Video Gamer Rips California Assemblymember Leland Yee
“Unlike movies where you passively watch violence, in a video game, you are the active participant and making decisions on who to stab, maim, burn or kill”
If you have been paying attention to California Assemblymember Leland Yee's press releases, you would find that quote above very familiar, as he has repeated it time and time again. Yee has been trying for the past few years to regulate the video game industry, and last week, the California Legislature approved his bill that is designed to regulate ultra violent video games.
Yee argues that video games deserve to be regulated because they are "interactive" and movies don't deserve to be regulated because movies are "passive". If you use this logic, it would seem like Yee doesn't mind if children are watching pornographic movies. After all, pornographic movies aren't interactive. And what about pornographic magazines such as Playboy? A magazine isn't interactive either, so according to Yee's logic, the government shouldn't regulate Playboy since it isn't interactive. Hear that boys and girls? Uncle Leland doesn't mind if you are watching pornographic movies and looking through pornographic magazines, since they are passive, and according to Yee, only interactive material should be regulated.
In a recent interview by IGN (here), Yee exposes his ignorance, once again, when explaining why movies shouldn't be regulated by the government:
a movie theater, if you walk in with an under-age child, there are all kinds of
glares, whispering -- there may be someone so offended that they get up and see
the manager and say, 'there's a child seeing an adult movie.' You can be
sure the manager is going to come in and escort the child out and reprimand the
parent. When you go into a video [game] store, you walk up as a young person,
you pull that game off the shelf, you pay the money, you walk out -- nobody
watches you, nobody's glaring at you. That's why in the theater the voluntary
rating system works, but for ultra-violent video games, it doesn't work."
Anyone besides me find this statement rather ridiculous? If the movie rating system is working, as Yee is suggesting, then the child would've been stopped at the door, but by making it into the movie theater and having a customer tell the manager that there is a child watching the film, he is showing us the rating system doesn't work. Never have I seen a manager escort a child out of an R rated movie and reprimand the parent for allowing their children to watch the movie. The idea is to prevent children from entering the theater in the first place, not wait until after they have entered. Not to mention, a movie theater is rather dark, so it would seem unlikely that anyone in the theater can see that there are children in there anyway. Yee also flat out refuses to look at the part of the Federal Trade Commission's report that states children were more successful in purchasing R rated DVD movies at retail stores than M rated games (click here to see that report for yourself). Children were able to purchase R rated DVD movies 81% of the time without their parents, while they were successful in purchasing M rated video games 69% of the time. Apparently to Leland Yee, 69% is greater than 81%. The most comical part about Yee's above comment is that the same FTC report also states children were successful in purchasing R rated movie theater tickets 36% of the time. This doesn't sound like "the voluntary rating system works" for the movie industry. Why is Leland lying?
Yee's press releases have also stated “[w]hile Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) claims to be a non-biased ratings board that gives parents a valuable tool in deciding appropriateness of games for their children, they are funded by the makers of video games who have a financial interest in making sure their games are not rated AO. Clearly the ESRB has a conflict of interest in rating these games. Plain and simple, parents cannot trust the ESRB to rate games appropriately or the industry to look out for our children’s best interests”, yet the same argument can be made about the movie industry. After all, how many movies out there are rated NC-17 for violence? How many are rated NC-17 in general? Not many.
Plus, courts throughout the country have ruled video games are protected forms of speech and have rejected the "interactive versus passive" argument. The Honorable Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit ruled "[m]aybe video games are different. They are, after all, interactive. But this point is superficial, in fact erroneous. All literature (here broadly defined to include movies, television, and the other photographic media, and popular as well as highbrow literature) is interactive; the better it is, the more interactive. Literature when it is successful draws the reader into the story, makes him identify with the characters, invites him to judge them and quarrel with them, to experience their joys and sufferings as the reader's own. Protests from readers caused Dickens to revise Great Expectations to give it a happy ending, and tourists visit sites in Dublin and its environs in which the fictitious events of Ulysses are imagined to have occurred. The cult of Sherlock Holmes is well known."
The ruling continues: "[t]here is no indication that the games used in the studies are similar to those in the record of this case or to other games likely to be marketed in game arcades in Indianapolis. The studies do not find that video games have ever caused anyone to commit a violent act, as opposed to feeling aggressive, or have caused the average level of violence to increase anywhere. And they do not suggest that it is the interactive character of the games, as opposed to the violence of the images in them, that is the cause of the aggressive feelings. The studies thus are not evidence that violent video games are any more harmful to the consumer or to the public safety than violent movies or other violent, but passive, entertainments. It is highly unlikely that they are more harmful, because ‘passive’ entertainment aspires to be interactive too and often succeeds.
Courts have even chided lawmakers for only going after video games and not other mediums, like movies. Mr. Yee has to come up with excuses and lies for not regulating the movie industry. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has come up with almost identical excuses and lies. The Michigan Legislature as well as Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm have dumped a part of a sting operation conducted by Michigan county sheriffs that found children were successful in getting their hands on R and NC-17 rated movies, opting to only focus on M rated video games. So when these lawmakers claim they are trying to protect kids, we can't believe that. When they claim these bills are designed to empower parents, we can't believe that either. Why not protect kids and empower parents when it comes to movies, music, books, and other mediums? What do these lawmakers lose if they include other mediums in their bills? They refuse to attack the movie industry even though they know children are able to purchase movies that aren't appropriate for them.
Yee's latest press release says "Governor Schwarzenegger is no longer an action star but an elected representative of all Californians; I am hopeful that he will consider our children’s best interests by signing this commonsense legislation into law and giving parents a necessary tool to raise healthy kids." Children's best interests? Commonsense legislation? Yee is the one refusing to go after the movie industry, yet feels by not going after the movie industry, he has children's best interests in mind. I have yet to meet a parent that cares about the video games their children play, yet doesn't care about the movies their children watch. So commonsense tells me if Mr. Yee wants to protect children and empower parents, he doesn't have anything to lose by adding the regulation of movies to his bill. Why would he refuse to add movies to his bill and lie by claiming the movie industry's rating system works? It might be the fact that the movie industry (Hollywood) is generous (campaign contributions, fundraisers, etc.) to certain politicians. Politicians don't want to lose the contributions made by Hollywood to them and fellow members of their political party. Why else would politicians come up with excuses and lies for not going after the movie industry if they truly have children's best interests in mind? It seems Yee and other politicians like him don't have children's best interests in mind. Instead, they have their own political interests in mind (Remember, in the last presidential election, politicians found out that morality and family values were important to voters. Isn't it amazing that these video game bills started popping up weeks after the presidential election?).
And if that's not bad enough, according to the San Francisco Chronicle (here -scroll near the bottom), Yee in 2003 sent a legislative aide to a Tae Kwon Do tournament, not to condemn the tournament, but to actually praise it. This is a tournament where kids as young as 14 are taught to kick each other in the head and to win by knockout. This is acceptable to Mr. Yee, even though he didn't take the "interactive is bad" argument into consideration when praising the event. Which one makes a child more of an "active participant" (as Yee puts it), pushing buttons on a gamepad and watching an animation on a TV set, or using their own fists and feet to punch and kick a living, breathing human being in a Tae Kwon Do tournament?
Children kicking each other in the head in the real world is acceptable to California Assemblymember Leland Yee, as long as they aren't doing that in the virtual world of video games.
David Polus, who holds a Master's degree, has played video games for almost 20 years, and has developed his own video games (independent/personal projects).
(E-Mail Assemblymember Leland Yee, and tell him you agree with this article and that you oppose his video game bill)
(E-Mail Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and tell him to veto the bill)