You can’t kill me, I’m a level 76
July 8, 2011
OPINION By ROGER FREBERG
By now everyone knows that California’s stupid law prohibiting the sale of violent video games to children has been struck down by – no less than—the United States Supreme Court. In what many are claiming to be a victory for “free speech” and less “government intrusion,” the ill-conceived Nanny State gambit to further reach into the lives of Californians received a well-deserved thumping!
Oh, I know that there are some folks who don’t like video games – violent or otherwise – but after exhaustive research, we discovered that these are generally overweight women with an excessive number of cats. Through evolution, these women have failed to develop opposable thumbs and therefore are unable to handle a video game controller effectively. Jealousy is an ugly thing. Further study is needed to see if a cure can be found.
The resistance by censorship advocates appears to center around the male fascination with military games, conquest, feasting and donuts. Actually, I think the chubbies would love to come to our Lan parties for the donuts and coffee.
California’s Violent Video Game Law
Now, you might think that the economy and the related necessity of resuscitating California business would have been at the top of the California State Legislature’s agenda these past few years. You might even think that retaining businesses that have been fleeing the state would be of concern – maybe even a mild concern. However, we cannot look for ways to save the economy when such important issues like Violent Video Games and transgender bathrooms have not been adequately addressed. So what did this bill actually do?
California bill AB 1179 was signed into law by Governor (who’s your daddy?) Schwarzenegger in 2005, providing a $1000 fine for anyone caught selling or providing a game to a minor under certain circumstances. Senator Yee (who I normally like) was the sponsor of the bill and was quoted as saying that the Supreme Court was putting the interests of corporate America over our children. Sorry, I don’t buy that.
California is the Titanic and there is a lot of ‘iceberg denial’ going on!
The Supremes Decide in Favor of Free Speech
The laundry list of those in favor of the Supreme Court decision runs a cross section of American society including the motion picture industry and many non-partisan free speech groups. Detractors ask why are violent video games okay but not sexual images? Personally, I think the issue has more to do with how much government we want in our lives and less about what unpleasant content is out there.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was quoted, “Like books, plays and movies, video games communicate ideas …. (And there was) no tradition in this country of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence.… ( and for example) Grimm’s Fairy Tales …. are grim indeed.” The Supreme Court further stated that “a legislature cannot create new categories of unprotected speech simply by weighing the value of a particular category against its social costs and then punishing it if it fails the test.”
Do Violent Video Games Make Innocent Children Violent?
Fortunately, we have a lot of research on this subject. In the beginning, there was an academic bias against video games, but this may be due to the fact that most academics were just discovering email at the time. If you asked them where their ‘executive bat file’ was, they’d be likely to say she’s out shopping.
So, early studies proved that if Hitler hadn’t played violent video games we would all be in a happier place. The vast majority of the research on media violence and aggression is correlational. Studies would say things like “children who play nineteen hours of video games a day are aggressive on the playground.” You have to wonder about parents who encourage their kids to go to this extreme and about the choices the kids are making themselves. Correlation doesn’t mean causation, and most people figured that one out.
In a 1.5 million dollar study, utilizing 1500 children, psychologists Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson discovered that in most cases children playing violent video games were doing so merely for stress relief. They did discover some “playful aggressiveness,” but no more than would be expected watching a comparable movie or television show. Of course, psychologists don’t like violent television either. Today’s current evils are probably entirely a result of a generation of boomers watching the Roadrunner cartoons or the Three Stooges.
There have been other studies that have endeavored to link violent video games with aggressive behavior, but most observers wonder if this is just another case of researchers already armed with a conclusion wanting to back into their results. Scientist should be objective.
Anecdotally, all of us including my three daughters have enjoyed playing video games, and I noticed that of the ten games that CNN featured as having developed controversy, they played four: Mortal Combat, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and Doom. Personally, Doom rattled me a bit until one of my daughters showed me how to play with “invincibility” (a game cheat)–then it was just fun!
Some studies have shown that some children have greater anxiety after a scary game, but I would have guessed that. One study reported that children playing violent video games felt relaxed afterwards and the experience was somewhat cathartic.
Video Games Change Our Brains
What we now know is that video games – violent or otherwise – are good for the brain. Games are interactive and stimulate the mind, while watching television places the brain in an activity level approaching sleep. As long as a child is doing something quiet instead of playing outdoors, it is much better to be interactive than passive. Video games are also used in therapy after brain trama.
One study showed that girls playing video games actually approach the three dimensional skill levels of boys after a short time playing, and the results lasted months. Yep, I do think this helped my daughters improve their math skills.
My eldest daughter’s last graduate degree was in something called “Systems Engineering,” which requires very advanced math. Video games are the gateway to computer science, and the lack of play by girls might explain why the percentage of female computer scientists has dropped worldwide. The girls who don’t play just can’t compete with the boys who grew up with this technology.
Yes, there are highly anticipated games coming out this year, such as the further adventures of a game reaching into its second decade… “Halo.” Will you be joining us?
California: It’s the Economy, Stupid!
So, whether it be our governor or legislators, it’s time that they stop making rules about wearing a bike helmet to mow your lawn and get back to the business of saving our state’s economy. You wanted Amazon to charge California sales tax, so they dropped their California affiliates. Smart move! So, what are you, the elected representatives of California, going to do for us? (Instead of TO us….)
Roger Freberg is a San Luis Obispo resident who is using his retirement to write a culinary-inspired blog, comment on important local events and occasionally enjoy getting sued for his journalistic excellence.