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