Thursday, December 07, 2006

The pointless discussion strikes back

I guess I might have declared the discussion about 'Killerspiele' over too soon. Given the fact that two days ago a student somewhere in Baden-Württemberg, the country I live in, announced an amok run for yesterday, the discussion flamed up again.

Bavaria and Niedersachsen, two German countries, want to pass a law which will, in essence, outlaw games with 'excessive violence against humans'. Those who produce or use them will then possibly be punished with either fines or even up to one year in jail. The traders and - in the case of adolescents - parents will probably not be punished at all.

The funny thing - in a very un-funny way - about this is that most violent computer games (ego-shooters mainly) are not produced in Germany at all - and somehow I doubt that any German lawyer can use a German law against a person or company not situated in the country. The American producers will just stop selling those games in our country ... they'll loose a market, but they will not become outlaws because of this new law in Germany. Those who own the games will be forced to destroy them ... something which I personally don't really want to do just because politicians are looking for the 'easy' way to solve a problem.

Another problem I see with this law is this: what exactly is 'excessive violence' in the context of this law? Is it 'excessive violence' if I kill innocent bystanders? In that case only very few games ... most of which were never mentioned in the discussion ... will get prohibited. Is it 'excessive violence' if I shoot somebody in a multi-player game ... somebody who can in turn shoot me as the other players are armed as well? Most multi-player games do not feature a lot of bloodshed, they're about being faster and better than the other one. They often strife to be realistic - especially "Counterstrike" with it's realistic weapons -, but they're not necessarily more violent than a real-life game of "Gotcha". Is it 'excessive violence' if a digital person or creature I control to a certain extend kills other digital persons or creatures? In this case the law would also prohibit role-playing games and strategy games.

From my point of view as a gamer I also fear that if this law should pass through and become official, it would also open the door for more strict laws in the future. After you've banned certain games for everybody in the country, why not ban certain other media as well (for example literature you don't like because it's against you). This seems to be a large step from violent games to anything which criticises the government. But when you look back in history, you have to admit that such large steps have ... with some smaller steps in the middle ... happened before.

I absolutely agree with the more sensible politicians about stricter guidelines on which to judge computer games. And I more than agree with those who want the rating for computer games to be treated as a law, not just as a suggestion. I just don't think that completely banning games will solve the problem. Besides - especially adolescent boys are not above breaking a law and everything forbidden is far more interesting to them than anything legal.

Politicians, for example, never speak about the fact that both shooters we've had in Germany during the last years were members of a sport shootist's club. Those clubs train their members in using a gun, of course, but for sport competitions. And I'm quite sure that an adolescent, who's not allowed by the law to own a gun (even though both shooters were of age), could take one with him from the club one day ... as there's no such thing as complete control.

Those politicians also neglect to mention that the shooters usually were mobbed and that in current years mobbing has become more frequent than it was before ... not just in school, but at work places as well. There are more people killing themselves in Germany because of mobbing, there are more people getting ill because of mobbing and sometimes there are even people getting killed by the mobbers. And then there's the small group of people getting themselves a gun - or several guns - and then going out and shooting the mobbers.

Solving the problem of mobbing - and maybe changing the way people for the sport shootist's clubs are selected - is not as easy as just blaming the games ... whose lobby consists mainly of under-aged people. As those usually don't even vote once they've reached the voting age, it's relatively safe for politicians to take this path of least resistance.

From the point of view I have, we - that is the people who like computer games and do not want to be branded as criminals just because that's easier than to solve the real problem behind the amok runs - only have one chance to change this:

Find a political party that's not jumping the wagon of blaming computer games for everything and vote for them during the next election - provided you're already old enough to vote.

We can show the politicians that the most powerful lobby still is the voter - provided we use the power democracy gives to us.

No comments: