Thursday, April 19, 2007

Report Card

Not surprisingly, the Federal Trade Commission is glorifying rating systems yet again rather than foster intergenerational communication about videogame play. In their announcement last week they explained the rationale for releasing a new report on "Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children." Strangely, it was remarkably difficult to find the actual report for the first few days after it was announced, despite the fact that the announcement said it would be at this site. So instead I checked out the FTC's online media complaint form and their incredibly lame Flash quiz about ratings systems, before I finally found the actual document. In the FTC's new report, the most recent of five, current self-regulation by videogame manufacturers is both praised with the rhetoric of laissez-faire capitalism and denigrated with an eye toward political opportunity for an easy play to worrywart parents.

Many in the media were eager to connect violent videogames to the Virginia Tech shootings, even before any evidence had appeared. For example, see how anti-game activist Jack Thompson was already capitalizing on the Virginia Tech shooting, even while the scope of the loss of life was still unfolding. Yesterday, the characterization of the killer as an experienced PC user dominated media coverage: the LA Times say that one of his few activities was that he "downloaded music," and NBC characterized him as the creator of a "multimedia manifesto," based on the video, audio, digital image, and document files he sent to the network.

As Siva Vaidhyanathan was making a "Call for Reason," MSNBC listed "Mayor Hosts Summit of Videogame Violence" and "Violent Video Games 'Exhilarating Escapism' -- Survey," as "related stories" to his nuanced piece. To his credit Vaidhyanathan also criticized his employer for airing the hurtful footage from the killer and points out the excellent exchange on Re-Imaging Violence that aired on PRI. (The show, "Open Source," is also a great example of good talk recording, as I pointed out in a recent colloquy on podcasting.)

Update: By the next day it seemed that MSNBC had gotten around to questioning the Thompson hypothesis in "Were video games to blame for massacre? Pundits rushed to judgment of industry, gamers in the wake of shooting," because no actual evidence of console ownership or witnesses who had seen the killer play had emerged.

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