Normally I abhor fear mongering in journalism as a base practice designed to control a population through paranoia, but I grew a mustache recently and that means I'm now my own evil twin. With that in mind I'm here to tell you that the government is absolutely going to come for your video games in the name of protecting our children. Mwa ha ha.
You can't say you didn't see it coming. In the wake of any school shooting tragedy someone is going to bring up the most gory first-person shooter they can find and call it murder practice. Doom, Call of Duty, BioShock, just whatever's handy when it's time to run five seconds of footage on the news showing people mowed down with digital gunfire.
Previously I stated that the connection between gun deaths and video games was non-existent, but after some time to think about it I've decided to be the bigger man here. We live in a society that celebrates violence unabashedly in most of our art forms. Violent video games are an extension of that. Even though I stand by what I said about there being no causal link between a few hours of Hitman: Absolution and a real-world massacre I cannot deny that both are products of America's love affair with Second Amendment solutions to problems. That's why we're looking at...
A Sin Tax on Adult-Themed Games
Connecticut State Representative DebraLee Hovey (R) represents the district where the Newtown shooting took place back in December. Her response to the tragedy is a 10 percent "sin tax" on the sale of all Rated-M games. Despite the fact that children under 17 are prohibited from purchasing these games by all major retailers, Hovey's reasoning is that this doesn't stop them from being played when complacent parents purchase them as gifts. As the makers of Catherine can tell you, proving that parents and stores have no idea what is actually in the games their kids play isn't hard at all.
Hovey wants to use the money raised to fund mental health programs that educate people on video game addiction and dangerous antisocial behavior. While I can applaud the sentiment she's going for, there's not really much chance of the law going forward. The Supreme Court decided in 2010 that video games were covered under free speech and such arbitrary laws condemning them were unconstitutional.
On the other hand, the national law being proposed by Utah Representative Jim Matheson (D) that would make distributing a game without a prominently displayed rating illegal has a better shot.
CDC Begins Investigating Video Game Violence
One of the many executive actions President Obama instituted as part of his new gun control agenda was reversing a 17-year freeze on government investigation into the links between gun ownership and gun violence. When you wonder why there are so many conflicting reports about homicide by firearms and conceal carry statistics, it's because gun-rights activists basically blocked Center For Disease Control scientists from looking into the matter in the 1990s and no one has touched it since.
Now they're back on track to once again to look into the connections, with a proposed $10 million funding for the project. Apparently the role of violent video games in gun deaths is right in the sights of the scientists. No word yet on if they will also tackle what turns MMO participants into unapologetic racist douchebags.
Gun Games Being Pulled From Rest Stops
What is the one thing an arcade cabinet can still offer that your home console can't? The answer is bitchin' peripherals built right into the hardware. Probing the seas in a submarine seat while playing Ocean Hunter, or the satisfying click-clack of the shotgun controller in Carnevil, that sort of thing. It's damn near the only reason to waste the quarters anymore.
If you live in Massachusetts, though, that thrill may be a lot harder to find. After the Sandy Hook massacre state officials decided to ban any violent video games from state-owned rest stops. Prompted by a letter from Andrew and Tracey Hyams, who witnessed a gamer playing Time Crisis at a rest stop on Christmas Eve last year, the Department of Transportation removed any game that involved a gun peripheral as inappropriate. Titles like Pac-Man and Galaga were allowed to stay.
Buyback Programs for Violent Video Games
Earlier this year the city of Tuscon ran a buyback program where people could turn in their firearms for a $50 grocery gift card. The city where Gabrielle Giffords and 18 other people were shot was aiming to do something about gun violence in their area. Whether or not the buyback program will affect the number of crimes involving guns in Tuscon is undetermined, but you can at least see some logic in it. People were shot with guns, ask people to turn in their guns.
Back in Massachusetts, they went with video games again. Melrose Mayor Robert Dolan asked kids to turn in their Rated-M games for both gift certificates and "home-work free nights." A similar proposal from Southington, Conn was ditched after gamer opposition swelled in the wake of reports that the games would be snapped into pieces and incinerated.
The Government is Making Video Games Now
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Ask your random conspiracy theory-believing friend about the government's connection to video games, and they'll likely spin you a tale about the sinister Polybius, which was either used to imprint mind control beams in young kids or gather data from them depending on how much Alex Jones they've been listening to. It's all koopashit, but the government has actually dabbled in video games before. For instance, they developed this sweet assault weapon SNES controller as a training tool.
Now they're openly getting involved in creating games. The National Endowment of the Arts gave $100,000 of tax-payer money to Spelman College to develop HERadventure, a sci fi title featuring a black female protagonist. The heroine, HER, travels to Earth seeking the answers for problems plaguing her own planet stemming from issues affecting women and girls. It's meant to be an interactive look at the way society treats women, though conservative bloggers call it a waste of money and another attempt to force "politically correct" views down people's throats.
The good news from this is the recognition of the United States Government that video games constitute an art form... much to the chagrin of the folks at Fox News. So relax, fellow gamers. The black helicopters may be coming to remove all your first-person shooters, but they'll let you keep Pac-Man and replace them with progressive, socially conscious games that double as appropriate, state approved art.
... and suddenly the plot of BioShock: Infinite sounds really, really prophetic.