People Don't Kill Trolls, But Gamers Do - InformationWeek

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Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
2/24/2009
10:18 AM
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People Don't Kill Trolls, But Gamers Do

The video game industry chalked up another victory recently when a federal appeals court struck down a California law meant to keep violent video games out of the hands of minors. I can't help but think of the NRA.

The video game industry chalked up another victory recently when a federal appeals court struck down a California law meant to keep violent video games out of the hands of minors. I can't help but think of the NRA.Well, a virtual NRA, maybe, but here's what one of the trade group leaders said was the real issue: "parents are the ones who should control what games their children play." I'm sure this propaganda was included in the court briefs that convinced the judge responsible for the reversal that "none of the research establishes or suggests a causal link between minors playing violent video games and actual psychological or neurological harm."

We've heard this nonsense before. It's one of those common sense conclusions that utterly defies common sense.

How is it that companies spend billions each year to expose people to 15- and 30-second snippets of advertising, and then expect them to be influenced to change their purchasing habits, yet 12 straight hours of intensive, immersive, video game violence has no effect?

We know from studies that the ease of Internet search and shopping experiences has made consumers more impatient and unsatisfied at bricks-and-mortar stores. So slaughtering scantily-clad female zombies has absolutely no carryover influence to real-world experience? Try blinking your eyes after playing a game for more than a few minutes.

As for the merits of industry self-regulation, well, I'd say they've been dicey, at best. Check the stock market for proof.

Images and ideas matter, irrespective of the medium or the intentions of artists or salespeople. That's what makes the things we see and listen to have meaning.

So I think it's rather disingenuous for the video game industry to claim otherwise. A better approach would be to acknowledge that lots of the stuff isn't appropriate for kids, and really work to make it impossible for them to get their hands on it. For real.

Winning court battles like the one in California puts them in the same league as the NRA or, going further back in history, the cigarette lobby. How long was "the jury out" on whether smoking was causally bad for you, even as its defenders coughed themselves into early graves?

Jonathan Salem Baskin writes the Dim Bulb blog and is the author of Branding Only Works On Cattle.

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