Rep. Joe Barton (R-Civ IV)

Texas Congressman Joe Barton, a member of the Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, is one of the stalwart votes for "kid-friendly" regulation in entertainment. But in a meeting yesterday, after railing against the sins of "Grand Theft Auto" series, Barton dropped this bomb.

I'll have to confess, Mr. Chairman, that I am also a video game player. I have worked my way up to Civilization IV. I haven't yet been able to beat it but I at least understand the fundamentals of it. I think that game is an 'E' game, which means that anybody can play it. Given the fact that the industry is booming and that more games are being purchased than ever before - over $10 billion last year - it is imperative, in my opinion, that parents are informed about the content in the games that their children are playing.

I find it hard to believe that Barton is a serious gamer. Five minutes of a good Civ IV game can result in the genocide of hundreds of thousands of people. Nuclear weapons can be dropped on cities; primitive cultures can be subjugated at the end of a broadsword. Meanwhile, in Grand Theft Auto, you can shoot a ho. If there's a better encapsulation of the priorities and ethics of our congressional censors, I've not seen it.

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  • MP||

    Yeah, but Civilzation is like a classic war movie...no blood! I mean, if you don't see gore, it can't be that bad. It's like the difference between Double Dragon and Mortal Kombat. In Double Dragon, killing is clean, while in Mortal Kombat, it is brutal. Thus, Mortal Kombat is insidiously evil. Evil, I say!

  • Timothy||

    If those primitives didn't want to suffer the sound and the fury of my nuclear arsenal, they shouldn't have settled on my bombing range.

  • ||

    I guess the logic is that your average 17 year old isn't able to drop nukes on a primitive villiage but just might slap a 'ho.

  • ||

    I guess the logic is that your average 17 year old isn't able to drop nukes on a primitive villiage but just might slap a 'ho.

  • ||

    I guess the logic is that your average 17 year old isn't able to drop nukes on a primitive villiage but just might slap a 'ho.

  • ||

    I'm still waiting for the "Hadju Girl" patch for my Karaoke Revolution game.

  • Franklin Harris||

    "I guess the logic is that your average 17 year old isn't able to drop nukes on a primitive villiage but just might slap a 'ho."

    Or, he can join the U.S. military and do both.

  • ||

    I seem to recall reading an essay somewhere (Liberty Magazine, perhaps?) that argued "god games" like Civilzation and Sim City are more corrupting than violent games because they encourage the players to treat not merely individuals but entire cities or nations as means to an end (the "end" being the greater glorification of the player) and they promote the idea that centralized decision-making is the best solution to virtually every problem.

  • Joseph Stalin||

    One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.

    P.S. I'm more of an FPS man myself. Reminds me of my salad days robbing banks...

  • ||

    I occasionally play an older strategy/fleet combat game called Star Trek: Armada II. In the course of playing that game, it is common to use your phasers to exterminate entire populations of planets. Why? In order to re-populate them with the right sorts of people, of course. One would think that a Star Trek game would not involve laying waste to whole planets, but there you go. Even the Federation does it!

    I won't even mention what I've done playing a dark side character in the Star Wars games. Parents, be warned. Nothing is safe.

  • ||

    Or, he can join the U.S. military and do both.



    This seems to me to be an unnecessary slander. The overwhelming majority of our servicemen and servicewomen are performing difficult jobs with dedication and care.

    Caricaturing them this way does not advance a debate.

  • ||

    As for the god games, those aren't corrupting. You petty mortals aren't capable of understanding the infinitely inscrutable mind of God. Better for the kids to learn that lesson early, I say.

  • ||

    In a game like Civilization IV, you get to destroy thousands of lives, but the carnage happens at one remove. The player doesn't have to get any (cyber) blood on his hands. That is, of course, why it's perfect for government types.

  • ||

    This seems to me to be an unnecessary slander. The overwhelming majority of our servicemen and servicewomen are performing difficult jobs with dedication and care.

    Caricaturing them this way does not advance a debate.


    Speaking as a proud serviceman: I think your humor module is on the fritz, Clean Hands.

  • ||

    Speaking as a proud serviceman: I think your humor module is on the fritz, Clean Hands.



    Could be, could be.

    I'll shut up now. :-) At least about this.

  • ||

    "You petty mortals aren't capable of understanding the infinitely inscrutable mind of God."

    First time through, I read that as "the infinitely INCURABLE mind of God." What would Freud say?


    And, by the way- what happened to the Prime Directive, P L?

    ---------

    Stalin has it right. In the mind of the sociopath- er, Congressman- the destruction of a civilisation, even his own, is just career advancement; it's not personal.

  • ||

    "it is imperative, in my opinion, that parents are informed about the content in the games that their children are playing."



    Yes, it is imperative. If your 7-yr old is playing GTA:SA and you have no idea what he's doing, then you're simply ignorant and a bad parent.

    But whether or not parents "are informed" is not really the issue, here. The issue here is whether the government can/should force retailers and game manufacturers to spend their own money to do the parenting legwork for them. I mean, where does it end? How much more clearly does it need to be spelled out?

  • ||

    [Cue Dave W. labelling me a fringe libertarian extremist for suggesting that parents actually be responsible and pay attention.]

  • ||

    P Brooks,

    Well, I've never really understood the Prime Directive, having been raised on the Kirkian Corollary to it, but I think it's okay to interfere with the other "Great Powers" in the Alpha Quadrant. Like the Romulans, the Borg, etc. Of course, one would think the Federation wouldn't countenance blasting planetary populations out of existence, but you'll have to take that up with the game designers.

  • ||

    "Well, I've never really understood the Prime Directive, having been raised on the Kirkian Corollary to it, but I think it's okay to interfere with the other 'Great Powers' in the Alpha Quadrant."

    In an episode of ST:TNG it was finally spelled out that the Prime Directive normally only applies to pre-warp civilizations.

  • ||

    In an episode of ST:TNG it was finally spelled out that the Prime Directive normally only applies to pre-warp civilizations.

    Though later in TNG, it was used as the explanation for why the Federation was staying out of the Klingon Civil War.

  • ||

    SR, if I were on the Federation Supreme Court, I'd rule that the Prime Directive no longer applies to any civilization that directly interferes with the Federation's culture (e.g., by blowing up our ships, planets, etc.). Warp drive or no warp drive.

    I'd also rule that any civilization that doesn't meet Kirk's personal standards is also exempt.

  • ||

    Bah! You fools! Don't you know the point of any good game is to seize gold mines, raze forests, build military bases, hire mercenaries, and destroy your enemy? That is what is best in life!

    The only question is whether Barton builds his ziggurats as a defensive line or spreads them throughout his base.

  • ||

    Five minutes of a good Civ IV game can result in the genocide of hundreds of thousands of people.

    Hmm. Have to give it a try, then.

  • ||

    "Though later in TNG, it was used as the explanation for why the Federation was staying out of the Klingon Civil War."

    Well, we could parse it out by suggesting that the Prime Directive merely bars interfering with the internal governance of warp-capable civilizations, but bars contact completely with pre-warp civilizations.

  • Armed&Hammered||

    It is also indicative of the psycholigical difference between dropping a bomb on a target from 20,000 feet and sticking a knife in somebody's ribcage. Carpet-bombing a grid on a map is a lot less horrific to the killer than getting up-close, personal, and bloody. Thus, it is "acceptable."

  • Jammer||

    What's weird to me is that most games I see already have content ratings on them. Granted, this voluntary rating probably only happened becuase of threatened gov't intervention in the past.

    As a parent, I like the idea of ratings (voluntary or whatever) because I can tell if a game is okay for my kid right from the store shelf or if I need to go home and look it up on the interweb.

  • ||

    P L- not that I would pass judgement(!) on a God, incurable or otherwise, but.... My recollection of the Prime Directive was that meddling in the natural development of other civilisations was strictly verboten. I'm pretty sure that total eradication qualifies as meddling (Kirk's endorsements notwithstanding).

    Something which just occurred to me: the Federation had no evident restrictions on the adoption of alien technology which would serve to accelerate Earthly civilisation (viz "weapons systems"). I reckon that's just proto-Bushian hypocrisy.

    As for Congressmen- they should be rounded up and gassed: for the you-know-who-dren

  • ||

    Do you think that the Prime Directive extends (will extend) to children? No wonder that Wesley Crusher is so danged annoying.

  • ||

    Hmmm- now that you mention it, the Prime Directive has a vaguely Rousseau-esque flavor. Let the little children revel in their natural state, as we exploit and/or lay waste to the planet on which they live.

    Wesley Crusher: you may dispose of him as it pleaseth you.

  • ||

    LOL, in one game of the first Civ, I got into a centuries long war with the Mongols, as we were the only two left.

    It turned into a war of extermination, with every city being nuked at least once, and completely destroyed when captured. At the end when I had won, I had a single city left on my home continent.

    All the land masses had undergone rampant desertification and pollution covered most of them. Sea levels had risen to swampify most of the coasts. Only constant work kept my 1 million people from starvation.

    I managed to turn the planet from a rich, pleasant world in to something out of a bad sci-fi novel. :)

  • ||

    Have you filed as a Presidential candidate yet? I see you as a shoo-in.

  • ||

    As a parent, I like the idea of ratings (voluntary or whatever) because I can tell if a game is okay for my kid right from the store shelf or if I need to go home and look it up on the interweb.

    I've got nothing against the ratings, but they are hardly necessary to tell you whether a game is age appropriate. A quick look at the cover art, screen shots and self-promoting blurbs will allow you to tell with roughly 95% accuracy whether a game is appropriate or not.

    That's what's really crazy about the whole thing: Games like GTA don't try to dress up as youth-appropriate passtimes so they can get into your home and infect your kids. Games that are adult themed tend to advertise it so that the target demographic is interested.

  • R.J. Lehmann||

    A bit OT, but it's a little strange to describe Barton as just "a member of" the subcommittee. He's the chairman of the main committee.

  • ||

    It's always amusing to read of these Republicans who obviously feel that "it takes a village."

    My not quite 7 year old has thoroughly enjoyed destroying planets with the Death Star in the Star Wars real-time strategy game, "Empire at War" and I often overhear him saying to himself in an evil voice, "I will crush the rebellion!" When he gets bored with the Empire, he plays as the Rebellion. I don't care if he's pretending to be good or evil as long as he's thinking.

  • ||

    I were on the Federation Supreme Court, I'd rule that the Prime Directive no longer applies to any civilization that directly interferes with the Federation's culture (e.g., by blowing up our ships, planets, etc.). Warp drive or no warp drive.

    Ay, there's the rub; in order to do any of those things, that civilization would need warp drive -- otherwise, they'd be stuck in their own star system. Well, unless we've landed our ships on their planet, in which case we've already fucked up the Prime Directive anyway....

  • ||

    Do you guys remember the episode where Picard figured that the Prime Directive required that they sit back and watch a planet's atmosphere dissipate, killing off its pre-warp humanoid inhabitants?

    It was the only time I can remember wanting to punch Picard in the coccyx.

  • ||

    Was the seizing of the Botany Bay a violation of the Prime Directive?

    Talk amongst yourselves.

  • ||

    You bet your ass it was.

    Kiiiiiiirrrrrrkk!

    Kiiiiiiirrrrrrkk!

  • ||

    Was the seizing of the Botany Bay a violation of the Prime Directive?

    I don't think so.

    First of all, the crew and passengers of the Botany Bay were human. I believe Riker said in a TNG episode that the Prime Directive doesn't apply to humans.

    Secondly, IIRC, the BB was intercepted in interstellar space. While technically they had not acheived warp drive technology, they were travelling to the stars, which is what the warp drive is for.

  • ||

    http://www.khaaan.com/

  • ||

    Lurker Kurt,

    Riker was a doofus. Despite strange dialogue insinuating that he had some sort of competence, Riker's behavior in the series indicated that his last few promotions were definite errors. So anything Riker had to say about the Prime Directive should be taken with a grain of salt.

    As for the Botany Bay, they had a culture, too. And the Enterprise destroyed that culture. Surely the Prime Directive was written to prevent precisely the type of abuse that Kirk unleashed on those innocent supermen and women. The spirit of the law, man, the spirit of the law!

  • ||

    PL,

    Khan and his followers could have remained free to develope their own culture if they had not tried to take over the Enterprise.

    It was only after the attempted takeover that Kirk decided to drop them on that desolate rock.

    Come to think of it, their culture remained intact. Their militaristic ways did not change. I believe the prime directive was not broken in this case.

  • ||

    Come now, Lurker Kurt, let us be reasonable. The Enterprise crew beamed aboard the Botany Bay without an invitation. There's two violations right off the bat. They go fiddling around with the ship's controls. More violations. They yank Khan and his crew off the ship without so much as a by-your-leave. More violations. Then they have the gall to not respect the superiority of the genetically enhanced humans--Homo superior, if you will. More violations.

    Naturally, Khan had to take corrective action. In a manner called for by his warrior culture.

    As for Kirk's illegally dropping them off on a desolate and doomed rock, well, we all know how that turned out, don't we? Khaaaan!

  • ||

    IIRC, the planet Kirk left them on what actually a nice, fully habitable one. The problem was a few years later a nearby star went nova or something, and destroyed the planet's ecosystem.

    Thats why Chekov didn't even realize what planet he was on in Wrath of Khan.

  • ||

    star trek nerd cred thread meter

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