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Censorship Entertainment Games

Doug Lowenstein on Game Censorship 87

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the someone-who-gets-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes "GamerDad has interviewed Doug Lowenstein of the ESA (Entertainment Software Association, the trade body for game publishers) about videogame violence and the future of gaming. From Doug's responses to the interview: 'Every time a new medium is introduced - whether it be movies, television or rock-and-roll - there will always be generations who aren't accustomed to it, don't understand it and, in a way, fear its success and popularity with younger generations. This is nothing new and I think that's what is happening with games today. It's no accident that most of the attacks on video games come from people over 50 whereas the core video game population is between 18 and 35. But as members of the video game generation become parents, teachers, journalists, cultural critics and policy makers, I think we'll see some of the criticism of games balanced by a better appreciation of how they enrich our lives and culture.'"
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Doug Lowenstein on Game Censorship

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  • I.E. GTA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by justkarl (775856) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @12:19PM (#9064654) Homepage
    I think that censorship in general could be replaced by good, ol' fashioned responsible parenting. Rather than taking good games off the market, enforce the rating system!!
    I heard a mother say in the game store the other day say she'd rather her 14 year old play GTA: 3 or VC than watch cable...Appalling.
    • Re:I.E. GTA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Leffe (686621) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @12:24PM (#9064712)
      Sure, that would work... if all parents were responsible. Sadly enough, that is not the case, and I doubt that will ever happen.

      It just takes one bad parent with GTA3 and a handgun to give the media food for a year, the chances of something NOT happening are too small.
      • Re:I.E. GTA (Score:3, Interesting)

        Questions for the /. masses, especially parents:

        Should we start holding parents criminally responsible for the actions of their children?

        If that bad parent knew that they would be the one sent to jail if Little Johnny goes ape-shit with a gun... maybe that one bad parent would make a better effort?

        Of course it wouldn't be automatic, but a trial for criminal negligence and complicity.

        Why don't we see more of this already?

        • Re:I.E. GTA (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Should we start holding parents criminally responsible for the actions of their children?

          No; people should be responsible for their own actions.

          Why don't we see more of this already?

          Because it's a terrible, terrible idea. People already think that McDonalds are to blame for their obesity.
          • Re:I.E. GTA (Score:1, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            You don't think Parents are responsible for their children? Then who is? The 12 year old himself?
          • Re:I.E. GTA (Score:3, Interesting)

            by drakaan (688386)

            Should we start holding parents criminally responsible for the actions of their children?

            No; people should be responsible for their own actions.

            Yes, and it's generally accepted that once a person reaches adulthood, he or she *is* responsible for his or her actions. If a parent is held responsible when little Johhny breaks the windshield of the neighbors' car, why should they *not* be responsible when little Johhny breaks the legs of the neighbors' kid? As long as a child is a child, and you are his

            • Re:I.E. GTA (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Jerf (17166) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @04:09PM (#9067048) Journal
              Forget asking whether it is a crime. Ask, "If a child does something, does Justice demand that a parent be punished?"

              Herein lies the problem. It is not Just to punish someone for something they can not avoid. You say,

              I think the main reason people are afraid of this is that many don't spend enough time or energy to be reasonably sure their kids won't get them put in jail someday.

              And I say, nobody can spend that much time.

              I had loving parents, etc. I'm about as straigh-laced as they come... but in the end, that was my choice. There was many a thing that I did without my parent's knowlege. I could have easily made some serious crimes, like running drugs, one of them. I had the brains. I had the opportunity. And there's not a damn thing they could have done about it if I so chose.

              You can make a case for negligence being actionable, because that is a direct action the parent takes. Negligence should be actionable independently of whether the kid ever does anything. But while a child is not a truly free actor yet, neither are they robotic automatons responding directly and solely to their parent's actions. You can not hold parents legally responsible for their children's most heinous crimes... all you can use it as is as just cause for investigating their parent's behavior, and since nobody can define "good parenting" very well anyhow...

              In the end, one must be careful not to make the action of having children something that gives parents pause because of the significant possibility of totally random jail time based on the (in the final analysis) uncontrollable actions of their children.

              Now, to any potential Slashbots smashing the reply button to angrily contradict me, make sure you understand what I'm saying. Parents are not devoid of responsibility, legal and moral. But neither is the child. It's equally wrong to wipe the responsibility away from either party. The correct answer requires analysis of both parties. No easy answers here!
              • Re:I.E. GTA (Score:3, Interesting)

                by drakaan (688386)

                Forget asking whether it is a crime. Ask, "If a child does something, does Justice demand that a parent be punished?"

                Herein lies the problem. It is not Just to punish someone for something they can not avoid. You say,

                I think the main reason people are afraid of this is that many don't spend enough time or energy to be reasonably sure their kids won't get them put in jail someday.

                And I say, nobody can spend that much time.

                And I disagree. While it takes a great deal of effort to raise a child and

        • Re:I.E. GTA (Score:4, Insightful)

          by macrom (537566) <macrom75@hotmail.com> on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @02:24PM (#9066026) Homepage
          Should we start holding parents criminally responsible for the actions of their children?

          I think that depends on what the crime is, from the parents' perspective. It is not a crime to let your 12 year old kid watch R-rated movies or even porn! (correct me on the porn part, if necessary) It isn't a crime to let your kid play violent video games, listen to rap music or watch graphic TV. So if a kid goes out and acts out GTA with the neighbor's kiddos, of what crime is the parent guilty? Being a bad parent? What if the parent was being good by letting their child experience a bit of freedom, and that child was being exposed at a neighbor's house? Do you now hold those people responsible?

          I think that crimes (let's not get into IP and copyright arguments) are things that are generally, socially accepted faux pas. Very few people will debate that murder, rape, arson, theft, etc. are crimes against society and/or people's personal rights. But being a bad parent has such a broad definition and is subject to so many different viewpoints that I think it is a topic best avoided by the judicial system.

          Now, if you want to make it an offense (like a misdemeanor) for providing rated content to an underage child, then you might be able to extrapolate a few laws if those exposed children commit crimes. Even still, you're now subject to a lot of interpretation in enforcing said laws. How would you go about proving that the child committed acts based on his/her exposure to the "illegal" content? Is the parent responsible? What about the retail establishment that may have sold the items to the parent with the child present?

          And now we have a huge new argument that can go on forever. I think this is the reason that courts generally stay out of a parent's way unless a childs personal rights are expressly violated.
          • Re:I.E. GTA (Score:3, Interesting)

            > if you want to make it an offense (like a misdemeanor) for providing rated content to an underage child

            No I want to put parents on trial for complicity and negligence on a case by case basis. That way your neighbor analogy and most minor offenses, mistakes that ALL parents make, and factors beyond their control would not implicate them in a crime.

            I want to try them before a jury of their peers to decide if lack of parental involvement or damaging involvement contributed significantly to the child
          • If you let your kid play violent videogames, watch violent movies, etc. it is YOUR responsibility to make sure your kid 100% understands that it is just a game, and it is WRONG to go out on the street and kill passerbys.

            If your kid does do that, you as a parent should be held responsible, because you failed to bring up your child in such a way that he would understand that.

            Of course, a line needs to be drawn at some age, where it is assumed a kid can think for himself. But before that, it is a respons
      • But why should my rights be taken away (to play an M rated game) because of a few morons? Remember, your rights end where mine begin. I shouldn't be held responsible for others actions, and I should be able to play a game (listen to whatever, view whatever) that I want to play. Period.

        -Vic
      • It just takes one bad parent with GTA3 and a handgun to give the media food for a year,

        A year? More like five years, ten if the game is that big of a hit (think Doom). Watch, in another 10-15 years, someone will write a book about GTA3 and call it 'The Second Mortal Kombat' and restart the whole argument.

      • Re:I.E. GTA (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kreyg (103130)
        It just takes one bad parent with GTA3 and a handgun to give the media food for a year, the chances of something NOT happening are too small.

        Do the odds change in any significant way if you only remove GTA3 from the equation though? Anyone influenced to violence by a video game already has enough issues that making games a scapegoat isn't going to help anybody.
    • Re:I.E. GTA (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Dan Farina (711066)
      At 14? That doesn't seem too bad; children by that age shouldn't have a problem knowing that they should not re-enact behavior that they play.
      • I wouldn't count on it....see any high schoolers lately?
        • Re:I.E. GTA (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Lynxara (775657) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @03:07PM (#9066489)
          Sadly, I have to agree. I worked a stint in a high school library recently, and saw a lot of students who basically just imitated whatever they saw their friends doing with total disregard for whether or not it was a good idea. It seems entirely possible to get into high school and still be thinking on a very concrete, somewhat literalistic level, under which it's okay to do whatever you see people you like doing or whatever seems fun.

          The problem is that it's never "just a videogame" that leads kids to commit acts of violence; there's always a lot more going on in their lives that leads up to the act. It's just so hard to convince people of that when the form of the crime explicitly imitates some game scenario or another, and seems to present a "simple" explanation.

        • Depends on the 14-year-old. I played GTA at that age, and it had no (noticable) effect on me. Some 14-year-olds may be inspired to go on shooting sprees. It's a judgement call for the parents. Unfortunately, parents whose kids might go on a GTA-inspired shooting spree are probably the same parents who aren't going to enforce rules about the games their kids play.
    • Of course if it weren't video games it would be something else. Someone who is inspired to commit a crime or violent act because of a video game is going to be a bad apple even if there were no video games....

      • Without video games, violent unstable people would have to turn to places like the Bible for inspiration for truely gruesome acts.
    • Re:I.E. GTA (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FlipmodePlaya (719010)
      I'm not the first to say this, I know, but I can't belive anyone would say that. To many of us, 'good old fasioned parenting' is in conflict with out beliefs. For instance, my parents raised me without a bedtime, something their parents would find apauling. My grandparents' parents would often physically discipline them, something the whole family line now finds apauling. Your riteous creed may be the way to take your family, by I don't have a problem with what that mother said. Unless the kid has gone
  • by gothzilla (676407) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @12:19PM (#9064665)
    I've seen this happen a few times. The most memorable one was with skateboarding. When it first came out there were laws passed banning skating and if you were out on the sidewalk on your board a cop would surely stop you. Now you can find public skate parks in most cities that are supported by the local government.
    I'm sure when the printing press was invented, people freaked out just as bad at the thought of someone's opinion being widely available to anyone.
    • by Crash Culligan (227354) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @01:01PM (#9065131) Journal
      When it first came out there were laws passed banning skating and if you were out on the sidewalk on your board a cop would surely stop you. Now you can find public skate parks in most cities that are supported by the local government.
      Perhaps that's not the best example to work with. Anything which enables someone to travel quickly on a sidewalk, possibly bumping people out of the way, will probably get jumped on by local authorities. They tend not to allow you to ride bicycles on the sidewalks, and driving a car is right out. (Trust me on this.)

      The skatepark arose as a solution to that problem. They still can't let hooligans loose on crowded sidewalks with those things, so they sponsor a place where they can be used to full effect. (More often than not, though, I think the skateparks are owned by private individuals, not local governments.)

      The skatepark isn't an overall acceptance of the hobby, it's just a solution to an old problem: where can someone use a skateboard that won't knock people over?

      • It wasn't so much that people were afraid of a small hard wheeled object on sidewalks, it was the damage that skateboards do to curbs, stairs, railings, and it was the blantand disregard for public safety that a lot of skaters had while riding on public areas. I wasn't afraid of a skater running into me, I was afraid of a skater trying some trick on a railing and shooting his board at high speed toward my head.
        Skate parks weren't a solution because if it was, they would have been common a long time before t
    • (Disclaimer: I'm talking about 'blading in this post, not 'boarding.... that's just the kind of skating we got into.)

      Yeah.... that's one that never ceased to baffle the fuck out of me. My friends and I used to skate everywhere and all the time. It was our primary way of getting around town. It was our way of getting exercise (And at the hight of our skating days, we really were in EXCELLENT shape.). It was a good way of socializing. And it was an avenue for some friendly competition. It was good, c

      • Perhaps you should move? Up her ein my town their pretty relaxed about stuff like skate boards and roller blading. We have a huge river valley with dozens of paths near the river. We have the largest amount of parks of any town in north America.

        It's Edmonton Albert, in Canada. Where the people are nice, the girls are horney(odd statistic, we represent the largest concentration of chat hosts in north america for the porn cam girls per capita), and the cost of living low.
        • > Perhaps you should move?

          I have moved, actually. Many times. The events described took place years ago, when I was still a teenager.

          Nowadays, I live in San Francisco; so skating is not much of an option. While I'd, no doubt, get quite the good workout going UP the hills here; going DOWN those beasts on my 'blades would be near-suicidal.

          cya,
          john
    • Skate parks are all well and good if all you are is a "trick" skater. But we weren't, really. We did the occasional jump over/through that $obstacle but most of our friendly competition was more along the lines of race from here to there... which brings up the second point:

      Skate parks are completely, utterly, useless, if part of your reason for skating is to get from point $a to point $b; which was more than a small part of the reason for us.

      cya,
      john
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @12:21PM (#9064682)
    Just try to remember this whole debacle in 30 years when you get the urge to support the censorship of your grandchildren's favorite medium.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I wonder what medium that will be.

      Interactive neural webs?
      Downloadable skill sets?

      Hell, with the ways thiings are currently going, I wouldnt be suprised if my kids favorite activity is going to be sitting around the campfire, telling stories of the "old world," where food was abundant, yet unhealthy.. and millions of people lived like kings, but at the same time were trapped in their own prisons.

      *cough*

      Anyways, speculation on the "next" form of entertainment?
  • by hookedup (630460) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @12:25PM (#9064720)
    Look at all the pot smoking hippies and free love of the 70's. Now that these people are in power, pot is still illegal, and obsenity laws are becoming more and more stringent.

    It seems to me the 'newer generation' getting into power is being influenced by the current people at the top.

    • 70's: Left---Center---Right

      90's: -------Left-----Center-----Right

      What used to be considered middle of the road in the 70's is today considered Liberal Left.

      How did THAT happen??
      • 40s: left-----center-----right
        50s: left----center------right*
        60s: left--center--------right*

        *During this time heavy religious influence took over the Republican Party in many places in america through the abuse of quorums (sp?) and really pushed out the Liberal Republicans (Yes, there WERE Liberal Republicans). Also the 2 dimensions of political parties is wrong anyway, it's more like 4, for a basic understanding.

        I personally find the smaller newer parties like Civil Libertarians and Green to be Essential
    • Couldn't it also be the case that all the "pot smoking and free love of the 70's" was recognized as a bad idea by the people who were doing it back then. Pot smoking, for all its harmlessness to the average college student, does have some side effects that are not healthy for the average working adult/parent. Free love is also not the barrel of laughs it typically appears to be.
      • I know of people that have been killed because of the effects of drinking.

        I know of no one that pot has killed.
  • Parents.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @12:26PM (#9064736)
    But as members of the video game generation become parents, teachers, journalists, cultural critics and policy makers, I think we'll see some of the criticism of games balanced by a better appreciation of how they enrich our lives and culture.

    I think that what you will see in that once gamers become parents they will be horrified at how much time their children waste playing video games when they should be working to educate themselves.

    • ...will be horrified at how much time their children waste playing video games when they should be working to educate themselves
      They are educating themselves.
      I won't pretend that games are a replacement for schooling, but they're FAR from being completely "mindless", as so many critics claim. Not everything you need to know about the world can be found in a text book. :)
      • they're FAR from being completely "mindless", as so many critics claim.

        Maybe not COMPLETELY mindless, but the difference is small enough to be inconsequential.

        Not everything you need to know about the world can be found in a text book.

        The only thing that you can't get from a textbook is experience applying the knowledge therein.

  • Enrichment (Score:2, Insightful)

    by metamatic (202216)
    Yes, I feel my cultural life is enriched by "Manhunt".
  • Ah... (Score:3, Funny)

    by paRcat (50146) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @12:42PM (#9064927)
    Marge: Thank you, Doctor. Whenever the wind whistles through the leaves, I'll think of your name: Lowenstein... Lowenstein...

  • Every time a new medium is introduced - whether it be movies, television or rock-and-roll - there will always be generations who aren't accustomed to it, don't understand it and, in a way, fear its success and popularity with younger generations.

    This is just plain stupid. It's not the medium that people are concerned with, it's the content of some games in this new medium. I am 29, and I still don't want my kids to see blood splattered all over their monitor when playing games. That just doesn't seem like a healthy thing for 14 year olds to be exposed to more than is neccessary. Even if they no it's not real, it de-sensitizes them to it and makes it more acceptible. If the only argument this guy can come up can be boiled down to "Old people suck!", then it's really not worth listening to.
    • This is just plain stupid. It's not the medium that people are concerned with, it's the content of some games in this new medium. I am 29, and I still don't want my kids to see blood splattered all over their monitor when playing games. That just doesn't seem like a healthy thing for 14 year olds to be exposed to more than is neccessary. Even if they no it's not real, it de-sensitizes them to it and makes it more acceptible. If the only argument this guy can come up can be boiled down to "Old people suck!",
      • The bloody splatter and such aren't unhealthy. ... The north american culture is unhealthy.

        That's debatable.

        As for sex, that type of stuff should be taught. We should know how sex works and whats "normal". ... The last few generations of parent shave been very negligent in teaching this and thats why the US has a very high rate of teen pregnancies compared to the rest of the western world.

        I disagree. Students get this information in high school and/or junior high. I think the real problem (both with te

        • Students get this information in high school and/or junior high.

          Better check your school. A lot of them now are teaching boys and girls that they have evil monsters between their legs that should never be touched or shown to anyone else.

          Or whatever other lies the religious right wants them to teach this year, hoping that by keeping people stupid, they'll somehow teach them to overcome their natural reproductive urges.
          • by be951 (772934)
            Do you have a source for that, or are you just trying to stir up anti-religious FUD?
          • Better check your school. A lot of them now are teaching boys and girls that they have evil monsters between their legs that should never be touched or shown to anyone else.

            Not really. All I've seen is that the schools are only now teaching the students honestly about sex - and that is even wihtin a Catholic school. The same Catholic school provided courses on personal morals and world religions after providing the standard religion courses up to Grade 10 or so (a time where faith in religion sometimes

        • If this is debatable then ask why the japanese don't have as high a rate of violence even though their media is argubly more violent.

          And explain how Europe has low teen pregnancy and rampant sex init's media. They also have a very developed sex education system. Even canada has lower rates then America, we are taught about sex starting in grade 7.

          In many states, there is legislation making it illegal to teach sex ed. In the same states teen pregnancy is higher then the national average. The states are fre
          • The U.S. has gotten away from stressing personal responsibility in favor of moral relativism. Such as the notion that it is understandable (if not okay) to resort to crime if you're poor and a minority because it is too hard to make it any other way. Similarly, there are two irresponsible attitudes that contribute to teen pregnancy in the U.S. (which has been declining steadily for over a decade, by the way). On one hand, there is the line of thinking that "well, she can just get an abortion if she gets
            • You then must consider Canada. We have a very very similiar ethnic mix, but have lower teen pregnancy. Stats for Canada and the united States [statcan.ca]. Check the 15-19 range for the US and Canada. We have under half of what you have. As well we have ghettos and a comprehensive plan to support single mothers, more so then the states. I am a minority group that has some of this happen (chinese) and I work and interact with another minority group that has this happen rampantly (Black/Jamaican). And still our rates are
      • OK, back to the topic at hand of games. Games would fall into the category of unrealistic pretty much every time. As much as you want to say that 14(ish) kids can distinguish from real and a game or movie, repeated exposre to it is just not good. I'm not sure if you agree with me or if you're just trying to come off as some better-than-though liberal.
        • Basically, what I am is a compassionate conservative. I don't beleive violence causes violence but I also don't believe the portrayal of violence in north america is a good thing.

          I'd really rather let children see a sex scene(which they will eventually do, just not too soon) then see a violent act(which I hope to god they do not do).

          Americans heavily protect their children from every thign and it does absolutly nothing to make them better people or more responsible people. Europeans expose their children
    • by Anonymous Coward
      > I am 29, and I still don't want my kids to see blood splattered all over their monitor when playing games. That just doesn't seem like a healthy thing for 14 year olds

      [Gets out calculator] Also keep them away from whatever it was that got you into procreating at 15.
    • by TheLoneDanger (611268) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @05:08PM (#9067537)
      Yes, some games have objectionable content (Manhunt or Soldier of Fortune come to mind), but this is a very small minority of games. There are an extremely small number of games that come even close to having the graphic violence of your average summer action movie or slasher flick. In fact, I personally find ACTUAL blood and violence as shown on TV newscasts (or those captured on camera, something attacks shows) much more disturbing as it exploits real violence and suffering for shock value.

      My point (and Lowenstein's, I think) is that the average videogame doesn't really have that much in the way of graphic violence. The media tends to take one or two examples and blow them out of proportion, because it is easier to incite people against what they don't understand (currently videogames). The violence that does exist just isn't nearly as bad as the few extreme examples.

      It's not old people suck, it's older people don't understand younger people and always think they are going down some wrong path because they don't think it's the same path they took. This is true for every generation, and perhaps always will be.
  • by pudge_lightyear (313465) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @01:09PM (#9065221) Homepage
    Yeah... his is a great arguement, but this isn't a different medium than movies, tv, computer games, etc. They are all visual and watched through a TV set or monitor. Most video games are full of FMV's, many from popular movies. Why can you not discuss censorship just because the movie is played on a ps2 rather than a dvd player?... oh wait... both are DVD players.

    These arguements are just attempts to change the subject and not deal with the matter at hand.

  • he's made good comments
  • would be Comic Books and Dungeons & Dragons. Both were chastised for years for their portrayals of sex/violence/whatever, not much any longer because they've been around awhile and have shown to not really have a significant negative effect.

    Not to say they don't still get flak, but it's not the news media stopper it once was mainly because they have been around awhile. Yes, partially because they've been replaced, but as the same types who use them play video games it would be zero effort to lump t
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I look at it this way, within a few years, we'll start seeing this change that Doug Lowenstein is talking about. In fact, we're already seeing this take place:

    1) Sen. Joe Lieberman, the main person who started this, has toned down his rhetoric over the last couple of years. Lieberman has even said that the ESRB is the best rating system in all of entertainment.

    2) California recently rejected two bills that would have regulated the industry.

    3) Federal Courts have said that video games are protected by t
  • by Glamdrlng (654792) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @06:20PM (#9078219)
    As a 26 year old, what up-and-coming trend/technology/pastime am I going to want to legislate out of existence when I'm a crotchety old bastard? At what point will we collectively quit being intimidated by that which we don't understand?

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