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Tim Simmons
04-09-2008, 11:35 AM
in 20 years he'll be doing insane Andy Rooney commentary, but right now, he's making a lot of sense:

Stephen King: Videogame Lunacy
EW's pop-culture columnist peels away the hypocrisy a Massachusetts proposal to ban sales of violent games to minors, another attempt by politicians to act as surrogate parents that he says is not only doomed to fail, but is undemocratic to boot

STEPHEN KING ON VIOLENT VIDEOGAMES ''Could Massachusetts legislators find better ways to watch out for the kiddies? Man, I sure hope so, because there's a lot more to America's culture of violence than Resident Evil 4''
By Stephen King


I'm no fan of videogames; pretty much gave them up in the late '70s or early '80s, when my kids used to beat me regularly at Pitfall! (hell, they used to beat me at Pong, and back then our youngest wasn't yet eligible for T-ball, let alone Little League). Sure, I've occasionally plugged quarters into one of the machines in the lobby of my local cineplex and shot at some bad guys, but I always miss the high-value targets and can never remember how to reload. As for amassing enough points to get bonus time? Forget about it. If I arrive early for the show, I'm much more apt to stick my money in the nonviolent machine that's full of stuffed toys. You probably know the one I'm talking about; you get 30 seconds to maneuver the claw, then drop it. I won a stuffed dog on one occasion doing that. Another time I won a rubber frog. When you squeezed it, the frog made a ribbit-ribbit sound and stuck out its tongue, which I enjoyed (your uncle Stevie is easily amused, he admits).

So, nope videogames are not my thing. Nor am I some kind of raving political nutcase. But when I heard about HB 1423, which happens to be a bill pending in the Massachusetts state legislature, I still hit the roof. HB 1423 would restrict or outright ban the sale of violent videogames to anyone under the age of 18. Which means, by the way, that a 17-year-old who can get in to see Hostel: Part II would be forbidden by law from buying (or renting, one supposes) the violent but less graphic Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

According to the proposed bill, violent videogames are pornographic and have no redeeming social merit. The vid-critics claim they exist for one reason and one reason only, so kids can experience the vicarious thrill of killing. Now, what does and doesn't have social merit is always an interesting question, one I can discuss for hours. But what makes me crazy is when politicians take it upon themselves to play surrogate parents. The results of that are usually disastrous. Not to mention undemocratic.

One of HB 1423's cosponsors is Rep. Christine E. Canavan, of Brockton. ''I think this legislation is a good idea,'' she told the Boston Herald. ''I don't want this constant barrage of violence on young minds and for them to think it is all right.'' It's a good point...except that it seems to me that the games only reflect a violence that already exists in the society.

Nor will I argue for the artistic value of stuff like God of War, or 50 Cent: Bulletproof, where looting the victims of gang violence is part of the game (players use the money to buy new Fiddy tunes and music videos classy). I do, however, want to point out that videogames, like movies, have a ratings system, and ones with the big M or A on the box mean ''Not for you, baby brother.''

And if there's violence to be had, the kids are gonna find a way to get it, just as they'll find a way to get all-day shooters like No Country for Old Men from cable if they want. Or Girls Gone Wild, for that matter. Can parents block that stuff? You bet. But most never do. The most effective bar against what was called ''the seduction of the innocent'' when this hot-button issue centered on violent comic books 60 years ago is still parents who know and care not just about what their kids are watching and reading, but what they're doing and who they're hanging with. Parents need to have the guts to forbid material they find objectionable...and then explain why it's being forbidden. They also need to monitor their children's lives in the pop culture which means a lot more than seeing what games they're renting down the street.

If HB 1423 becomes law, will it remain law? Doubtful. Similar legislation has been declared unconstitutional in several states. Could Massachusetts legislators find better ways to watch out for the kiddies? Man, I sure hope so, because there's a lot more to America's culture of violence than Resident Evil 4.

What really makes me insane is how eager politicians are to use the pop culture not just videogames but TV, movies, even Harry Potter as a whipping boy. It's easy for them, even sort of fun, because the pop-cult always hollers nice and loud. Also, it allows legislators to ignore the elephants in the living room. Elephant One is the ever-deepening divide between the haves and have-nots in this country, a situation guys like Fiddy and Snoop have been indirectly rapping about for years. Elephant Two is America's almost pathological love of guns. It was too easy for critics to claim falsely, it turned out that Cho Seung-Hui (the Virginia Tech killer) was a fan of Counter-Strike; I just wish to God that legislators were as eager to point out that this nutball had no problem obtaining a 9mm semiautomatic handgun. Cho used it in a rampage that resulted in the murder of 32 people. If he'd been stuck with nothing but a plastic videogame gun, he wouldn't even have been able to kill himself.

Case closed.

Hoggie
04-09-2008, 11:40 AM
You tell em Stephen!!! Good thing they didn't try to regulate all your awesome violent books, which a lot of highschoolers read.

Fourthman
04-09-2008, 11:40 AM
Yeah, I saw this in my EW Friday. Slow clap. But even 30 years ago (which is how much older Rooney is than King), Rooney was decidedly more lightweight and prone to flights of fancy than old Steve is. I'm not sure how much Rooney has written over the years, but I think (and hope) a novel plus per year keeps the mind slightly more limber than a 5 minute segment once a week for 8.5 months per year. Depends on the guy too.

Tim Simmons
04-09-2008, 11:41 AM
You tell em Stephen!!! Good thing they didn't try to regulate all your awesome violent books, which a lot of highschoolers read.

dude did write Carrie, after all..

Drkemerld73
04-09-2008, 11:41 AM
Another time I won a rubber frog. When you squeezed it, the frog made a ribbit-ribbit sound and stuck out its tongue, which I enjoyed (your uncle Stevie is easily amused, he admits).

Picturing that is making me laugh.

Fourthman
04-09-2008, 11:42 AM
By the by, this piece is prominently featured on his Wikipedia page:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_king#Society_and_politics

mattbrand
04-09-2008, 11:43 AM
Stephen King rocks.

Tim Simmons
04-09-2008, 11:45 AM
Yeah, I saw this in my EW Friday. Slow clap. But even 30 years ago (which is how much older Rooney is than King), Rooney was decidedly more lightweight and prone to flights of fancy than old Steve is. I'm not sure how much Rooney has written over the years, but I think (and hope) a novel plus per year keeps the mind slightly more limber than a 5 minute segment once a week for 8.5 months per year. Depends on the guy too.

Man, did you watch 60 minutes this week? Rooney at the car show-- it was awesome...
"I had a 1929 Packard Sutdobaker. It went 90 miles an hours back in '35. I don't see why anyone needs a new car. There are pretty women at the car show. I can't get in and out of cars anymore."

Andy Rooney is a highlight of my week...
What's scary is those segments of his you agree with...when you're like "Give 'em hell, Andy!"-- it's like a crystal ball into my eventual nursing home years.

Master Jack Rabbitt
04-09-2008, 11:47 AM
:thumb:

Fourthman
04-09-2008, 11:49 AM
Man, did you watch 60 minutes this week? Rooney at the car show-- it was awesome...
"I had a 1929 Packard Sutdobaker. It went 90 miles an hours back in '35. I don't see why anyone needs a new car. There are pretty women at the car show. I can't get in and out of cars anymore."

Andy Rooney is a highlight of my week...
What's scary is those segments of his you agree with...when you're like "Give 'em hell, Andy!"-- it's like a crystal ball into my eventual nursing home years.

We watch every week. Rooney drives my wife nuts. As soon as they come back from the break into his segment, she starts doing her impression, which is very similar to the Martians in "Mars Attacks". In fact, the only time that Tracy Ullman has ever made me laugh was the 2 seconds of the promo for her new Showtime show when she does him.

But yeah, if I didn't agree with him ever and thought he was completely irrelevant, I'd just watch 50 minutes.

Hoggie
04-09-2008, 11:51 AM
Andy Rooney is irrelavent today. His crusty old guy shtick is just plain annoying. If I wanted to hear an old person complain I would just talk to my Grandma.

Ryan Elliott
04-09-2008, 11:52 AM
Awesome.

Fourthman
04-09-2008, 11:54 AM
Andy Rooney is irrelavent today. His crusty old guy shtick is just plain annoying. If I wanted to hear an old person complain I would just talk to my Grandma.

Even a broken clock...

VonDoom
04-09-2008, 11:57 AM
I couldn't agree more with Mr. King.

Evan Wiener
04-09-2008, 12:00 PM
Troubled Youth is the topic of every desperate politician looking for headlines and notoriety to get their name out there and rile up hypocritical support for, man, at least 45-50 years or so.

These are fly-by-night politicians that have a few terms at best, and exploiting an industry forced to defend itself like crazy.

The media that doesn't do its homework on this topic is as shallow as its audience that believes their nonsense. National media often doesn't do their homework these days.

Hell, when the national media covers something as relatively unimportant as a Philadelphia sports team, they often resort to the "Hey, they threw snowballs at Santa Claus and eat babies" theme. Only one of these is true, and the dude dressed as Santa was drunk off his ass at the time (making people bitter) and it happened over 40 years ago. There are crimes more horrendous with shorter statute of limitations.

When covering comics, you often get that "Biff, Pow, Zam! They're not just for kids! Did you know that?". Yes, yes we did. Decades ago. Thanks for catching up.

Lazy parents looking for excuses for their darling children (to others, the troubled youths) like to blame others in society for all of their problems. Columbine didn't happen 'cause those kids liked pressing keys on their keyboard to shoot pixelated demons. There were other demons in their head that were MUCH more dangerous, and unfortunately, they got a hold of actual weapons without anyone noticing. What are the parents of those kids up to today? Nah, a follow-up story is irrelevant. Let's just talk about Doom again and how it's influence caused murder. Also, playing Pac-man made me want to eat those candy dots on paper and run from ghosts, Mario encouraged me to do shrooms, Zelda games taught me how to wield a sword and shield and slash people...

It'll never change, but at least we have smart people like Stephen King as advocates for intelligent discussion on the topic.

Tim Simmons
04-09-2008, 12:00 PM
Andy Rooney is irrelavent today. His crusty old guy shtick is just plain annoying. If I wanted to hear an old person complain I would just talk to my Grandma.

Andy's irrelevance is WHY I watch him. He's the best unscripted comedy on TV today.

Tim Simmons
04-09-2008, 12:01 PM
Hell, when the national media covers something as relatively unimportant as a Philadelphia sports team, they often resort to the "Hey, they threw snowballs at Santa Claus and eat babies" theme.



god bless Eagles fans.

Dreaded Anomaly
04-09-2008, 12:04 PM
I'm glad that Maine is represented by people like King.

Once we start allowing legislation based on "social merit," we're one short hop away from a police state.

Hoggie
04-09-2008, 12:13 PM
Just wait for the flood of anti-violent video game news stories there will be when GTAIV comes out. I really hope you can shoot media people and paparazzi in the new GTA. That would give me extreme pleasure. Just imagine a mission where you are hired to help out a pop culture figure by taking out the pap. Sorry, but I am so stoked for this game.

Evan Wiener
04-09-2008, 12:46 PM
god bless Eagles fans.

Just sayin' we're no different than Giants fans, Raiders fans, Broncos fans, etc.

It's not like other cities have had their share of crazy fans. They just like to blow it out of proportion when they talk about Philadelphia sports fans. National media is lazy and fall back on cliches to write their stories.

Shawn_Kehoe
04-09-2008, 01:05 PM
Steve's still annoyed that they took away his EC Comics ... that Seduction of the Innocent reference was no mistake.

Donal DeLay
04-09-2008, 02:44 PM
hehehehehe - Stephen King said "Fiddy" - hehehehehe