Oh ho ho! Time for some really angry ranting...
WARNING. WALL OF TEXT INCOMING.
Well...not really (As in not really an angry rant. The wall of text is still incoming so brace yourselves...)
I was originally going to rush into this debate, firing on all cylinders, rage flowing and just type over and over again "'Games do not affect people and the politicians and moral guardians are all idiots who only care about money and their own self-interests!' Move along nothing to see here! End of story!"
, I had some time to stew over the subject and think about it, along with take in opinions from other podcasts, pundits and gamers. Some of them I don't agree with, some of them I do and others have made interesting points I haven't considered at all.
Ultimately, my personal belief is that violent Video Games are not the cause of societal ills. It could be argued they are a symptom of those ills but certainly in my humble opinion not a cause. Video Games are, however, still seen as a convenient scapegoat for certain people, many of them having their own self-interests and the incentive to force that agenda onto other people, be it for financial, political or personal gain. In many ways this is no different from the past when previous generations would be upset with contemporary youth and seek to blame said youths reluctance to accept their authority and the problems within society at large on something other than any deep seated issues. Often media consumed by the youth would be blamed. Books. Radio. Television. Rock and Roll music. Rap music. The World Wide Web. Even Trading Cards and Tamagochi's (Remember those?
) were to some extent blamed for juvenile delinquency. However, Video Games seems to have this problem in that it is still held squarely to blame for negatively influencing children. I'm not sure if this is because there hasn't been some other significant form of media or hip trend or craze that is so popular that it has overtaken Video Games yet or if there is something inherently unique with computerised interactive entertainment that it may never be replaced as a bogeyman for angry pearl clutchers, incensed pitchfork bearers and Senators seeking re-election and a convenient distraction for their alleged harassment/bribery scandal to blame.
However, an interesting tangent we can take from here is "Why are so many Video Games designed with violence in mind?" "Why is it the main form of interaction with other computer controlled characters in games is to engage in combat with them, resulting in serious injury and death to them?" "Why is it I have to blast this random extraterrestrial/person/Eldritch abomination in the face?". As the crew on a recent PC Gamer show podcast (Can't remember which episode) mentioned, just because video games aren't proven as the reason Little Jonny suddenly decides to torture animals and try to kill everyone in his school class, that doesn't mean we can't call out video games for when they do questionable things or contain questionable stuff. And I don't mean shouting "Won't someone think of the children?!" calling out but actual calling out of things like when the violent content gets to gratuitous, beyond cartoonish levels and why it seems that in most cases, the only way to interact with that new species, monster or faction is to immediately unload heavy ordinance/swing blades/wallop them in their faces or equivalent thereof. Why is it, relatively speaking, so few games seem to allow for a non-combat resolution, or a diplomatic one? Is it inherent to the design limitations of how we interact with games? Is it lack of imagination? Is it a preconceived expectation that the only way to have "fun" in interactive entertainment is to destroy someone or something else virtually? I do not have those answers and would genuinely like to hear from anyone who can give their views on this (I'll admit that I probably enjoy computerised violence as a form of stress relief so it might have something to do with that in the general gaming populace).
On another side note, rampant_a_i covers some good points and probably in a better way than I can. They are, IMHO, right in that the media and politicians tend to favour knee-jerk reactions as opposed to more nuanced ones as soundbites and attention grabbing headlines tend to result in more positive attention for themselves than a more considered review of the issues facing society and effective measures in dealing with them. But why bother with that when it takes far less effort and makes a better return on your investment to scream bloody murder and lay the blame on one single thing without actually suggesting a solution. A lot of parents are to blame for using video games as the "virtual babysitter", thinking that their offspring won't take the wrong message from whatever media they consume, then when they see the results they get horrified and blame anyone but themselves.
On the other hand (Veering dangerously into false middle point fallacy here I know), I've never been a parent and don't intend to be for some time. I know they are under a lot of pressure to raise their children as best as they can, often on top of being the breadwinner for the family and ensuring bills are paid, food is on the table and they and their loved ones don't die because society still requires money
to survive. Yes, you get parents that are deliberately malicious but a lot accidentally become a bad influence due to work circumstances. I speak from some personal experience. For a lot of my childhood, my father only had one day off in a typical working week and although he brought me up fairly strictly and gave me a good grounding in morality, I didn't see as much of him and didn't do much in the way of family activities with him for a large part of my childhood, simply because he literally couldn't afford it. We were by no means the poorest family in town, but the relatively low income meant the choice was either work long hours or end up on handouts hoping you didn't starve or freeze to death. Without that income, he probably wouldn't have been able to keep us in a home, let alone bankroll my later educational aspirations. However, there are times I do resent that my father worked those long shifts and didn't provide the kind of emotional support that other father's seem to be providing. As a result of this, I probably ended up playing more video games than I would like to admit to fill in a lot of that time when I wasn't doing homework or watching cartoons. So in essence, you could say that I am a bit of a hypocrite for throwing parents under the proverbial bus for using the "virtual babysitter" when I myself was one of the children that grew up with one. That is not to say that the virtual babysitter isn't a thing. There are parents out there who show a hideous level of neglect and really their fitness to look after children should be questioned. But we shouldn't blame all parents especially those who are simply unable to spend time with their kids even if they want to because some corporate overlord demands more "efficiency" from them and if they don't deliver they won't be able to keep their loved ones clothed and fed and via this, the kids end up absorbing things from gaming without a parental moral compass. But I digress.
To sum up, I will answer the forum as asked.
What are your thoughts and opinions on the current state of how the media and politicians of the world treat violent video games?
In short, not very well. As I said in my lengthy discourse, they are often used as a scapegoat for all manner of societal ills and Legislative election campaigns. There are many complex issues as to why this is, but why let the truth get in the way of a good story?
Do you believe that they need to be better regulated to prevent them falling into the hands of underage kids, or do you believe that the entire thing is a waste of everyone's time?
Yes. But with the caveat that there has to be enforcible sanctions to those who decide to break the law/regulations. Otherwise, what is the point? In the US, there is already the rating system from the ESRB. If it isn't already a State or Federal offence to sell Mature and Adult Only games to those who are underage, it should be with the threat of jail time or a hefty fine. This is already the case in the UK where I live where it is illegal to sell 18 rated (Our equivalent to the M rating) games to those under 18.
P.S. Apparently an attempt to restrict the sale of M rated video games to minors in the state of California was rejected by the Federal Supreme Court 7-2, as listed here
P.P.S. Jim Sterling makes some very good points about video games and violence in his latest Jimquisition
. He points out that part of the problem of the media blaming video games is to do with us. Yes. Us. You. Me. Even you, DGA and Millennium!
You might deny it but even if you don't watch Fox News or MSNBC or C NN, you do still get your news from somewhere and it will be giving sensationalised coverage of any and all tragedies and the blame video games bandwagon in a massive circle jerk that goes round and round and never stops. We are part of the problem and we cannot avoid it!
P.P.P.S. There is a good quote from the movie Scarface about the nature of society trying to find scapegoats to take the fall for major problems. I will post it below with some censoring due to the strong language. Reader discretion is advised.
"You all a bunch of f***ing assholes. You know why? You don't have the guts to be what you wanna be? You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your f***ing fingers and say, 'That's the bad guy.' So... what that make you? Good? You're not good. You just know how to hide, how to lie..."
P.P.P.P.S. To steal VicMonado's idea, yes video games have a negative impact on you. Everytime I play Star Trek Online, I feel the need to get into a starship and blast Klingons with phasers and photon torpedoes.
tl:dr Politicians blame video games to avoid doing anything useful and for re-election. Video games sometimes bring the blame on themselves and we need to more strictly enforce age ratings.