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Dear Senator Leland Yee,
We, the gamer community, have heard your advice to “quiet down.” But as people who respect the rights of free speech and expression, we willfully decline your advice.
The gamer community is a varied one, not just the under-18 crowd you wish to protect, but a community who’s average age is over thirty years old. We understand your position as a United States Senator, and as a father of four children. Violence is a growing issue in our country, whether gun-based, or socio-economically based. We acknowledge you are trying to do something your morals tell you is right and you want to protect future generations from the tragedies that have befallen us, not just in the past year with Sandy Hook and Aurora, but in the decades before as well. Many people, including us in the gaming community, are outraged by such uncivil and frankly depraved behavior, but you need to focus elsewhere to solve this problem.
All M-Rated Games… You can see it on GTA IV
There is a group called the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (or ESRB) that has been rating video games for more than a decade. They’re the ones that put that lovely “M for Mature” rating on the bottom of all those video games you’re holding in that picture above. It informs potential buyers that the product they are looking at features content best suited for a mature (older) audience, and not for children of ages under seventeen years old. Whether parents, the ones responsible for most of those purchases, would rather have appeased children, or actually take their roles as parents seriously, is the fault (or credit) of those parents, not the games themselves.
Take a look at movies or music, which these games take some inspiration from. Mafia films that Grand Theft Auto can thank for inspiration are Rated R by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) are found in many homes, but those generally aren’t blamed for violent acts because most people know better. Red Dead Redemption is based on the end of the Wild West times of our own history, portrayed in accurate terms compared to our dumbed down, factually inacurate Texas-produced textbooks, which shows truth is not as important to teach our children as is patriotic falacies (yes, the Civil Rights movement did happen, and it mattered). Take a look at any news report the government requires of the big television networks. As a child, I did reports on the news for school, and I’ll be damned if any news story about the murders, rapes, crimes, trials, impeachments, political scandals and tragedies I watched, to do my homework no less, did less damage to a young mind than any fictional video games did.
My parents were responsible, good parents. They watched what I played, explained what needed to be, and always kept mature subject matter either in perspective or out of my hands. If there’s any problem here, it’s with parents that don’t do right by their children by not caring enough to take interest in their children’s interests. If you want to keep these games out of the hands of children, we are behind you. Making M-Rated games sellable only to those of the appropriate age is fine, but not out the hands of gamers mature enough to understand them.
You have done good work for California and the United States. As a District 12 Assemblyman you fought against child pornography (AB 3042) and for free speech in student newspapers (AB 2581). As a senator, SB 13 gave funds to domestic violence shelters, SB 1451 protected history from being taught by biased sources and SB 249 was proposed to save lives from gun conversion kits. We respect that service you have done for us.
This we do not respect: “Gamers have got to just quiet down… Gamers have no credibility in this argument. This is all about their lust for violence and the industry’s lust for money. This is a billion-dollar industry. This is about their self-interest.” These are your words. A few things need to be pointed out: first, you will not intimidate us into silence. The First Amendment was the basis for the decision in Brown v. EMA, and you should respect that. Second, gamers have more credibility than you think. Try reading this. Now read this one. Not enough? How about a third? Is a fourth necessary? Here you go. Third, we don’t lust for violence, at least the majority of us don’t. We value our free time and want to experience great stories in impossible settings and video games let us do that. A soldier joins the military to serve our country and to keep us free, and sometimes, too often in my opinion, they have to kill in order to do that. Are American soldiers lusting for violence, or are they serving the purpose and goals they entered for? I believe its the latter, and the same for the gamer who chooses the games they do. Yes, there’s killing in our games, but we’re not doing this outside our game worlds.
There is new reseach being produced now by governement dollars, which I know people on both sides of the debate will be watching intently. We disagree on the causes of the growing violence in our country, and both sides wish to see an end put to it. Whatever the result, we hope you’ll continue to represent California to the best of your ability, but give us a chance. Gamers are better people than the stereotypes may lead you to believe.
For the gamers out there reading this, remember that there are reasons Senator Yee is doing this. He is trying to protect children in the wake of some serious gun-based tragedies which were unclearly linked to the hobby we love so much. Any father in his position who heard about Sandy Hook is right to take measures to prevent such a horrible thing from ever happening again. This guy isn’t Jack Thompson, he’s an honest guy on the opposite side from us on a serious argument. This article was written in response to a rude comment made by the Senator (original article here from GamePolitics.com), and hopefully you will see it is not a personal attack on the man, but on his words. We respect his service to our country and hope you remember that when you respond to this article.