Thursday, February 16, 2006

Lack of Perspective

In Australia, any 15-year-old can buy games where they beat people up, shoot people, violate all manner of road laws, sell drugs, and heaven knows what else, but graffiti -- that's the scourge of civilization:

Australia First to Ban Graffiti Game

Now, this may come as a shock to some of the folks in the US who have quietly assumed that all the graffiti in their cities was the work of certain ethnic minorities prevalent in North America, but I can assure you that there is a hell of a lot of graffiti in Australia. It is, indeed, a problem here. I see graffiti in neighbourhoods I would never expect to see it in -- neighbourhoods where one would otherwise feel completely safe walking at night.

I'm from Washington, DC. I remember Cool "Disco" Dan. I remember Surrender Dorothy. We always had graffiti around us. My elementary school had to sandblast it off. Nonetheless, I'll tell you, there's a lot of graffiti here in Sydney. I'm simply shocked at the amount of graffiti on the trains, sometimes. No, I'm not just shocked. I'm angry. I feel bad for the poor shopkeepers who have to stay late to repaint their walls. Nobody is paying them for that. They'd rather be home with their kids. I want to grab the kids that mark up the trains, and yell at them, "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU, YOU IDIOT? NONE OF US CARE ABOUT YOUR STUPID, MEANINGLESS BULLSHIT TAG."

But in spite of all this, I can't, for a moment, see any reason to ban a graffiti game. It doesn't make any sense that you can buy games where you kill people, but not games where you spray graffiti. Why is spraying virtual graffiti more harmful than killing virtual people? I'd honestly rather taggers were inside, playing video games, than outside, scribbling incoherent, pointless nonsense on my front gate.

Really, there are three separate issues that trouble me, with respect to this:

1.) There is a double standard between movies and games. If this were a movie, rather than a game, it would not have been banned.

2.) The reaction to this game has been wildly out of proportion with its danger. Playing this game will not make anyone a graffiti artist any more than playing hours of "The Movies" has made me into a movie mogul.

3.) Australia desperately needs an R18+ rating for games. They have historically had to deny classification to numerous games, because they have no equivalent to the ESRB M and AO ratings. It's not possible to sell a game in Australia, if it is deemed inappropriate for fifteen-year-olds to play. This is not only bad because it causes some games to be effectively banned, but also because there are games available to all fifteen year olds that were originally designed with mature audiences in mind (since the alternative would have been banning them). The lack of an R18+ rating really isn't helping or protecting anybody.

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