Crispy Gamer

The Political Arena: The Elephant and the Badger

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My fellow gamers, last time in The Political Arena we discussed how the two remaining Democratic nominees feel about videogames, censorship and media violence. (Well, okay there's actually only one remaining -- and the other is sort of clinging to her last heart while hoping for the right combo, power-up or cheat code -- but she's learning that GameFAQs can't help you with delegates. Boy, was that labored.) If you recall, on this issue at least, Obama comes out on top, given that he sounds reasonable (if vague), while Hillary thinks it takes a village to keep society safe from videogames.

Now, after much ado, we're ready to talk about the remaining candidates. Huckabee is out, and he would have been fun to write about. I mean he's a preacher and culture conservative who loves to shred in Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Pity he's no longer a contender. How do the GOP candidate and the Independent former Green treat the videogame issue? Let's start with the one who doesn't have a prayer and end with the elephant in the room simply everyone is talking about.

Hey, hey Ralphie boy! You're up first!

Ralph Nader is a hero. Nader was a force of nature in the '70s for bringing populism and heroism to the field of consumer protection. His book, "Unsafe at Any Speed," made seat belts into something that actually saved people's lives and he forced them to stop putting the gas tank on the back of the Pinto -- it inconveniently tended to burst into flames when rear-ended. Nader was effective, arguably, because of his enormous ego, and that ego has led him to once again run for the highest office in the land. That's why I'm calling his political animal "The Badger:" It's a tenacious beast that's bold and fearless when threatened. Given that Nader's crusade is against corporations, you have to give the man points for courage. So, what's the man's take on videogames and violence issues?

His take is hard to find actually -- while it's not listed as one of his "issues," conveniently for me on March 26 the following was posted on his official Web site and blog -- the author is "The Nader Team" -- under the heading "Amusing Ourselves to Death" (the post promotes a book of the same name) and says: "Computer screens. Monster plasma televisions. iPods. Video games. Are we amusing ourselves to death? Isn't it time we got off the couch? And begin an outdoors movement to take back the country? From the corporate Republicans and corporate Democrats? Isn't it time to put away the screens, and the video games? And get out and get some fresh air?" [Note: emphasis mine]

Do you think Nader is out of touch? Doesn't he sound out of touch? What the heck is an "outdoors" movement and how can I avoid it? The couch is comfy! Do you like Gears of War or Halo 3? Isn't it time for lunch? Isn't it time to go out and buy another videogame? I'm tired and there are wolves after me!

Ahem.

Aside from the fact that Nader doesn't seem like the "outdoorsy" type, this isn't bad advice. I don't think we're "amusing" ourselves to death with our devices but I do think we're losing the outdoors as a huge part of childhood -- and "outdoors" doesn't mean traveling around in World of Warcraft, but that's neither here nor there. This statement sounds a lot like Obama, but Nader does have a history of trying to use government pressure to attack corporations (vote Nader if you want to take Electronic Arts down a peg -- no offense, EA!) and he did lead the way to the law that lets the police give us a ticket for not wearing a seat belt in most states. Lowering the death rate for automobile collisions is a more concrete goal then banning game sales hoping to prevent another Columbine. Let's put Mr. Nader on the fence then -- it just isn't one of his issues.

John McCain, you're next. Come on down!

It's easy to imagine McCain standing on his stoop and yelling for those damn kids to get off his lawn. The man is amazing, but he's also old, and traditionally, old age and liking God of War 2 are mutually exclusive. Republicans don't get asked these questions as often and McCain earned his maverick reputation -- and the enmity of a lot of his own party -- by voting across the aisle or moderately as his conscience dictates. Until recently it was hard to accuse McCain of pandering. Presidential politics seems to have changed that, given that he's now comfortable hanging out with the likes of a Christian Right demagogue like Hagee.

Ontheissues.org has an interesting collection of quotes, but these are mostly from 1999. Back then McCain believed that "unfiltered Internet robs our child of their innocence and that parents should be active in media kids are exposed to." So far, so reasonable. He also said that we should "label violent media products like we label cigarettes" -- uh, what? -- and that "violence in the media caused the Littleton shootings (Columbine)" . [Note: emphasis mine] More recently, in 2003, the Christian Coalition rated him 83 percent on their complicated and influential "family values voting record" score.

Would McCain legislate against violent media? Is he pro-censorship? Maybe, maybe not. The scarier thing for gamers is his belief that violent media -- and not the many other factors -- caused Klebold and Harris to rampage and kill people. That's political pandering during a tragedy at worst and a misguided view of gaming at best.

That's All, Folks!

Four candidates remain. Well, technically Hillary is mathematically out and Nader is a hopeless cause, so we actually have two remaining. One has promised to do nothing unless compelling evidence surfaces linking videogames to societal ills, but states that children's time might be better spent on things other than gaming, while the other seems to think that games cause ills but hasn't said what he'd do about them (and in fairness, that quote is from 1999).

An informed voting public is key to a democracy, and voting in favor of videogames and Hollywood -- even if you don't like the product -- is a valid issue. It's important to know where candidates stand on issues important to you. So, now you know, and knowing is half the battle!