I was eight years old when my parents purchased an Atari 2600. You remember the one [if you are old enough], a black game console with a simulated wood grain, some switches and a slot for the cartridge. We selected the game Combat and inserted the cartridge and threw the switch. I took control of my tank, maneuvered it into position and fired. My salvo struck the intended target. That was when I notched my first kill. I was hooked on the excitement of video games and the anticipation of “the next kill.”
Why does the gaming industry need to continually defend their actions when viciously attacked by those critics in the media? As we have seen in previous cases, such as West Paducah, Kentucky, Littleton, Colorado and most recently in Santee, California, which draws comparisons between violent video games and the behavior exhibited by minors.
A recent article which debuted in The Wall Street Journal Online, August 28 was posted on ZDNet headlining with, Game critics slam violent ‘mods’ by Khanh T.L. Tran. The main focus of the article is on the involvement of minors who develop modifications [mods] for popular PC games, like Quake III, Half-Life and as discussed in this article, Unreal Tournament.
One of the contributing factors that is rarely mentioned in articles such as this are environment and family. To bottom line incidents like this, it IS the responsibility of the parent to regulate and be involved with their children as their grow up and mature. It is not the responsibility of a PC game, a developer, web site or any other group. Parents should have an idea what the hell their children are involved in. They should not have to find out the hard way, by hearing there has been another school shooting and their child is the gunman.
Enter David Walsh of president of National Institute on Media and the Family, who contends, “that underage mod makers are the moral equivalent of teenage pornographers.” Dan Gerstein, communications director for Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut says, “This is a whole new problem.” There is a bill that has been introduced in Congress to “penalize companies that intentionally market adult-rated entertainment directly to children.”
Those involved in the gaming industry, from publishers to developers, down to individual gamers who support this booming industry are continually scrutinized as a source of teen violence in society. The bill, is not directly aimed at mod developers, but software developers who falsely advertise their products with ERSB ratings, usually to a younger target audience.
A byproduct of this, are the active and talented gamers who decide to get involved and demonstrate their participation by giving back to their specific community by developing mods. Many happen to be minors who have been blessed with skills to create their own game, using a game like Quake or Half-Life. Yet, game companies, like Congress have no say over what sort of a mod can be developed. That is something left to the mod development team, as are the ideas and basic premise of any mod. Mark Rein, vice president of Epic Games Inc says, “If you don’t have the game, the mod is worthless to you.” Quite true, yet gamers will continue to “obtain” these games in order to play them, or to download and play the mods on which they were created for.
Mods give amateur software developers an opportunity to showcase their talents. Some of the most popular online gaming experiences have come from the modding community, such as Action Quake 2 and more recently, Counter-Strike developed for Half-Life. It is astounding to recall the number of gamers who have been involved in some of the largest gaming communities around. It truly becomes more than “just a game.”
Back to the environment and parental influence, as I touched on previously. How often do parents monitor what their kids play? How often to parents not purchase their child a game? How many times is that decision based not on the violence rating, but because of price? Yet, parents will be much more lenient when it comes to other media outlets, such as television, magazines and movies. All it takes is one hour of watching the nightly news to realize the real world is a violent place and not because of video games.
As David Wright of GameSpy Industries says, “The kids are going to get around any restrictions the industry is going to put into place.” Why would that be any different when it comes to mods, television, movies or any other media outlet? But continuing to tighten the stranglehold on the gaming industry is becoming ludicrous. Congress and Mr. Walsh’s organization should focus their attention on more important issues at hand, then to go after something which is not really there, but something the media continues to blow out of proportion.