On Art and Violence

Now that the semester is winding down I’ve got a bit of time to blog (and write my last couple dissertation chapters and then revise all of them and write the intro and conclusion chapters…). A couple things have happened (and are in the process of happening) that have the gaming world buzzing: Roger Ebert wrote about videogames again and the Supreme Court is taking up the case of California’s law forbidding the sale of videogames to minors.

Regarding Ebert, he ends by asking, “Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art?” which echoes my own call for all of us to stop caring about “art.” Tons and tons of people have tried to convince him he’s wrong — so many in fact that I don’t even want to bother hunting down links to some of the stories that do it. I’m not interested in arguing with him because I don’t really care if he thinks games are art or not.

However, it is very disconcerting that he seems to think that he can judge games by looking at screenshots. Would he write a review of a film based on the text on the back of the dvd box? That’s pretty ignorant to think that he can judge games in that manner.

Unfortunately, this is just the top of the iceberg because look at the picture at the top of his post. Now I have no idea if he picked that picture or not. I would say that he probably didn’t but he did pick the rest of the pictures in the post so perhaps he did. Regardless, the picture didn’t just appear by itself. Someone chose that picture. What is in that picture? A kid. So someone whether it was Ebert of just some random web guy, wanted to pick a picture of a gamer and they picked a kid — once again perpetuating the stereotype that games are for kids and in this instance also seemingly indicating that games are in and of themselves childish. Wow. That’s pretty sad.

OK, now onto the Supreme Court…

I’m pretty confident that the Supreme Court will say this law is unconstitutional not only because lower courts have consistently ruled that laws regulating videogame sales are unconstitutional but also because of the recent Supreme Court decision declaring a law banning animal cruelty videos unconstitutional.

Today the Diane Rehm Show had a segment on the Supreme Court taking on the Videogame law regulating videogame sales and had Leland Yee, the California politician behind the bill, Craig Anderson, the guy who has never met a form of media that didn’t cause aggression, and a couple other people I don’t remember. Now, I’ve previously criticized Anderson’s vague use of the term “aggression” so I was pleasantly surprised that Diane Rehm’s first question to him was “what is the difference between agression and violence?” Anderson initially tried to avoid answering the question but then Rehm re-asked the question and Anderson admitted that while violence is generally understood as an extreme form of aggression, it is very rare for aggression to actually turn into violence. I think that it really key because in that statement Anderson (who also in this CNN video says that videogame-caused “aggression” isn’t really any worse than film or television-causes “aggression” ) says that videogames don’t really make kids violent.

If the most well known person who thinks videogames cause aggression doesn’t think they make you violent then that makes the case that they are so bad that we need laws against selling them much harder to prove.

Personally, I look forward to the SCOTUS shutting down these kinds of laws once and for all.

…well that and Jack Thompson getting involved and saying some crazy things…

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