Obviously the fact that videogames are not seen as a legitimate form of entertainment along the lines of movies or television is astounding to me. David’s cartoon on the subject is of course ignorant but it’s simply a visual representation of what many of our nation’s elderly believe, and it’s par for the course as far as political cartoons go. While in journalism class in high school I once had the opportunity to speak with a political cartoonist from our local paper named Milt Priggy. He told me that his job was to create cartoons that piss people off. The majority of his cartoons that I saw in the paper though were surprisingly bland. Then he showed me all the cartoons that his editor wouldn’t allow him to run. One cartoon in particular showed the grim reaper slam dunking over Magic Johnson and was slated to run around the time we all found out he had the Aids. Talk about a cartoon that would piss people off. Of course his editors said no way and the cartoon got filed in a box in the corner of his office along with all the rest of his best work that no one would ever see. The job of political cartoons is no longer to piss people off or get them fired up. It is to say what the majority of the newspaper’s readership is already thinking.
I find it disgusting that as an artist David cannot appreciate the fact that the videogame industry, like the movie industry is made up of artists just like him who are simply trying to create work of lasting value. The fact that he does not create work that is provocative or boundary pushing does not mean that there are not artists out there doing just that who need the protections that the first amendment affords them. When your cartoons do little more then fellate the status quo it is easy to imagine that we do not need special rules in place to protect artists who actually choose to say something important.
So why don’t people lend the same legitimacy to videogames that they do to film? It’s because they still think videogames are for children. Those of us who cut our teeth on Atari games are pushing thirty at this point. Is it so unreasonable to expect that as an adult I should be able to purchase an M rated videogame that includes adult material in much the same way I might see an R rated film that contains the same. The fact that pornography exists does not mean that film as a medium is inappropriate for children.
The videogame industry has given parents a means by which to determine if a game is appropriate for their child. I imagine any parent would go to great lengths to make sure that their seven year old is not watching porn or drinking gin. Yet the same dedication to parenting is surprisingly absent when it comes time to purchase a videogame. Do these parents expect the Playstation or the computer to determine if a game is inappropriate for their kid and simply shut itself off? The fact that you are a poor parent who is unwilling or unable to show some interest in what exactly it is that your child is doing in front of the television set every day after school is not the fault of the videogame industry. For a generation whose motto is responsibility you seem to be placing it with the wrong people.
When I actually become a parent myself I guarantee that video games will be a part of that kids life. They will be the games that I choose for them though. Just like you don’t sit your kids in front of the T.V and slip in the Matrix my kid won’t be playing GTA3. Games like Putt Putt and Freddy Fish will be the first ones my child gets his or her hands on. Some parents would say that’s naive, “You can’t watch them all the time.” They would tell me “They will just play those violent games at a friends house.” Yeah, and they will watch those violent movies at a friends house. Like some kind of pornographic archeologist your 10 year old boy is probably rummaging through a stack of poorly hidden playboys from the 1970’s at his best friends house right now. You cannot watch your kids all the time and you cannot ensure they will never see a boob or a gun before they are ready. What you can do is make sure that what they see and do in your house is appropriate and rely on some good old fashioned parenting skills to make sure that a quick glimpse of some blood in a videogame doesn’t send them into a violent rage that ends with a school full of dead kids.