February 24, 2006

[Politics] The Private Face vs. The Public Face

Today, I am glad that I am no longer a Utahn.

Many times while I lived in Utah, I had the wonderful misfortune to see the public face of Utah and the private face of Utah fight it out.

[Edit: Normally, I don't edit my posts, but after sleeping on it, I decided that the portion of my post that I had here was not only incorrect, but very discriminatory. I've removed that portion of my post as it not only has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but I fear that it leaving it would drive an additional wedge inbetween two communities that are already battling. Edit #2: Although based off of new information, I probably wasn't that far off...]

Today, the public face of Utah decided that as far as it was concerned, violent video games were the equivalent of porn. (See the text of HB257 here.)

Utah, a state so repressed that a tight, small bikini could be considered nudity per the existing text of Section 76-10-1201, has come up with a set of criteria for video games that almost any major action film would definitely hit, but is using that list for determining whether or not a game is porn.

The pertinent passage is fairly straightforward, but I'm going to bold the key word.
41 (b) "Harmful to minors" means that quality of any description or representation, in
42 whatsoever form, of inappropriate violence.
43 (5) "Inappropriate violence" means any description or representation, in any form, of
44 violence when it:
45 (a) is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with
46 respect to what is suitable material for minors;
47 (b) taken as a whole, does not have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value
48 for minors;
49 (c) is glamorized or gratuitous;
50 (d) is graphic violence used to shock or stimulate;
51 (e) is graphic violence that is not contextually relevant to the material;
52 (f) is so pervasive that it serves as the thread holding the plot of the material together;
53 (g) trivializes the serious nature of realistic violence;
54 (h) does not demonstrate the consequences or effects of realistic violence;
55 (i) uses brutal weapons designed to inflict the maximum amount of pain and damage;
56 (j) endorses or glorifies torture or excessive weaponry; or
57 (k) depicts lead characters who resort to violence freely.
63 [...](7) "Material":
64 (a) means anything printed or written or any picture, drawing, photograph, motion
65 picture, video, video game, or pictorial representation, or any statue or other figure, or any
66 recording or transcription, or any mechanical, chemical, or electrical reproduction, or anything
67 which is or may be used as a means of communication[.]

So, figure out what the deal is yet? The first hit is on line 56 up there. That "or" means that if anything in part five applies, it's considered "harmful for minors." Well, that rules out most video games. Most lead characters resort to some form of violence freely. Hell, Mario resorts to violence against animals on a regular basis. (Those poor turtles...) Heck, I consider football to be a fairly violent sport, with all the violent full-body tackles, facemasking, etc. May as well ban Madden while we're at it.

And while the public face of Utah is trying to show the world that it is a safe place for children, the private face of Utah is trying to capitalize on the very phenomenon they are trying to equate with porn. Avalanche Software, a division of Buena Vista Software (the entertainment software division of Disney), which was the main development house behind "25 To Life" is about ten blocks away from Temple Square. Take Two Interactive, the software publisher behind Rockstar Games and the "Grand Theft Auto" series, has a development house fifteen minutes from downtown Salt Lake City in the International Center. Singletrac Software was in the Greater Salt Lake area, and they're responsible for one of the most violent vehicular combat series in the history of video games.

Of course, their little backdoor move with the "or" also could potentially ban such classics as James Cameron's "Aliens" and pretty much the entire oeuvre of the current governor of California.

So, to the bishops in the Utah State Senate to whom this abberation of law has been passed for final passage, I only have one thing to say. D&C 121:37-39. Good day.


Anonymous said...

Evidently you are an 'outsider' in Utah as well as Dallas. You have shown your ignorance very well in this post. Your lack of understanding of what the 'Mormon' church really stands for is striking. And, as far as your 'speaking' for the members of the church and their 'wish' to have polygamy 'back' you couldn't be more mistaken. Your argument really falls completely flat in my opinion.
The truth is that video games have become so strikingly ridden with sex and violence and carry such a strong power to affect our children negatively (and adults for that matter) that it has become necessary to legislate. Is this attempt to legistlate perfect? No. It will take time to get it right. And I am convinced that the videogame industry will try their (read 'your') darndest to find a way around the legislation.

Michael Russell said...

In some ways, your comment is extremely accurate. As such, I have edited the original post to remove an inaccurate and unfortunately discriminatory point.

In other ways, you couldn't be more wrong. The research doesn't pack up your allegations. And until a trustworthy study comes forward that backs it up, legislation is the absolute wrong solution.

Besides, I can see worse stuff at the local movie theater than I can in a game. I can shoot someone in a game, but I have yet to play a game where I can take a pair of bolt cutters and remove a person's toe (Hostel). I have yet to play a game where I can break someone's ankles in an attempt to hold them hostage (Misery).

If you want to address issues in media, that's fine. But you can't pick and choose the media...only the topic.