On June the 27th, Fox held a debate between Elizabeth Solomon of Parents Television Council and Wade Callender, Executive Counsel of Gearbox Software, on the ruling of the Supreme Court that prevented the ban on sales of violent video games to minors. You can find the full video embedded past the cut.
Miss Solomon, as expected, tried to fill the ears of the audience with the usual trite arguments about violent video games and the rights of the parents, full of reality warping and often outright lies. I apologize if sometimes I’ll sound like a broken record while dissecting what she says, but unfortunately she sounds like a broken record herself, so some concepts will be repeated.
Solomon starts in the usual way, denouncing the alleged woes of violent videogames:
“We’re talking about video games where the players kill police officers, they hire, rape and kill prostitutes.”
Note her refined knowledge of the topic: she talks like this is the description of the usual video game depicting violence, which is absolutely false, but the funniest part is when she describes an imaginary videogame in which the player is prompted or allowed to rape prostitutes. I wonder where she found that one…
“I think it does not pass the common sense test to say that parents shouldn’t have the right to say whether or not their children play these games.”
She’s right. In fact no one says that parents shouldn’t have the right to say whether or not their children play those games. What the Supreme Court said is that the law doesn’t have that right. Parents always had that right, and they need no law to retain it. All they have to do is to…decide whether or not their children can play those games. You know, do some parenting.
“And that’s why parents should have the choice as to which games their children purchase.”
Again, that’s right. And no one ever took that choice away from them. Provided that they look over their children. You know, like every parent should do, instead of expecting retailers and game developers to look over their children in their stead.
“We don’t let children walk in the stores and purchase cigarettes and alcohol and pornography and anything else that might be harmful to them.”
Too bad that cigarettes and alcohol are substances that are scientifically and physically harmful not only to children, but to everyone. Get back to me when someone demonstrates the same about videogames, okay? A skewed, sensationalistic and misleading comparison if I ever saw one.
“And this really just circumvents parents’ rights, and it makes it more difficult for parents to monitor what their children are buying and playing.”
You don’t get it. It circumvents nothing. Even without California’s law, parents have the full right (and duty) to keep an eye on what games their children buy and play, they can (and should) still go to the store with them. They can (and should) still survey how they spend their pocket money. They can (and should) still watch them while they play and check their rooms for material they consider harmful or inappropriate.
Ultimately, they can (and should) use the advanced parental controls each gaming system includes and that allows to effectively prevent their children access to any content they want to disallow. This without even mentioning the fact that it’s extremely easy to see what a child plays just by checking their console, every game leaves evident traces in the form of installed data, saved games, trophies… Maybe it’s time for parents to get an education on what their children play, learning to use the many tools they have in order to actually watch over them.
It’s definitely time for them to start considering their duties instead of complaining about their rights that are left absolutely untouched by the Supreme Court’s ruling anyway. Monitoring what their children are buying and playing is not one bit more difficult after the ruling, provided that they want to do it, instead of wanting someone else to do it in their stead.
“This wasn’t about banning any games, this wasn’t about denying anybody’s free speech, this wasn’t about saying they won’t be able to market and produce games.”
Wrong. If you shift on retailers the legally binding responsibility of preventing the sale of violent video games to minors, fining them 1,000 dollars for each sale or rental, you effectively punish them for carrying the games at all. Completely preventing accidental sales of adult-oriented products to minors is physically impossible, which means that retailers would risk themselves facing a sizable monetary loss each month, and many would just decide not to carry mature games at all, exactly as many video stores don’t carry pornography at all.
This would seriously hit the business of developers and publishers that produce mature games not because of the (few) lost sales to minors, but simply because of the loss of shelf space and exposure. The result? An effective limit against the freedom of expression in developing video games.
“I believe that the children were the losers today.”
Not at all, the children were the winners. The ruling establishes the duty of their parents to take care of them, instead of demanding strangers to do it in their stead. It’s a clear victory for the kids.
“We have a job to protect them from content they are not…ready to handle.”
You’re entirely right. You, as a parent, have a job to protect your children. It’s not the law’s job. It’s yours.
“You’ve taken that responsibility off of the parents by saying: children should be able to walk in the store and purchase any game they want.”
Quite the contrary, the ruling literally gives the responsibility back to parents. California’s law tried to do exactly what you’re lamenting: taking that responsibility off of the parents and unloading it on retailers. What you want, Miss Solomon, is not a responsibility. You want the right and freedom not to care about what your children buy and play, and not to watch over them, because someone else would do it for you. Sorry to burst a big bubble here, but I don’t think responsibility means what you think it means.
This said, while I easily demonstrated that you’re wrong, Miss Solomon, I still uphold your right to say the big load of bull droppings you said. That’s what freedom of speech is. God bless freedom of speech.