We take a break from our regularly scheduled knob jokes and video game revelry to bring you this editorial…
I don’t really “do” politics. I have a healthy observational viewpoint on party politics; I always vote; I support a party of sorts and I care about the future generations of our once great country. When it comes to the in-depth to-ing and fro-ing of the political world at large I take a cautious step back and let the children play in the crèche that is the House of Commons.
Videogames and politics are a mixture akin to water and oil and I really do not want this to disintegrate in to a conversation about the British Governments disregard for one of the largest entertainment mediums on the planet to date. Oops! I think I just did – hey ho, let us step forward to the matter at hand.
I will recap for our International audience. Here in the UK, as in many parts of the world, videogames are vilified and placed in the same category as movies, music and porn when it comes to influences on our culture. To this end a low level chat show aimed squarely between the raging Conservative viewpoint and the lower end of the “soccer mum” demographic decided to stage a “debate” on the subject of violence in videogames.
The Alan Titchmarsh Show is aired on one of the UK’s premier channels, ITV. The programme in question was aired on Friday 19th March 2010 and to be fair they did at least make an effort to take things seriously by booking Tim Ingham, Editor in Chief of seminal UK magazine CVG. What proceeded from this point was a total farce of epic proportions. So undervalued was Mr Inghams opinion that almost everyone, including the host, just talked over his very valid points.
The host starts by addressing videogames effect on children and their links to violent behaviours. A perfectly valid question and one that is answered well by Mr Ingham stating parallels with movies and literature. Mr Titchmarsh then retorts with “But Movies have a rating on them..”. Mr Ingham takes this in his stride, obviously used to this narrow minded and poorly researched knee-jerk offering he states that “games, just like movies, use a rating system which is strictly adhered to by the retailers” – in my opinion they do a much better job than most movie retailers in this area. The hosts response was even more dumbfounding that the last “Videogames are in the home. And you can’t get in to a movie if you are underage – someone stops you”. I’m sorry? Does he not have DVD’s or videos at home? Is he stating that everyone watches a movie in the cinema and nowhere else?
In those opening statements Mr Titchmarsh has summed up a large majority of public attitude towards videogames. That statement shows that he, like many others, would rely on someone else to enforce a decency filter on the material his children would see/play/hear. “Someone would stop them” he stated – yes YOU! What so many of these tabloid fed sheep forget is that THEY have the power to influence and control what their children watch, hear and play. I don’t state this in the abstract either. I have two boys aged 5 and 9. They both play videogames and we play as a family on a regular basis. You can be damn sure that all parental locks are in place on every console I own, even the ones they do not touch. I make sure they have age appropriate games just as I make sure they watch age appropriate movies. There is parental digression in this matter, if I watch a movie or play a game that says 12 or 12a but I think my eldest son would be fine with it we sit down and he tries it and we see what he thinks. There is no way in hell my 5 year old would play these titles, hell he does not even play the ones rated 7 and he is almost 6 years old now. I censor their content; I monitor their usage time; I am fully responsible for them – no one else is!
So just when the show could not get any more poorly researched the panellists wade on it. And oh my god was that an eye opener. Sat next to poor Mr Ingham was actress and sex tip giver Julie Peasgood. It’s at this point she wades in making bold statements like “Video games are interactive – they promote hatred, violence and sexism”. To this, once again taken in his stride, Mr Ingham makes the point that there has been no conclusive proof of this. Julie then makes a vague statement about an American research project that proves it. Mr Ingham once again calmly and politely states that the Byron Report, undertaken by the British Government, found no links what so ever between videogames and violence. This point was stepped all over by both Julie Peasgood and show host Mr Titchmarsh.
Then the former editor of the tabloid sleaze pool The Sun, Kelvin McKenzie steps in to the fray. He starts with a modicum of actual research information stating that average gamer ages are more likely to be around 33 than a small child. He then throws this all to the wall by drawing comparisons between the brutal killing of a small child 15 years ago and one of the assailants, Jon Venables’s addiction to videogames. This point was not only offensive and tenuous at best – it also had no basis in fact at all. The children who tortured and then killed that poor Jamie Bulger had been fed a diet of horror movies like Childs Play and Chuckies Revenge. Nice way to try and score some cheap points at the expense of a tragic event you ignoramus!
Titchmarsh then asked Mr Ingham what enjoyment he got from the “brutal violence” in these games. Mr Ingham replied that it was the story and intrigue that drove these games not the brutal acts – at least he would of said all that if he had not been talked all over once again by Julie Peasgood. She slammed him with the one statement that would be so hard to defend “How do you defend a shootout at an airport?” – the old MW2 slam dunk surely for the side of the “righteous”? Once again, Tim Ingham remained calm and polite and made it know that there are plenty of other entertainment forms that deal with these sort of things, like movies and TV for instance – he made the valid point that surely the new wave of Horror-Porn movies like Saw and Hostel are far worse. Once again this was shouted down.
In a final check of the gallows before they kicked the stool away Titchmarsh and Peasgood came in for the one-two punch about violence and the effects it has on “our” children. Tim took the opportunity to hammer this very logical point home – censorship of content is in the hands of the parent, they have ultimate responsibility for what their children watch and play. This was met with wry smiles and shaking heads from the panel and boos from the audience – boos for fucks sake!
A well educated, polite individual states a 100% fact on a “debate” on National television and what do the masses do? They boo him! Does the host or any of the panellists stop and say “well I don’t agree with your feelings on videogames but we do need to make a concerted effort to make sure people realise about the age restrictions and content of ADULT videogames”. No they say nothing and just let Mr Ingham take one for the team.
This sort of public bloodletting needs to stop. Tim Ingham was not there to “promote” videogames. He was not there to say “hey everyone let your kids play Dante’s Inferno”. He was there to simply state a fact that most real gamers already know. The power to influence is in the hands of the parent or carer.
The government can slap age ratings and labels all over the damn boxes – they can put a big neon sign saying “This game contains rape, dismemberment and buggery of a plushie!” people would still just shrug their shoulders and say “It’s only a game though innit?”. No you twat it’s not! It’s an interactive experience and you owe a duty of care to that minor to keep them safe. The number of times I have been in game shops and the parents are agreeing to pick up COD4, MW2, GTAIV (too just randomly pick names) for kids as young as 7 or 8. And what are the staff to do? I have heard numerous people in Game or Gamestation state to the parents that this title is really not suitable for kids and point out the age rating – even this does not deter the blind troglodyte from picking up little Jonnies murder-fest in 3D.
The simple fact is that we are becoming a nation of lazy, uneducated, sheep. We take the tripe fed to us by corporate media and tabloid slurry and digest it as gospel. We are sedated by 101 piss-poor reality shows that dull our senses and minds enough that we don’t care about problems at large we just want to see if Jedwood cries on the next show, or what height Simon Cowell has his waistband this week. The videogames industry is a vibrant pool of talent and is eclipsing all other forms of media entertainment. The likes of ITV should be doing things to embrace the industry and the changes afoot rather than mocking them openly on TV. It’s going to be ITV desperately trying to muscle in on the games market in a few years time, trying to keep their multi-billion pound empire afloat as the wheel slowly come of the cart of television as it once was.
As an end note, please TV/Radio producers, if you are going to make a program or undertake a debate please get people who actually know what they are talking about, do proper research (this does not involve a fag packet and a diagram in any way!) and speak to broadcasters that embrace the culture like Charlie Brooker, Jonathan Ross and many others. Tim Ingham was an absolute star on that panel, he presented himself in a cool and collected manor and made valid and fact based arguments – it’s just a shame it fell on deaf ears and blinded eyes.
End Note :-
I have included a youtube link (above) to the show segment because I think it’s something all gamers should experience for themselves. If you have been incensed as much as I have I suggest you drop an email to ITV’s complaints department ( [email protected] ) to let them know exactly how much or a farce that “debate” was.