Ultraviolence Revisited

“It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen.” – Alexander DeLarge

Original Story: nydailynews.com | Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010

Does it really matter if AB 1179 – the California law criminalizing the sale and rental of certain video games to minors – is killed by the Supreme Court on First Amendment grounds? Well sure, the censorship argument is important, but it’s also slightly back burner because the law never went into effect anyway; it was promptly challenged by the gaming industry. What really matters is whether or not parents will be forced to face their fiercest foe: common sense. Because law or no law, it’s your job to guarantee your child’s moral upbringing – not a court’s.

As Slate columnist Amanda Schaffer pointed out, there are studies that suggest video games increase players’ tendencies toward violence, and others that suggest some kids are simply more vulnerable to video-game influence than others. Both findings make sense to me, but in neither instance are parents free from responsibility. When I was growing up, we didn’t have the technology to show violence like we do today; the comparatively tame Atari was king, yet the most aggressive, least directed teen in my neighborhood still ended up shooting a high school adversary and getting 25-to-life.

Because we now have such ready access, each of us has been at least somewhat desensitized to movie violence and graphic news footage whether we like it or not. And still, I submit that being a parent in previous decades provided the same challenges as today, so long as you adjust for extremes. Regardless of context, it comes down to making sure that your child knows the difference between committing an act of violence and participating in a video game – even a violent one. The thing is, your adorable child will at some point be exposed to a violent game or several, whether through a neighbor’s kid and his PlayStation or the increasingly graphic advertising and marketing methods used to sell these games via TV and the Internet. You’re the person who needs to define and enforce the word ‘no,” just as you’re the initial source of support for things like ensuring that your kid’s solutions aren’t worse than her problems.

The real question isn’t whether violent video games make children violent, nor is it whether violent games attract already aggressive children; it’s how much effort parents are making in seeing that their children know the difference between what they see and do on a screen versus what they see and do in real life. In other words, it’s about how much time parents invest in dealing with the frustrations of their kids to make certain they don’t rely on the hostility they find in games as a solution to, say, their teenage angst.

With billions of dollars on the table, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) – the top US game industry lobby – isn’t going anywhere. So at the end of the day, this really comes down to not making excuses for the life tools your children do or don’t possess.