Daily Archive for December 19th, 2007

Eliot Spitzer – you ignorant slut

What is it with New York politicians?

Eliot Spitzer has been on the warpath against video games before, but this time he’s really outdone himself.

He’s had a video produced educating parents of the dangers of video games. The video is called Video Games and Children: Virtual Playground vs. Danger Zone. Well, the video isn’t as much about the playground part as it is about the Danger Zone (insert dramatic voice effect) part.

The video is great. That is, if you’re intent on making sure your kid never, ever, ever plays video games, because after watching it, I’m pretty sure any reasonable parent who sees it will ban video games from the house effective immediately.

While I wouldn’t expect a video intent on educating parents on the dangers of video games to be a shining beacon of all that is good about video games, there’s a fine line between educating of dangers and being an alarmist. The video goes so far onto the alarmist side it’s not even funny.

Not only that but it goes there with an entirely sensationalistic way. The whole thing reeks of production values more familiar with sweeps week local news segments where the neighborhood restaurant was suddenly found to be feeding patrons with minced meat made out of rat feces.

The video has a number of interesting mistakes in it as well. The tone of the video is well set from the beginning when it goes on to “educate” everyone on how the Virginia Tech shooter played video games. Well, he didn’t. He wrote poetry and there was absolutely no video games present in his dorm room. It’s a well established fact that he did not play video games. Yet here we have the New York State educating New York parents on video game dangers by warning us that video gamers shoot people. When, in fact, the shooter wasn’t playing video games. Good start, Spitzer, good start!

Next the video decides to condemn some Australian dude, who apparently wants his 15 minutes of fame so badly he made a game about Virginia Tech shooting called Virginia Tech Massacre. I really don’t know why this segment is in the video at all. Free speech issues aside, the game is not commercially available anywhere and from what I know it’s also been pulled from the Internet already, so including it in the video serves no other purpose than scaring the hell out of parents whose kids play video games. The segments undertone is “look at what kind of games your kid plays”. Nobody is playing Virginia Tech Massacre. It’s not available to anyone. And it’s definitely not available to any kids whose parents are responsible enough to monitor their kids’ Internet use.

Throughout the video it’s presenting the negative sides of video games (yes, there are some) with no context, no counterpoint and no fact checking ever have had happened. There’s a segment on the history of violent video games, which starts by saying “video games weren’t always violent. In 200,000 B.C. there was this game called Pong.” It then goes on to list and show in graphic detail nearly every violent game ever since. I think the only thing they missed from that was Carmageddon. Strange. I would’ve thought someone so hellbent on looking into everything that’s negative about video games would’ve found out about a game where you actually get points for driving over grannies. Alas, even a hatchet job isn’t flawless. After watching the segment on the “evolution of violent video games” you really get a sense that video games are all violent. That is the message the video is putting out.

That particular segment ends up with a condemnation of Bully, a game by Rockstar Games that’s been at the receiving end of some controversy ever since it was announced. The problem with the video is that they get the game completely wrong. Surprise, surprise. In a segment that “lets the game speak for itself” by showing up an intro video from the game, it is implied the game lets you act out on your aggressions in a school environment beating up fellow students and even teachers. In fact, the game actually puts you in the shoes of a bullying victim, not the bully. That “unimportant” fact was never presented in the video.

The video continues with a segment on research about violence in video games. It starts, promisingly, with a mention that the research is inconclusive, but doesn’t explain how it is inconclusive. It then goes on to quote several studies that state negative effects of playing violent video games. There are studies that state playing video games will have short term affects in children. These are the same effects kids have had ever since there have been kids when they’ve been exposed to violence of any kind. Any parent knows if you let your kids horseplay before dinner, they will act up at dinner table. None of the studies on violence in video games have ever linked violent video games to CAUSING children to become violent in general. The video fails to pinpoint that leaving the impression that video games do in fact make children more violent. The producer of the video basically cherry picked the research presented in the video to show video games in as negative light as humanly possible.

The best part about the research segment is on how the video uses an analogy between cigarette smoking and it causing lung cancer and violent video game playing. It’s so subliminal it’s genius. The video goes on to allow video games a rare reprieve. It says that just like not all cigarette smokers develop lung cancer, not all video games are bad and cause kids to become mass murderers. Well, gee whiz, I didn’t know that! The problem with this analogy, of course, is that there are studies that link cigarette smoking to causing lung cancer. Violent video games have not been proven to cause long term violent behavior, never mind a life threatening illness that kills 80% of all of its victims.

The video’s educational part ends up with an egg-in-the-face moment when it lists a number of resources as further information about video game violence. It lists Mothers Against Videogame Addiction and Violence as one of the websites to read up on. Excellent idea. Except that the site is a parody of the anti-video game campaigns such as Eliot Spitzer’s. Well played, MAMAV, well played!

The video concludes with an unnarrated segment of an overweight boy playing some shooter game alone in his parents living room. The sound on the segment is dramatic slow heartbeat pounding as if something really, really awful is just about to happen. I was expecting some Internet stalker kicking in the door and brutally murdering the boy, especially since the preceding segment was just talking about how you should never ever let your children play with strangers online. But that’s not what happened. Instead some video game gremlin climbed out of the boy’s stomach. WTF.

Eliot, my pandering, ignorant, poliwhore friend, you rock!