I read Seth Godin’s post Stuck (with a bump on the head). Apparently there is a study that found child seats are no more effective than seatbelts for children.
Yet Americans spend millions on car seats every year. In some cities, it is against the law to strap a child in with a seatbelt. In the mind of millions of people, child seats are safer, so they’re willing to spend that much on laws and products. Logically, these efforts are not well spent, yet people do it anyway.
I think that example can explain why the game industry is quiet when it comes to laws like the ones passed in Illinois. The laws try to ban the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors. No similar laws are being passed to ban the sale of violent or sexually explicit DVDs or movie tickets even though such sales happen, and in the case of DVDs, can happen more often.
Apparently there are studies that show that most video game purchases are made or approved by parents. Yet politicians and media will go in a frenzy about the need to “protect our children” and then pass laws that ban the sale of games to children. Now, if most children get their games through their parents, how are they being protected by a law that prevents the sale of the game directly to them? They aren’t, but politicians and parents can feel good and pretend that they’ve made a difference.
And I think that the video game industry in general knows that these laws won’t make one difference in their ability to sell games. I haven’t heard an outcry, and the IGDA made an effort only after the laws passed one of the two parts of the Illinois Congress. Maybe people feel that these laws are helping. After all, children shouldn’t be playing games with an M or A rating, so they shouldn’t be able to buy them. It makes sense. Of course, how much sense does it really make when you can point out that children aren’t buying the games in the first place! Once again, all the studies that the Illinois governor has used point out that minors CAN buy the games. It doesn’t tell you whether or not that they do. And those same studies point out that those same minors CAN buy DVDs at a much higher rate of success than games. Shouldn’t we protect our children by also banning the sale of violent or sexually explicit DVDs to children?
No, because people seem to understand that just because a child CAN buy DVDs it doesn’t mean that they DO. But there is no public outcry over children watching these movies. Not all movies are for children, after all, and the public knows this fact. At the same time, these people can’t get over the fact that not all games are for children either. It is a lot easier to assume that children are buying excessively violent games on an epidemic scale and that such purchases need to be stopped. It is a lot easier to assume because it is easier to believe that these laws are actually helping than to do something that actually helps.
And the game industry doesn’t need to worry because it knows the laws are ineffective. EA won’t lose out on sales since it knows that the people who make the purchases aren’t affected by these laws.