We passed this law just for you

  By Shamus   Mar 14, 2007   30 comments

The baby boomers had their revolution. They got their rock and roll, fought The Man, sang songs about freedom, changed the world, brought about peace and love, or whatever. But damn are those same people eager to pass laws regulating and outlawing video games now that they hold the reigns of government.

I usually avoid writing about this sort of thing because the subject makes me too angry to write with any sort of temprence. This business is frequent enough that I could write about it nearly every day, but it would turn my blog into a great boiling cauldron of profanity and purple-faced invective. So I try to avoid that.

Dear boomers: You’ll notice that in our generation’s Woodstock, we manage to plan ahead, show up with enough food, shelter ourselves, pay for stuff, keep the hard drugs and communal sex to a minimum, and even raise some money for charity. Which puts us a few miles ahead of where you idiots were at our age. Maybe you could trust us to take care of ourselves (and our kids) when we go shopping for videogames? Hmm?

201030 comments. (A twenty-sided die has 30 edges.)


  1. Robert says:

    Yeah, well, it’s been pretty obvious for a long time that the Boomers grew up to become everything they swore they’d never be.

  2. empty_other says:

    I swear to never become like “them”. Just so everyone knows. I promise i will rule the world (or at least the little slice of the world i get to rule) logically and fair, without prejudgement. I will get my rock and metal, fight The Man, sing songs about freedom, change the world, bring about peace and love, or whatever.

  3. Deoxy says:

    Summary of the Boomers: “It’s all about MMMMMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!”

    When the want to do something that’s against the rules, the rules need to be changed. When other people are doing things they don’t like, well, time to make some rules. Selling out their descendants for their own benefit? Of course!

    The world will be a better place when they are gone.

  4. phlux says:

    There’s a great quote from Jon Stewart that I think of every time I see something like this. “I believe that 80 percent of the country are reasonable people who can get together on the issues, even the really difficult ones like stem cells and abortion, and the other 20 percent run the country.”

    Videogame legislation is a prime example of the “other 20 percent” running things. I’m sure most of the woodstock generation is perfectly happy with the current system of self-regulation.

    Obviously the ESRB could be better, and they should probably create a “self rating” system for independent entities that can’t afford a fullblown ratings board review. Even just a questionaire that produces an “in the ballpark” ratings estimate. It wouldn’t carry any official status, just give indie companies a label that makes a parent’s job easier, plus it would still be voluntary.

  5. Balentius says:

    There was a story in the local (Portland, OR) paper a few weeks back talking about the horrors of that darn music the kids are listening to at school dances, and how “suggestive” their dancing was. I really had to check it twice to make sure they hadn’t copied an article from the 1950s…

    My experience has been that while most everyone from the Woodstock era seems to claim that they were into the whole hippie lifestyle, almost none of them seem to REALLY remember what it was about.

  6. Teddust says:

    It’s not really fair to compare Woodstock with the Penny Arcade Expo. First, you’ve got about 20,000 attendees at PAX ’06 vs 500,000 at the original Woodstock (which had been planned for about 200,000). Second, these events are for radically different audiences. Drug use and communal sex are hardly associated with gamers, but that is pretty much what hippies are known for. A better comparison to PAX would be a large 1960s Sci-Fi convention, and I don’t think there are any crazy stories about brown acid floating around about those. And if you compare the orignal Woodstock to our generation’s Woodstock (’99), you have rape, rioting, and arson vs communal sex (since drug use was a big part of both). Anyway, I don’t really think the Baby Boomers are so great, I just wanted put my 2 cents in on why I feel calling PAX “our generation’s Woodstock” is misleading.

    What PAX does show, though, is that these overinflated claims about videogames corrupting our youth are bullcrap. Amazingly you can put 20,000 people together who spend hours every day playing violent games and not even one person got murdered!

  7. Luke says:

    I think Phlux is making a good point here. But I think that this problem is more complicated than this.

    Part of it is like Phlux said – clueless politicians making decisions about things they do not understand. Other part is what Shamus said – a clueless baby boomer masses trying to legislate their problems away. But I think there is more to it.

    I think what we are seeing with the video game legislation is a deep social problem. The fact that parents can’t be bothered to monitor their children’s activities and would rather have the state do it for them deeply worries me. This blatant refusal to take responsibility for properly upbringing your own kids is frightening.

    This is only fueled by the media who loves to put on the “video games made him do it” puppet show – precisely because it is so controversial. It drives ratings, but it also gives people the wrong messages. People out there that actually believe that 15 minutes of playing GTA just erase all the values, and moral lessons they were teaching their children since they were born.

    And then of course you have the activists such as Jack Thompson (aka The Biggest Douche in the Galaxy), and various other groups who actively try to legislate away everything that does not fit in their subjective definition of puritanical morality. They have their own agenda, dictated by their religious or moral convictions and they are are not afraid to send lobbyists to Washington to get what they want.

    So I guess we can break it down like this:

    1. the decision makers are clueless
    2. the general public is confused about the issue
    3. the media is playing the blame game and adds to the confusion
    4. special interests groups exploit this confusion to create laws that fit their own agenda
    5. crappy parents agree wit these laws because it allows them to shift the responsibility for upbringing their kids

  8. MOM says:

    Deoxy Says:
    …”The world will be a better place when they are gone.”

    Sort of scary for me- a baby boomer. And this is the second time I’ve heard it in the last two weeks. But these laws are being made by lawmakers pandering (?) to the generation raising children (yours!). This generation cannot simply wait for my generation to die and imagine that things will be different. While you are waiting, those in power are shaping a world which will pass the power on to people who think like they do.

    In other words, the problem is in the system which can be changed about as easily as redirecting the Rio Grande. Possible, but it takes a lot of energy.

    And you, Shamus, while you are excoriating my generation while patting yourself on the back for donating a few dollars to charities established by the baby boomers, might give us credit for waging the cold war and the civil rights movement.

    Well, most of you will live to see the outcome and I won’t. But don’t be suprised if it is not what you thought it would be. The human heart has not changed in the last 10,000 years.

  9. Chilango2 says:

    The older generation getting in a panic about the past times of the younger generaiton and how those past times inevitably lead to violence, promiscuity, social decay, chaos, and are a tool of the devil are at least as old as Jazz, the first automobiles, and radio.

    Give it twenty years, you’ll catch yourself being horrified with the games your children play with their genes for sheer amusement.. or something.

  10. josh says:

    The boomers are an easy target because so much has been made of their youthful ideals. But the fact of the matter is that once anyone has children, they become more selfish and prone to taking protective measures at any cost The boomers already went through this phase, and generation X is in the midst of it. As Deoxy said, it’s human nature.

    In fact, hippies are little more than a straw man. Their culture was as much a product of media hype as anything real. You might as well believe that a majority of teenagers were deeply into goth culture at any time, as believe that hippies were a significant movement.

  11. Clyde says:

    The problem is the whole “nanny state” mentality which thinks that the government is smarter than you are and therefore should be making decisions for you “for your own good.” And it’s not just video games. Drinking, smoking, red meat, transfats… If it was up to the government, you wouldn’t be able to consume any of those things. You’d be eating tofu and sprouts and watching “American Idol” 24/7. And you’d have to walk on a treadmill to power your television. Don’t think that’s not coming, if you don’t want your health insurance premiums to triple. But they’ll tell you that they’re making you live a healthy lifestyle “for your own good.” Who knows, if they say it often enough and loud enough, some people may even believe them.

  12. Steve says:

    Luke Says:

    I think Phlux is making a good point here. But I think that this problem is more complicated than this.

    I think what we are seeing with the video game legislation is a deep social problem. The fact that parents can’t be bothered to monitor their children’s activities and would rather have the state do it for them deeply worries me. This blatant refusal to take responsibility for properly upbringing your own kids is frightening.

    Spoken like a man with no kids. :o)

    Seriously, this tired old argument so badly misses the point that a responsible parent can only assume the person who parrots it back is either stupid or being deliberately provocative.

    Lots of hot button words in that last sentence. Not so much to insult you personally, but to convey how insulting the argument is since it assumes that no-one reading (or hearing) it can spot the obvious fallacy in the reasoning behind it.

    I can and do closely monitor my child’s exposure to (name your favourite bugbear, I have a list of my own) and while she is under my supervision I keep her on a loose leash and watch for monsters.

    What I can’t do is monitor her when she is at a friend’s house or at school, when she is under the supervision of people who probably don’t share my list of bugbears and certainly don’t place my child’s welfare above all other concerns.

    How to properly address the issue is the crux of the matter.

    School is relatively easy since I pay for it and have a lot of say in what I get for my money, but while dealing with the problem it is all too easy to involve nut cases with an agenda other than monster repulsion. This is sometimes when things get silly.

    But when it comes to “real” life, the parts that happen outside of school, then the gloves (and the wheels) really come off.

    Part of the problem is that there seems to be an increasing population of twenty and thirty somethings that are refusing to move on from adolescence and don’t recognise that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

    I’ll pick an example close to home. The witless “GTA Hidden Scene” episode is a typical example of something with obvious consequences that should have overridden the poor impulse control of those “responsible”. Is it any wonder that the reaction to such stuff is overblown? That was presumably what the perpetrators were looking to achieve if the truth be known.

    Maybe the answer is for any contract of employment to have a check box for “I am mentally still a 15 year old”. I dunno.

    Part of the problem is an entertainment industry that panders to the lowest common denominator and also doesn’t realise that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Poor impulse control in the mass media is, as you yourself pointed out, a significant factor in stoking the flames.

    Look, I can turn off my TV, but I can’t turn off yours and I shouldn’t be able to. I should like to think you wouldn’t show my 6 year old Zombie Cannibal Sorority Nudists on cable TV but that will depend on your maturity and judgement. Do you have some?

    Should I, as an older person, blame all younger people for the actions of a few, in the same way as those younger people wish to absolve themselves of the responsibility that comes with not being a child any more and claim everything is someone else’s fault?

    Truth is we can only be held responsible for our own actions. What we, you and I, as adults, have to remember is that our actions can often have consequences that we cannot control or limit, and that we must take responsibility when our imaginations fail to grasp the scope of the fallout. Not a popular view with the “victimless crime” younger set around my neck of the woods, but maybe that is a localised phenomenon.

    You are right on one major point. My generation, and that before mine failed to remake the world as a nicer place. We thought we could at the time, but most of us let real life get in the way and raised a generation of people who honestly believe “me first, me only” is a mantra to live by. That must stand as our most damning indictment.

    Now it’s your turn. Teach your children well, and look after other people’s when you have them in your purvey. No-one can ask more of you.

    Other than to retire that silly “parent’s fault” argument we started with and find a more sophisticated one to support your views of course.

    AND GET OFF MY LAWN!

    Where’s my dinner?

    Steve.

  13. Deoxy says:

    “This generation cannot simply wait for my generation to die and imagine that things will be different.”

    Absolutely correct, as are many other statements by MOM (and others); it will most certainly take lots of work. And while there are certainly members of the boomer generation who do not suck, changing the system would be a lot easier without all the people who put so much effort into getting it the way it is, a group boomers are HIGHLY over-represented in.

    So, while I certainly don’t think every boomer is bad (every individual is an individual, after all), the group as a whole has been a pretty lousy bunch.

    Oh, and “Zombie Cannibal Sorority Nudists” – it’s a good thing I wasn’t drinking anything when I read that! ROFL.

  14. Steve says:

    [Deoxy] Do you have a copy? My betamax one got chewed up.

    Steve.

  15. Eric says:

    Just to toss my two ducats in, I am a parent and still agree with Luke. I think the problem that Steve is having is that he seems to equate “raising your kids right” with having absolute control over their experiences which is, of course, impossible. But that’s not what it means. Raising your kids right has to do with instilling them with good values and character so that they can handle the world without your direct supervision. Bugbears aren’t going to be a problem if you’ve done your job right. When I was a kid, I was insulted by the proposition that seeing nudity, hearing people swear, or reading things about the occult were going to warp my mind, as if I were some sort of passive vessal incapable of judging what I was experiencing in any way. I still feel that way now. I saw plenty of sex, violence, and the occult growing up and yet, somehow, I’m not a pedophile, rapist, mass murderer, republican, or arsonist. Why’s that? Because my parents raised me right.

  16. MOM says:

    Deoxy Says:
    “a group boomers are HIGHLY over-represented in.”

    I am very curious what group you mean. I think there is a wide variety of opinions concerning which “group (s)” messed everything up. Of course baby boomers are over-represented in EVERY group of which they are a part as a result of their large numbers. Maybe I misunderstand you. Perhaps you simply mean “the establishment”, but you know each generation has is challenges. They succeed at some as I said in my earlier post and fail at others. History has a clearer view and lessons learned can be an aid to the generation following ( if we learn our history) Some would argue even that.

    Maybe it is the generational equivalent of the old paradox,” do events make the man or the other way around?

    This blog can turn pretty doleful considering what a fun-loving bunch of readers we are.

  17. Deoxy says:

    “Of course baby boomers are over-represented in EVERY group”

    That is, by definition, impossible. “over-represented” means that there are more of them than their total numbers would warrant. So, if Boomrs make up 30% of the population (pulled that out of the air), then they would be properly represented by 30% of any given group. If they make up 45% of that group, they are over-represented.

    “Do events make the man or the other way around?”

    Yes. Note that that isn’t a yes or no question…

  18. Shamus says:

    My take on this isn’t that passing laws against games is good or bad, it’s that it should be beyond the pale. It shouldn’t even be something anyone is willing to consider.

    Take the language of the bill (is it illegal to sell games which have not been rated) and replace with word “games” with “movies”.

    Better yet “books”.

    This is something which one group of people has no right or business taking from another. I don’t care how many citizens elected these people or how much good anyone thinks it will do the children. I don’t care if some people think it’s a silly hobby or not. It’s my hobby, and I would never dare suggest someone else should need to relinquish their treasures for the common good just because I think they’re trivial.

  19. Steve says:

    [Shamus] Are you under the impression that it isn’t illegal to sell certain books in the USA?

    And I find it interesting that although you espouse fredom of expression, that freedom does not extend to the freedom to concieve and lobby for laws controling behaviour one finds abhorrent?

    There is an underlying irony in this thread. The constitution provides a mechanism for you to prevent such laws being passed. It involves lobbying and voting. If I propose a law you find unpalatable, you have a right (some might say obligation) to participate in the process in passing that law so that it doesn’t. Erk. That didn’t sound right. You know what I meant.

    Recent polling demographics suggest that for all the chest beating and hand wringing, disturbingly few of “your generation” are engaging in the political process. As they say in the commercials for the New York Lottery: “If you don’t play, you can’t win”. You can hardly complain that other people are making their voices heard over yours if you don’t speak up. Well, you can but you’ll look daft and no-one will take you seriously.

    The legal system has been espousing the OSF line for over 200 years. If you don’t like it, change it. But change it according to the rules otherwise we end up with spaghetti.

    :o)

    Steve.

  20. Steve says:

    You could start by lobbying to stop me using question marks in the wrong place.

  21. Shamus says:

    Are you under the impression that it isn’t illegal to sell certain books in the USA?

    List for me those books. If the contents of those books were made into a videogame, would they be legal? No? Then why do we need a new law?

    And I find it interesting that although you espouse fredom of expression, that freedom does not extend to the freedom to concieve and lobby for laws controling behaviour one finds abhorrent?

    Where are you coming from? You can ESPOUSE a position freely. Once you start passing laws, you are no longer just “expressing yourself”. So sure, espouse all you want, but the minute your values intrude into the lives of peaceful people, you have become a force of opression.

    Is this really what it has come to? That I must “lobby” the government to retain rights that I had last week? Is everything truly on the table, that anyone can deny me, or anyone else, anything they like as long as their group is big enough?

  22. Chilango2 says:

    Precisely, the reason the 1st Amendment exists is to protect even unpopular speech, and the 1st amendment should not be negotiable, or a territory for “lobbying.” (that it is, to some degree, is unfortunate.)

    I think the current rating system works more or less fine wherein games are not obligated to be rated, and corporations choose to sell games or not based on the rating or lack thereof (after, your right to speech does not extend to my having to *host* or *pay* for your free speech. ). But once you force all games (or all material) to be rated, and make it illegal to do otherwise, and ban sales of certain rated materials, your in different territory.

  23. Stark says:

    Steve,

    Show me exactly where it says in the Constitution or any other piece of legislation that one citizen has the right to attempt to remove the rights of another citizen. This is what your are describing. Taken to it’s logical end it means that if I choose to lobby for a law allowing me to own other people it’s OK – so long as nobody bothers to engage in the political porcess to prevent said law. If you look closely you will find that the base laws of this country actually aim to prevent this beahviour – limiting freedoms arbitrarily.

    We have many freedoms – the base freedoms being the right to life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Liberty is an important word. Liberty: autonomy: immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority: freedom. This is the root of all our other explicit rights.

    Those freedoms are automatic and protected – we do not have the requirement that you must engage in the political process to reserve those rights. They are supposed to be univeral and un-encroachable… too bad things don’t work that way in the real world. Too bad most folks have forgotten that the presumption is that any right not explicitly stated is already ours and need not be stated.

    Luckily fo us the courts still seem to rule in favor of freedom of expression the vast majority of the time – they at least seem to have some grasp on what the consititution was intended for even if congress has completely forgotten.

  24. Shamus says:

    I should add: I guess it’s pretty obvious why I don’t write about this thing very often. It really is upsetting, and there are better places to have this pit fight. (Although, I do note everyone is pretty civil here compared to the average politics-driven blog.) Still, I enjoy the time we spend talking about colored dice a lot better than politics. :)

  25. Steve says:

    I’m sorry. I am not upset, neither am I engaged in a pit fight. I’m engaged in an adult debate with peers. Anyone who is in “pit fight” territory should step back now. I want to engage your intelligence, not your emotions.

    Books. Hmm. I suppose the most obvious one would be The Story of “O”, still illegal to own in some states and until about 15 years ago unobtainable this side of the pond. That’s off the top of my head. Of course, one might usefully argue that if a book is illegal in a country (or state) you will have trouble finding out about it. This is why book banning is dangerous.

    [Have we come that far] I don’t understand. You object to the fact that someone has begun the political process to interfere with the availability of something you say you care deeply about. The only question I am asking is will you engage in the only legal process to defeat this or not? If not, you limit the outcome to what the other side wants. Have you written your congressman to point out that you, a voter, feel radically differently on the issue than the current squeaky wheels do?

    Where I’m coming from is the philosophical filter that presents laws as the method by which we circumscribe those whose actions we feel interfere in the general wellbeing (read: freedom). What other purpose do they serve? You can’t believe that the anti-video game brigade don’t believe with all their heart that they are moral and righteous people. To them these video games represent an infingement of their freedom in some way. Don’t ask me to explain how. I don’t sympathise with their point of view.

    Saying we do not and should not formulate laws to remove freedoms for others is naive too. We do it all the time and we are generally better off because of it. Let’s say I believe I should have the right to drive an automobile. Is it really better that I have the freedom to do that with no limit, or do you think my freedom to do so should be circumscribed by laws requiring me to demonstrate I can control the vehicle and understand that some areas of the highway belong to pedestrians and that traffic control is a good thing? (I know this is a weird example. The obvious ones were all abhorrent subjects that could only cause trouble eventually. Just because I can think of them, doesn’t mean I should blurt them out – which is where I came in).

    And recent events show nothing more clearly than that the exact amount of freedom granted to an individual to pursue the goals laid out in the Constitution of the USA is a consensus dependant on the mood of the mob rather than a true philosophical bedrock inculcated into the American psyche. Before you scream and leap, I am an apprentice American myself. I simply hold the currently outmoded view that even in a good place, if you see something that needs fixing you should mention it. I do love it, and have little intention of leaving it. :o)

    Steve. (NYC).

  26. Stark says:

    Well said Steve,

    My point was that while we do make laws that limit freedoms the precedent has only been to do so in cases where a clear and well defined danger to others exists – not the nebulous idea of it might be harmufl someway somehow. There are, of course, exceptions – luckily most of these have proved to be short lived thanks largely to foresight of the founders in splitting the branches of government.

    As for books beings banned – the federal government does so very rarely and to my knowledge (which is admittedly imperfect!) none of their bans have held up in the courts… though, the courts being as they are this sometimes means a book may be in limbo for as much as 10 years. States are, of course, free to do as they choose within the bounds of their own constitutions so long as they do not directly abridge the protections laid out in the US Constitution. Schools similarly exert a right to ban books from their institutions. However, in the vast majority of cases where states and or schools have banned books the the bannings were quickly lifted if the ruling was challenged.

    The US federal government has banned books in the past on the basis of public morality, indecency, etc. – most of these were done using the Comstock Law of 1873 – which is still technically on the books but no longer enforced. There are no books currently banned by the federal government that I can find. There are some books barred from SALE – which is an important distinction. You can give these books away but cannot profit from them – typically we are talking about books that promote illegal activities (how to commit income tax fraud for example) or that espouse demonstrably false information as fact with the end result being direct harm to consumers (medical quackery is a good example). These generally fall under the same laws that make it illegal to shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre as a joke. Note that they are not actually banned – there is no penalty for having one of these books and no penalty for distributing as long as you don’t do so for profit. For example, The Anarchist Cookbook is widely available for free online but is illegal to sell – for rather obvious reasons should you read any of it!

    Also, I’m only in this for the reasoned and well argued discourse we’ve had so far – if I came across as vitriolic earlier I do apologize! Also, I would never ever utter “Love it or leave it.” Dissent of opinion is as American as apple pie (which is actually Dutch – go figure!) and, to me at least, a valuable resource for keeping this country strong and a place worth living.

    Respectfully, Stark (Sac, CA)

  27. Steve says:

    [Stark] Sorry for not responding in a timely manner, I got sick then had to move tweve gigatons of ice off my driveway.

    I had a nice long thing written out which basically said that my original point was (in part) that it is illegal to sell certain books, and that was the situation proposed as a (non exsistent) issue to bolster a “video game laws” viewpoint, so we had come full circle. It was witty and mis-spelled and said nothing important so I deleted it.

    It also seems that my last post may have been interpreted as a troll and an attack against Shamus and those who share his views. That was not my intent at all. I can see, upon re-reading the thread, that my posts may have been read that way though.

    Unfortunately, someone pressed one of my buttons with that “inattentive parent” argument that gets trotted outunchallenged time and time again. That and the standard “why” of the Y2K issue will get me going every time.

    :o)

    Steve.

  28. Shamus says:

    I disagreed, but I never thought of your post as a troll. Sorry if I left you with that impression! Really. Not even close to trolling. We’re cool.

    The trolling I was talking about was on the Oblivion posts and some old movie posts I talked about elsewhere.

  29. yoshi927 says:

    The thing I hate about this more than anything else is that no one has bothered to turn the same behavior on Hollywood. Go to the latest action thriller or anything like that, and I guarantee it’ll be much more violent than the vast majority of video games. Some of them will probably involve rape too.

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