State Sen. Leland Yee, a major player in the effort to restrict the sale of violent video games, was recently featured in a San Francisco Chronicle article. In the article, Yee is quoted as having said “Gamers have no credibility in this argument. This is all about their lust for violence and the industry’s lust for money. This is a billion-dollar industry. This is about their self-interest.” I find this statement not only offensive, but also disturbing. Yee is an elected official that does not understand how reasonable arguments work. If any other medium, music for example, was in the middle of an argument focusing on free speech, the primary proponents of granting First Amendment protection to music would be musicians and music lovers. If Yee believes that game developers and those of us who play them have no credibility in this case, then I would love to know who he thinks should argue for games. Would there be anyone left to argue against him if anyone who appreciates games had there opinions instantly dismissed.
It is no wonder that he is such a proponent of these restrictions (which have already been turned down by the Supreme Court). If he believes that every person who is arguing against him is only doing so because of their “lust for violence” and “vested interest” then he is quite possibly dismissing every argument that could counter his own before even considering it. It is a highly disturbing thought, and I feel sorry for those whom he represents.
Many of the most highly publicized video games on the market are violent, depict sexual themes, contain foul language, and feature more content that is highly unsuitable for children. Grand Theft Auto IV features full frontal male nudity, language that would make a sailor blush, and freedom to commit violent acts at a scale that would make Al Qaeda proud. I could go into the game, hire a prostitute, force her to watch as I murdered dozen by running over them with my SUV, then execute her so I could get my $70 back. Clearly, this is game that is not suitable for children. I understand that State Sen. Yee wants to prevent this content from getting into the hands of children. What he seems to fail to understand is that the only way these games are getting sold to children is if their parents give consent (or they convince another adult to buy the game for them). The ESRB holds such a great deal of influence within the industry that all major retailers require State issued, valid, photo identification when purchasing games with Mature ratings. Most also do not sell games that have received an “Adults Only” rating.
I work as a sales representative at Gamestop, the largest video game retailer in the country. Since I was hired in July of 2011, I have never sold a mature rated game to a minor without parental consent. I have angered many people because of how strict that policy is. Gamestop does not tolerate it, and a single instance of breaking that policy would result in termination. I inform the parent of the mature content, and ask for their identification and consent before allowing their child to purchase it.
The video game industry understands that it must be self regulating, and it does that job incredibly well. The blame does not lie with those who are making, playing and selling the games, it lies with those who allow their children to play games that they know nothing about. If a child watches a film that contains nude scenes, violent and graphic images, and foul language, is it the fault of the filmmaker, or is it the fault of the parent.
We need to be more aware of what we are allowing our children to play. In my household, my mother has entrusted the filtering of games that my 10-year-old brother plays to me. She trusts my judgement, and my knowledge on the subject. I allow him to play certain “M-rated” games, such as Halo 4, because I have played them, reviewed the content myself, and saw nothing that would cause my mother to want my brother to stop playing. She will often come and watch him play, and has never expressed concern with what he was exposed to. We both are comfortable with what he is playing, and we know that he is not being exposed to things that he should not be exposed to at his age. We have taken this responsibility on ourselves, and because we are actively engaged in what he is playing we know that the content he is exposed to is appropriate.
There is no other way to ensure that our children are kept safe from inappropriate content. If parents do not care enough to review what their children are playing, those children will be exposed to violent games. I am glad that this issue is gaining awareness, and that the legislative action taken against the industry has sparked internal action within the industry to continue to get parents involved. What I do not appreciate it being told that my opinion is invalid because it disagrees with Leland Yee’s. I am just as capable of making a rational argument as someone not involved in the industry. In fact, because of my knowledge of the industry, I would argue that I am more qualified. If Leland Yee truly believes that statement, I have trouble believing that he is not an idiot.