Video Gamer Blasts Illinois Governor  - Round 2





"Unlike the motion picture industry, the video game industry has not developed an effective self-regulation system that keeps adult material out of the hands of minors.  In 2003, the Federal Trade Commission found that 69 percent of teenagers were able to purchase M-rated video games – giving them easy access to images many adults would consider offensive."

Or so the Illinois Governor says.  If you've been paying attention to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's press releases as of late, you would notice that this statement has been repeated in every single press release referring to his video game bill, which unfortunately, has passed the Illinois legislature and is awaiting the governor's signature (and fortunately, awaiting its doomed fate once it is thrown out in court).  As I uncovered in my previous article, not only does the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) report show the movie industry is NOT doing a good job keeping R rated movies away from children's hands, but the movie industry is actually doing a WORSE job than the video game industry.  How in the world does the governor claim that "unlike the motion picture industry", the video game industry isn't doing a good job with its self-regulation system, implying that the movie industry is doing a good job of keeping R rated movies out of children's hands?

MTV recently posted an article (here) where Blagojevich's spokeswoman, Rebecca Rausch, stated "video games need to be singled out because the games industry isn't doing its job.  Comparing movie ratings to those of games, she said, 'They both have a system of self-regulation. The difference is the movie industry has made it work.'"

Oh really, Ms. Rausch?  Again, let me refer you to the actual FTC's report (click here to see that report).  The report shows that although children are successful in purchasing M rated video games 69% of the time without parent's permission, children are successful in purchasing R rated movies 81% of the time without parent's permission.  All this time, I always thought 81 was greater than 69.  Even the New Democrats Online, in naming Blagojevich "New Dem of the Week" back in January (here), foolishly echoed what the governor and his spokeswoman have been saying ("Unlike the motion picture industry, the video game industry has not developed an effective self-regulation system that keeps adult material out of the hands of minors.")  We are being told these lies about why the video game industry should be singled out, and how the movie industry is doing a good job of keeping R rated movies out of the hands of children.

It seems as if looking at numbers may be confusing to Governor Blagojevich, Rebecca Rausch, and the people at the New Democrats Online website.  Being the nice guy that I am, I've decided to do a favor for them and anyone else who claims that "unlike the movie industry", the video game industry is doing a bad job.  Rather than give them the numbers (which seems to bring on this confusion), I've created a bar graph, because, when they look at the graph, they may perhaps (keep your fingers crossed) realize what I've realized all this time - that the justification of singling out video games for government regulation is unjustified.

Can the governor see how 81% (the red bar) is greater than 69% (the blue bar)?  So how can the movie industry be credited for doing a good job of keeping R rated movies out of children's hands, yet the truth is they aren't?  How can Rebecca Rausch claim "[t]he difference is the movie industry has made it work" when this doesn't seem to be the case?

How about a 3D pie chart?

Can the governor see how the red slice of the pie chart is bigger than the blue slice?

Ms. Rausch, in the MTV article, also states "In video games, you're the one doing the killing or doing the stripping or whatever."  Well, not exactly.  I mean, if pushing buttons on a gamepad is the same as actually committing the act in reality, then all those years of pushing buttons when playing NBA basketball video games and making basket after basket, dunk after dunk, should've earned me an NBA contract by now.  Pushing a button on a gamepad is a far cry from actually committing the act in real life.

So you might be asking yourself why exactly are they coming up with lies and excuses for not regulating the movie industry?  It might interest you readers to know the governor has issued a press release (here), detailing how Hollywood is bringing in jobs and money to the state of Illinois by filming some movies there.  The press release boasts that these movie projects will create "5,000 Jobs and bring in $68 million", and include "popular talent, including Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves, Dustin Hoffman, Will Ferrell and Jennifer Anniston."

The press release continues "[i]n 2004, projects filmed throughout the state created nearly 15,000 jobs and generated $77 million, 200 percent higher than in 2003.

'Our film industry has gone from bust to boom in the past two years – bringing thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue for our economy. Again and again, we have proven that our state has the talent pool, the settings and the resources needed for blockbuster films, and this continued growth reinforces what we already know: Illinois is a great place for Hollywood to do business,' Gov. Blagojevich said."

No wonder the governor and his spokeswoman have to come up with lies and excuses for not going after the movie industry.  Imagine if Blagojevich were to attack the movie industry.  Would Hollywood want to film movies in Illinois, which would create new jobs and generate millions of dollars for the state, and undoubtedly raise the governor's approval rating, if the governor bashes the movie industry?  Don't count on it.  Hollywood wouldn't feel welcome in a state where the governor has threatened government regulation.

Unbelievably, Blagojevich wrote an article (here) for the USA today, reiterating his ignorance.  He singles out JFK Reloaded, an offensive game created by a Scottish firm in the UK and posted online, as an example of a game he wouldn't want his 8 year-old exposed to.  The game allows you to recreate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  Can someone please explain to him how his video game bill will not prevent anyone from getting a copy of this game?  He doesn't seem to understand that his bill regulates video games at the retail store level only.  JFK Reloaded isn't sold in any store.  It's sold only on the Internet.  If he doesn't want his 8 year-old exposed to this game, he should realize his bill will do absolutely nothing to prevent that.

In that article, the governor states "A recent study at Iowa State University tied playing video games with an area of the brain directly linked to extreme behavioral disorders. Another study found that kids who play violent games have lower test scores."  What he fails to mention is that these studies are correlational, not causational.  Researchers have always repeatedly stated that their studies only find a correlation, not causation.  And courts have long thrown out these studies as unconvincing.  Perhaps people that have behavioral disorders are attracted to violent material?  Perhaps kids with low test scores seek out violent material?  In no way, shape, or form, do these studies suggest that the video games themselves are responsible for behavioral problems and low test scores.  Researcher Douglas Gentile, of the National Institute on Media and the Family (read my letter to this group here), has even admitted that the data in his recent study are "correlational and cannot conclude that violent video games actually caused the changes in aggressive cognition and behavior" (Mr. Gentile's studies have been cited in the governor's press releases on numerous occasions, yet none of those press releases make mention of the last line there, about the studies being correlational and inconclusive.)  None of the studies help explain why is it if the link between video games and violent behavior is so apparent (allegedly), that FBI statistics show youth violence is dropping and continuing to drop.

Strangely, the studies don't seem to tell us what happens when children are exposed to violence in other mediums (books, movies, literature, etc.)  Which brings up my next point.  Blagojevich and his spokespeople have long been praising a study done by researchers at Harvard University, allegedly showing that children process violent games differently than adults in the brain.  If this is proof that video games are "harmful", then where do children process other violent material (as I mentioned)?  Isn't it possible that children process every medium in the same way, in the same location of the brain?  The researchers at Harvard don't seem to want to tell us where children process other material.  I wonder why?  Could it be that they aren't very convinced of their own study?  You really have to ask yourself, why would children's brains process only video games differently than adults?  This doesn't make sense.  If children's brains process video games one way, their brains will process everything else in exactly the same way, and by refusing to look at and study other violent material, the researchers are showing us that they themselves may agree with that.  Their goal is not to attack books, literature, and newspapers (materials that the researchers may like and enjoy), but instead, their goal is to attack mediums they (and politicians) don't like and don't care for (video games).

The Blagojevich article also states that "[g]ames such as Grand Theft Auto and Halo 2 use the same techniques the U.S. military uses to train our soldiers to kill the enemy."  Grand Theft Auto?  Really?  I never realized the military wants our soldiers to use techniques like carjacking, running over pedestrians, and picking up prostitutes as training to kill the enemy.  As I mentioned in my previous article, the military uses simulations to work on decision-making skills and teamwork, which hardly warrants government regulation of the video game industry.  Also, keep in mind that the governor's bill will not regulate all M rated games.  The bill regulates only games with "realistic human on human violence", but the characters in Halo 2 hardly look like realistic humans anyway.  Why is the governor using Halo 2 as an example of a game that should be regulated when the game won't even be regulated according to the wording of the bill?  (As a reminder, the governor ranks, on his website, Doom 3 as the number 1 most violent game, even though the game doesn't contain "realistic human on human violence" either).  This is ridiculous, as it seems the governor himself isn't sure which games would and would not be regulated, yet expects a clerk at a retail store to know.

Finally, at the end of the article, Blagojevich states "I know that some interest groups don't like the idea of limiting anything. But when it comes to our children and their well-being, how about a little common sense?"  Did he just say "common sense?"  Remember folks, this guy back in 1999, as a member of the US House of Representatives, voted against an almost identical bill that would've regulated the video games he desperately wants to regulate now.  "Common sense" told him to vote against the bill in 1999 and wait over 5 years to support another, almost identical, bill.  "Common sense" tells him the movie industry is doing a good job of keeping R rated movies out of the hands of children, even though the FTC report shows otherwise.  "Common sense" tells him 69% is greater than 81%.

Let's hope the "common sense" of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will not only cost him his job as governor of Illinois once he is up for re-election, but will cost him any and every future election as well.


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).

click here to read the first article on this topic


(EDIT:  Cheryl K. Olson, professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School's Center for Mental Health and Media, examines statements about the relation between violent video games and real-life violence in a 2004 article in the journal Academic Psychiatry, titled "Media Violence Research and Youth Violence Data: Why Do They Conflict?".

First, Dr. Olson notes that "...there is no evidence that targeted violence has increased in schools. While such attacks have occurred in the past, they were and are extremely rare events." She goes on to write that, "…there's no indication that violence rose in lockstep with the spread of violent games."

Dr. Olson then details the limitations of current studies of the issue, including: vague definitions of aggression; failure to put use of violent media in context with other known contributors to aggression (such as illegal substance use and family poverty); results which are difficult to generalize to the real world; small, non-random, non-representative samples; and lack of consideration of moderating factors such as the subjects' age or developmental stage.

Dr. Olson concludes: "In summary, it's very difficult to document whether and how violent video and computer games contribute to serious violence such as criminal assault and murder…." She writes, "It's time to move beyond blanket condemnations and frightening anecdotes and focus on developing targeted educational and policy interventions based on solid data. As with the entertainment of earlier generations, we may look back on some of today's games with nostalgia, and our grandchildren may wonder what the fuss was about.")