As a resident of the state of Connecticut, I’m pretty used to the government deciding that certain things are OK for me, and others are verboten and should be purged, or at least heavily discouraged. After all, it was my state’s senior senator, Richard Blumenthal, that, while our Attorney General, started a crusade against online classified sites such as Craigslist, going after them with the full weight of his office despite the fact that he couldn’t even do that legally, forcing them to remove the Adult Services section of their sites. The bill had no real positive impact – Craigslist censored it, but other sites like Backpage have similar sections1 – and all it did was remove individual contractors in favour of Asian Massage Parlors (who actually do engage in human trafficking), and sent advertisers to sections typically taken up by theraputic masseusses and other businesses that have nothing to do with sex trade.
The point of the above paragraph is simple: in my state’s pursuit of a sort of utopian living, they created no net benefit, and in a lot of ways, made things worse.
I say this now because my state has gone absolutely batshit cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs with video game legislation, as a means to prevent the next Sandy Hook from happening. I thought it was a gun that shot everyone and not a copy of Saints Row, but bear with me.
An article on GamePolitics.com2 sums up three bills currently being pushed in my state, two of which were discussed in a public hearing earlier.
1) State Senator Democrat Toni Harp, a 20 year veteran of the Senate that represents New Haven and West Haven, is pushing a bill that would ban minors from playing violent video games in arcades. Arcades!!! Toni Harp has been a senator since 1993, and that seems to be where she’s stuck when it comes to where the video game industry is, as arcades were starting to decline even back then. Even the few arcades that are around are either decidedly retro themed, or mass-marketed to families, such as Chuck E. Cheese’s and Dave and Busters. So the people who run the Game Zone in Shelton, CT – which mostly has ticket-vending games, and a cabinet of Tekken 5 that doesn’t even work right – better watch out, because Ol’ Senator Harp’s coming to get ’em! You’ll never Dance Dance in this Revolution again!3
2) Senator Scott Frantz (R-Greenwich) wants to create a task force that would study the effects of violent video games on Connecticut’s youth. See, he’s a Republican, so it’s bipartisan! But how is a state trying to wring revenue out of every nook and cranny going to pay for this? Well…
3) DebraLee Hovey, a Representative of the 112th district that includes Newtown and who is most famous for humiliating herself for insulting Gabby Giffords when she came to Newtown because something something gun control, has put in a bill that would add a 10% sin tax onto the final purchase price4 of a game rated “M” by the ESRB. Money taken in by this fund would ostensibly be used to educate parents about games, or more specifically, that they’re horrible and probably got 20 first graders killed. It’s not like we’ve been here before or anything.
It’s one thing for a woman who’s been in the Senate for twenty years to not have a clue that teenagers aren’t hanging around in smoke-filled arcade halls anymore, but Ms. Hovey’s bill is particularly damaging. Not to video games – it’s laughable and unenforceable at best, unconstitutional at worst – but to the larger dialogue we’ve tried to have as a community since December 14th. We’re all trying to figure out how to both cope with and prevent another tragedy like what happened at Sandy Hook, and with it other school shootings dating all the way back to Columbine. In that sense, DebraLee Hovey, being the representative from Newtown, has a unique voice to add to the debate, which was recognized by her placement on the task force dedicated to reducing gun violence that was created after the Sandy Hook shooting. Her position comes with a gravitas that should not be taken lightly. Ms. Hovey has taken her position, and used it in the cheapest way possible: to attack a medium – video games – that is only tangentically involved in the debate over Adam Lanza, in a cheap way to drive revenue to the state. She had a powerful position, a unique opportunity to speak up with a powerful voice, and when she opened her mouth, she vomited.
The only reason there are so many video game control bills is because video games are a softer target. Our industry doesn’t have the same clout as the gun lobby; we don’t have anyone nearly as powerful as the NRA. We aren’t told misty-eyed stories of ancestors defending the home front with archaic Atari 2600 cartridges. There is no amendment protecting the right to bear video games. Because of that, and because gun control zealots will never really win the gun control debate – and because Republicans like DebraLee Hovey don’t dare propose stronger gun control measures, lest they piss off their constituency – they pick on the easy target, say “yay, we fixed it!”, and then wonder in shock and awe the next time a tragedy happens. It’s appalling that someone in such a leadership position, when asked questions by the people she leads as to where to go, can come up with such a pathetic answer.
Normally, I wouldn’t think attacks so banal would get anywhere, but now, I’m not so sure. It’s Connecticut, one of the biggest nanny states in the nation along with New York and California, and we just had a school shooting. All bets are off, especially if they have the effect of making people believe something was actually done, and especially if it brings in a little bit of revenue to the state.
EDIT: A clarification has been added, that the bill proposed by Sen. Harp applies to “violent” video games, and not all video games. Thanks to Jim Hunter of Splitkick (also from CT) for the heads up. That said, whether it’s all video games or just the violent ones, it doesn’t change the bill’s slapdash and unenforceable nature. That Tekken machine isn’t going to have a person in front of it checking IDs, especially since it’s “T” rated.
1 – Hilariously, Backpage DOES NOT have an adult section for Connecticut. However, by changing the state that I’m viewing, I could browse services for other states, even with a Connecticut-based IP. So if I wanted to drive an hour north to Massachussetes, or an hour west to New York, I could get whatever it was that I couldn’t get in Connecticut. Hoo-rah, I’d need to waste a little more gas.
2 – Disclosures: 1) GamePolitics belongs to the Entertainment Consumers Association, 2) I am a member of the ECA, and 3) the ECA and GamePolitics are both based in Danbury, CT
3 – This line is so terrible that I’m actually going to keep it, just so aspiring writers know that even the pros have off moments.
4 – This would be after our 6.35% sales tax was applied. A game costing $59.99, once tax is applied, currently costs $63.80 in Connecticut. If this bill were to pass, the final cost would jack up to $70.18