Video Game Politics

With the latest brouhaha and folderol about how video games are polluting our nation’s bodily fluids, I am reminded that this is an election year. This is a link to the Video Game Voters Network. Each party has at least one primary candidate running against free expression. One ran ads against violent video games in her re-election campaign, while another is against free speech more generally. The leading anti-video game advocate, Senator Lieberman, is sitting out this election cycle so far, apart from endorsing Senator McCain.

People still burn books, you know.

This is not an open thread on the candidates, but if you would like to discuss their views on video games, free speech, or expression generally, feel free. Please be polite and on-topic, as if everyone (the candidates included) were in the room, rather than the standard internet political discussion. (We usually avoid politics, and I do not want to use the Mod Stick on the comments.)

: Zubon

10 thoughts on “Video Game Politics”

  1. Here is the thing about politics, at least as it is practiced in the U.S.:

    The Bush campaign of 2000, and again of 2004, brought hot-button campaigning to new lows. Now it wasn’t enough to just dig up some dirt on opponents. Now if no dirt could be find, some could be made up. Hence the infamous “black baby” rumor against McCain, and the whole Swift Boat business which still has been insufficiently apologized for. Hence push-polling now. Hence people saying “Obama Osama Obama Osama” and “Did you know his middle name is Hussain.

    Of course, while recent elections have brought this tactic to new heights, it’s no stranger to the nation. Scaring people over crappy, weak-sauce stuff has been around for decades. This is ultimately the source of politicians trying to make video games into a sign of the decay of the character of American youths. It’s just another version of the Dungeons & Dragons scare of the 80s (Some people still vocally refer to it as the work of Satan, even the game has become nearly pasteurized in this age of 3rd edition!), and that was just another version of the hysteria of the 50s, which went from rock music to comic books to anything at all having to do with communists.

    I think it’s really important for a candidate to win this time out who doesn’t engage in this kind of stuff. This is why Obama is so adored by young people, although he’s not the only one truthfully; Edwards seems to have a good head on his shoulders, and McCain has been a victim of it before.

  2. I’m a pseudo member of the VGVN. Why am I a pseudo member you ask? Because it is a US organization only, and I’m a Canadian. I would love to know of a similar group up here in the land of aboots, because heaven knows our politicians say and do some crazy things.

    I think, by and large, that the VGVN is a pretty good thing. I disagree with some of the things they do, but no group is perfect. I’ve had a horrid time getting any American associates of mine to participate in the VGVN. They start mumbling about the futility of politics, and the falicy of net neutrality, and trail off into bitter sulking.


  3. The reason so many politicians take wild stances against video games is because they’re never offered a tempered, realistic view from anybody. Nearly everyone takes an extreme viewpoint, meaning that those politicians never hear real sense. Politicians will back off from condemning all games when gamers and game developers are willing to recognize that some games really do merit censorship.

    The recent Fox News – Mass Effect debacle is a great example. I admire Geoff Keighley, and I think he showed patient restraint in that roundtable. But he said exactly what they knew he’d say. Regardless of whether Mass Effect was innocent of the network’s charge or not, of course a game journalist was going to claim it was harmless, right? They might have actually listened to him if he said something to the effect of, “Look, I realize there are games out there that are sensationalist and problematic, but Mass Effect isn’t one of those games.”

    It’s the lack of a middle ground in such discussions that keeps everyone yelling at each other from the far sides of the field. If someone reasonable and well-placed like Geoff would just step into that territory, a civil and realistic discussion could begin between gamers and politicians.

  4. No. The answer is never “some * really do merit censorship.” If you want to say the game is crap that no one should buy, great. We boycott the publisher, fine. “A little” book burning is not a moderate position: any censorship is an extreme position. The middle ground lies on this side of that censorship line.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that if the politicians have no idea about video games or their problems, they should refrain from legislating until they do. “I’m surrounded by idiots” is not justification for listening to idiots.

  5. Two things needs to happen:

    – Gaming needs to completely stop being something “for kids” and finally step into a human activity like any other. Now, I know it’s that already. You know it’s that already. But society at large needs to start seeing gaming in that light. This is not something you can force, or will to happen; it’ll happen in its due time. Hopefully in the next generation of gamers.

    At some point Tennis players were “those silly guys hitting the ball back and forth”, and lo and behold here we have the ATP that’s been going on for quite some time and is perfectly able as a legal body to exert political pressure (if it ever comes to that) as a unified body representing their common interests.

    Litmus test: Think for yourself if an “American Association of Video Gamers” strikes you as completely silly. If it does, then it’s not social time for it just yet. If it doesn’t, well you can hope at some point you’ll see it.

    – With that in place, you can lobby. I see where Aaron is coming with his comment (and I idealistically respect it), the fact that politicians should listen to viewpoints. Where I disagree is that I think politicians listen to money and votes. And that’s it pretty much. Until gaming can deliver them the money, the votes, or both, it will never be about viewpoints.

    There hasn’t been an idealistic politician since Pericles, and even him… that’s pushing it a little.

    To reverse this, we don’t need a viewpoint. We already have a viewpoint. However, it’s in a language that politics does not understand, nor cares to understand. With enough social legitimacy, we can translate that viewpoints into money and votes, which is something politicians understand quite, quite well.

  6. But mankind has a long and proud standing tradition of legislating things it does not understand. Do we really want that to end?

  7. “Each party has at least one primary candidate running against free expression.”
    While I surely agree that video games should not be demonised as they are, it is no reason to engage in hyperbole about it. As Nicodemus pointed out in the previous post on here, *our* side at least needs to be reasonable.

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