David Polus has, like me, been playing video games for over 20 years and he’s gotten a bit concerned with the annual report cards on the video game industry that are released yearly by the National Institute on Media and the Family. Senator Joseph Lieberman and Congresswomen Betty McCollum regularly use these report cards when they decry the supposedly horrible impact that video games have on children. David noticed that there were a number of double standards and spurious arguments being put forth by the NIMF in their reports so he took the time to sit down and write them an email where he asks them to clarify these issues:
Firstly, I notice on your website that you have a petition to “Tell Take 2 Interactive Software: Killing Cops Isn’t Entertainment” specifically regarding their “Grand Theft Auto” game/series. This brings up my first concern. Back in 2002, the NIMF gave the video game industry an overall grade of F, mainly for violence against women by showing video clips of “Grand Theft Auto” where the person that was playing the game when the footage was taped is attacking the female characters in the game (and conveniently skipping over and not attacking any of the male characters in the game). This was used to justify the F grade the industry received (and your group had a petition going that you claimed would be sent to the same company telling them not to create video games with violence against women, just as you do now, but this time for violence against police officers). Skip over to 2005, and you now portray this “misogynistic” game/series as a cop-killing game/series. Why did it take you 3 years to come out and tell us that this series features police officers that the player can (choose to/choose not to) attack? The entire series features violence against police officers, including the same 2002 version that “earned” the video game industry an F grade for violence against women, yet the NIMF made absolutely no mention about violence against police officers until now. To me, this seems like a scam. Plan A was to portray “Grand Theft Auto” as a misogynistic game, and if Plan A fails, go to Plan B. Plan B is to portray the game as a cop-killing game. Plan A failed because though there are female characters in the game, there are also male characters in the game as well that the player can choose to attack with a baseball bat or gun or whatever, so portraying the game as a misogynistic game is rather foolish. Even Senator Joseph Lieberman has made himself look silly echoing what the NIMF has stated, by claiming that “Grand Theft Auto” is violent and dangerous towards women and girls, and the industry shouldn’t create games like that if they want boys to grow up and respect women and girls. He never mentioned that the game can be considered violent and dangerous towards men, towards police officers, towards pedestrians, towards motorists, etc so I wonder where he is getting this misguided information from? Hmmm. I can’t wait to see what he will say once your group tries to now convince him that this misogynistic game/series is really a cop-killing game/series instead. (Let me make a “psychic” prediction by predicting your group will give the video game industry an overall grade of F later this year for violence against police)
Speaking of the report card grades, I would like to bring up my next concerns, which are related to the 2004 report card the NIMF released, starting at the top with your claims that parents are getting double messages. You state “Reviewers across the country are hailing this game as one of the greatest ever. Reviewers are lauding the game for its technical qualities while barely mentioning the game’s immoral story line. ‘A game with everything but morals,’ is the equivalent of a four star restaurant review praising the eatery’s ambience and service but then adding as an afterthought the fact that the food is laced with salmonella.” Dr. Walsh has repeatedly stated that adults should have full and free access to this game and any other game, while children shouldn’t. The reviewers that this report refers to are mainly (if not, all) adults anyway, so this report card shouldn’t have a problem with adults hailing the game as one of the greatest, since no matter what the reviewers state, that doesn’t reduce the value of the M 17+ rating that the game carries, which helps parents decide whether their children should play the game or not. Also, comparing the game to a restaurant serving food laced with salmonella is rather ridiculous when you take into consideration that Dr. Walsh says adults should play the game if they want to (would he say that it is ok for restaurants to serve salmonella to adults if they want to, as long as the restaurants aren’t serving salmonella to children?) Plus, you don’t have to go beyond literature to find “immoral story lines.” I doubt the NIMF would say that a Shakespeare’s play with an immoral story line is comparable to a restaurant serving salmonella. [Read the rest here.]
David puts together an impressive counter-argument to the claims put forth by the NIMF and it deserves to be read and picked up on by the news media, but it probably won’t. So far the NIMF has yet to respond to the letter, but perhaps if enough people blog about it they’ll have no choice other than to address it.