise where NO kids can view the ads? it isn't against the law for a kid to go buy a GQ magazine, but i doubt you'll find ads for the latest Hasbro action figures in it. So by throwing the ads on the bus they're striving to reach as many as possible without specifically targeting kids. and should the child get his hands on it thru a friend or whatever method they use to circumvent parental monitoring, you then assume the video game industry is to blame. well hey buddy, that just ain't so. no it isn't illegal for a kid to buy an "M" rated video game and nobody is going to jail if it happens. it's also not illegal for a kid to buy some spray paint, but i don't see a hardware store clerk going to prison for selling a kid some paint they use to deface public property. Reasoning like "person X uses product X made by company X to do a bad thing, therefore company X is doing a bad thing, never mind HOW person X got product X or if they got it illegally" is as flawed as it is stupid. It isn't the video game industry's responsibility to monitor your kids.

Good post on the subject. I am, as most people are aware, both a game/music critic and soon to be part of the gaming industry as a designer of a computer game. The game will be in no way for children. I don't want to make a kiddie game. I agree this cartoon is a load of bollocks.

I have always asked people who criticised video games for their affects on children. "So I guess you think letting your child play American football is unhealthy too, then? After all most of the point of American football is violence, why else would you need freaking armour?"

Organised sports is more of a source of bullying, fighting and violence than any game. At university who gets into fights on the weekends: the jocks or the computer gamers?

Video games, movies and music are not parental substitutes. If a child goes out and commits a crime, its the parents' fault not any musician, game designer or movie director. Besides if a game is rated for over 18 and a 9 year-old is playing it, whose fault is that?

Parents who do not take responsability for their children are a blight on Western society. When anyone talks about the right to have a child, it needs reminding them that they are responsible for the said child.

I don't believe produce violence in children anyway. Violence is more a product of surroundings that fantasy. Young boys have been fighting since they existed. Do you honestly think no children fought before the modern age?

One last comment from me. I think it all comes down to the point that there are people out there willing to blame the "industry", whatever industry that may be, for their mistakes in parenting. Yes, pronography, violent movies, mature comics, mature video games, etc, etc, etc... make being a parent hard, but come on. Raising a child is hard. You can't just skate by thinking they'll be alright, they'll be able to take care of themselves, and have the brains to make the right choices at all times. I was a kid. I made bad choices. But I had parents that were there for me, and tried to guide me when I made choices (even though I hated it at times!!), or had already made bad choices. That's what it takes. Don't blame someone for marketing a product for adults, to adults.

Oh, and yes, I forsee people getting carded for videogames in the future. And, somehow, I think that's a good thing. It should happen now...

But my point, which you've managed to miss twice now, is that when you advertise on the side of a metropolitan mass transit system, you have no target -- or rather, your target is 'everybody'

I didn't miss your point; I just assumed you didn't actually believe something that ridiculous, and that I must therefore not understand your "real" point.

Advertisers are assigned a target market, and try to get that target market to buy that product. The target of their ads is their that target market, NOT "everyone who sees the ad". The target market for Vice City was adults, not children, thus the advertisers chose means that were good for communicating to adults. Like city buses, which in the real world are almost exclusively used by adults, driving around on city streets filled primarily with adults in cars, past sidewalks mainly filled with adults. Children see the ads for the same reason that I see ads for "feminine hygiene products" while channel surfing -- coincidence, not because I'm a target. The simple fact of the matter is that the only place where you can advertise a product without "everybody" seeing it is by advertising in places where certain people are forbidden to go. So if you want to make sure no children at all see your ads, that limits you to advertising in the back of pornographic magazines, inside voting booths, and on inserts stuck inside liquor bottles.

Let me summarize this by describing a scene to you, of your career as an advertising agent:

You: I have a brilliant plan for selling Happy Fun Happy Meals!
Your Boss: What is it?
You: Advertise on the side of city buses!
Your Boss: You're fired.

Vice City costs $50 -- now, and new. It will not cost that forever

Sure, the price will eventually drop -- it may one day even be as cheap as, say, $10, after a couple of years. A couple of years after the advertising campaign is long over and done with. Children have trouble remembering what they want from one day to the next -- you think they're going to stash $10 and wait three years just to play a game? Kids like that have deeper emotional problems than anything they'll get from Vice City. ;)

The bulk of you looked at Horsey's cartoon as being an indictment of the videogame industry. I see it as an indictment against overly permissive or uncaring parents

A teaching assistant I had in a college lit class saw Hamlet as being all about homosexuality. All this demonstrates is that people have an amazing power to ignore the actual message of a fictional work and imagine it's telling them something else entirely. :) The cartoon is says, flat-out that game makers are creating Frankensteins. That's a lie. Game makers bear precisely 0% of the blame for how children turn out. The people deserving of 100% of the blame are the parents, who are assigned 0% of the blame in this cartoon. In short, you're completely wrong in your interpretation of this cartoon.

Frankly, I don't see the problem with bus-side ads. It's much better for kids to learn early on that you can't have everything you see in an ad; after all, they'll have to deal with them their entire lives. And ads are probably the one part of this equation that have nothing whatsoever to do with modernity; ads have been and will be around forever.

Andrew has a point about the jocks.

I have a further point to make about them. My sister has pulled her sports-loving son from several different little leagues because of the violent attitudes of the parents in said leagues... we're talking red-faced, screaming, pressuring soccer moms and dads from the lowest pits of hell, here, viciously pushing their kids to win at all costs. And that was the T-ball league. LITTLE kids. She had to search for a community program where the kids were permitted by their parents to compete at their own five or six year old level.

So when I think back on college days, and the rampant vandalism perpetrated in the dorms most favored by the sports scholarships, I am not surprised. It's the parents.

I don't think sports create violent kids at all. I think that overbearing parents who don't mind violence in the pursuit of sports create violent kids. The same goes for underbearing parents who don't think that the violence in video games matters.

But a big problem with that kind of blanket statement is that raising is a very subjective thing... my sister and I were raised the exact same way, and turned out very, very different from each other. You can leave two kids in front of a tv for the duration of their developing years, and one will turn Unabomber, and the other one will run a successful classic film rental joint when they grow up. The problem is likelihood... if you have a child who is likely to have problems, you have to do more to ensure that their growth is protected. That means paying attention.

It's not about video games, or sports, or toy guns, or violent films. It's about the parent taking an interest in their child, and laying ground rules. It seems to me that even when those ground rules aren't followed, it makes a difference for the kid to know that the parent made the effort.

Even ultra-conservo-parenting-pundits like Dobson say the single most important factor in early violence in children is a lax (uncaring) attitude on the part of the parent... not a lack of strictness about specific things, so much as a lack of rules in general. My parents weren't really that strict about what I watched while I was growing up. But when they had a question about something, they watched it with me to make sure I was okay at the end of it. That made a hell of a lot of difference.

It's much like the psychological phenomenon of work conditions: when efficiency experts attempted to find ways to make better workers, they discovered that no matter what difference they made (lighting changes, process changes, more supervision, less supervision, reports, peer review, etc.), performance improved. All that was needed was that the workers feel that the overseers were paying attention, making an attempt. I think kids are often the same way.

Which means that demonizing the video gaming industry, while it may be psychologically comforting to some (most?) parents, is ultimately destructive to our kids. The monster cartoon is very informative indeed. We do wish to make a monster out of video games, so that there is something easy to blame our children's problems on.

I don't agree with the other cartoon, either, because that makes it too easy to say that there's some perfect parenting equation that the parents of "bad" kids were just too moronic to follow. The fact is, some kids just have problems that will be exacerbated by video games/sports/movies/bus ads/etc., and for those kids, the parents need to make an extra (if not Herculean) effort, and even then they might fail anyway. That's how it is.

The monster cartoon would have been completely accurate if the evil doctor had been named "LIFE" instead of some nonsense about video game. Life does indeed make monsters out of some kids, and good parenting can prevent this in many cases.

But we'd rather believe that life would be all nice and safe for kids and other living things, if only we could just get rid of those naughty pixelated monsters. Stoopidheads in Fairyland, that's what this is.