Censorship

Boston's Playstation-Fueled Crime Spree

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Boston Herald columnist (and police bureau chief) Michele McPhee approvingly notes that City Councilor Mike Ross, "along with nearly two dozen healthcare experts, youth advocates, street workers, ministers, child psychiatrists and even teens," is asking the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to stop carrying ads for Grand Theft Auto and other violent video games. McPhee is "all for First Amendment rights," but not when freedom of speech means that teenagers will be "staring at advertisements for video games that promote spilling innocent blood" at a time when Boston is experiencing an upswing in gun violence, some of it involving teenagers. "The question MBTA officials have to ask themselves today," says McPhee, "is whether any of these kids learned how to shoot playing violent video games."

They may also want to ask themselves whether they want to get into another pointless court battle by turning down ads with messages they don't like. The last time around, the MBTA wanted to keep ads promoting drug policy reform off its trains and buses, something a federal appeals court said it could not do, since it had created a "designated public forum" in which discrimination based on viewpoint is constitutionally forbidden. The group behind those ads, Change the Climate, won a similar victory in D.C. While the Change the Climate ads were overtly political in a way that Grand Theft Auto is not, the basic situation is the same: People want to ban messages that offend them. By endorsing that mentality, McPhee suggests she is against First Amendment rights only when they really matter.

[Thanks to Michael Graham for the tip.]

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  1. I’m all for the whole 1st amendment thing too…but think of the children!

  2. How about one set of Constitutional amendments for minors and one for consenting adults?

    I jest, I jest.

  3. The question MBTA officials have to ask themselves today is whether any of these kids learned how to shoot playing violent video games.No. Next!

  4. What about cops? Do they learn how to shoot playing video games? Maybe they get their “I’ll thump ya skull bitch” attitude from Warhammer.

  5. I can only speak for myself, but I learned how to destroy entire cities while playing Rampage at the local pizza place in high school.

  6. “The question MBTA officials have to ask themselves today,” says McPhee, “is whether any of these kids learned how to shoot playing violent video games.”

    The tragedy is that they didn’t… if so I doubt they would be very good shots.

  7. Will she also protest the advertising for Mob Over Miami, the Hollywood version of her book which features sex, drugs and murder? Does the city really want teens staring at advertisements for movies that promote spilling innocent blood?

  8. “The question MBTA officials have to ask themselves today,” says McPhee, “is whether any of these kids learned how to shoot playing violent video games.”

    I sure hope not. The targeting system in the new Vice City Stories game is really wonky at times.

    Likewise, I hope no teenagers learned how to fly a helicopter “playing violent video games” either. The physics are a little off, and that could make the life/art imitation scenario dangerous, particularly if said teenagers are using helicopters equipped with giant magnets to heist sea containers full of drugs.

  9. What Elliott said. As someone who shoots competitively and has played more than his fair share of video games, the assertion that video game shooting carries over to a skill improvement in the real thing is utterly laughable.

  10. It reminds me of all of the furor back in the day over Mortal Kombat and the wide spread epidemic it spawned of children tearing out each other’s spinal cords and hearts.

    Or the senseless wave of murders of little green men that followed the release of Space Invaders.

    Will we never learn?

  11. As asinine as these arguments are, I don’t think that anyone is literally arguing that people learn to fire weapons by playing video games. The argument is that people learn the behavior of shooting others by emulating it in video games. The actual operation of weapons is not what they’re talking about here.

  12. Well, according to a New Yorker article on Will Wright I was just reading, Sim City gave us a whole generation of architects and city planners.

    For myself, playing Unreal Tournament taught me that a fully automatic gun is wimpy and useless, and in order to really kill someone it takes at least three rocket-propelled grenades.

  13. Dave B. — Beyond simply “depicting violence as acceptable”, I’ve seen it claimed that games help harden a would-be shooter to the act of shooting at another human being. I think that’s fairly ludicrous too, since even the most state-of-the-art computer animation is hardly so life-like as to truly “feel” like shooting a living person.

    At most, video game practice might help develop ones’ trigger finger reflexes, though there’s a considerable difference between the feel and trigger pull of an X-Box controller and a Beretta 9mm. One might make a better case that extensive game play falsely convinces would-be gunmen that they can go out and take down a rival gang member without bothering to spend any time at the practice range… Thus explaining the prevalence of tragic “bystander” fatalities as gangs attempt ridiculously difficult drive-by shootings that worked just fine in GTA.

  14. “Shooting others” is really not that difficult a concept if you take the actual mechanics of it away.

    It seems to me that the most dangerous sort of person would be one with no knowledge of violence whatsoever. If any of you know any severely autistic kids/adults, you know what I mean. They can be very dangerously violent because they DON’T understand the concept.

    The other argument is that it “desensitizes” people to violence… whatever that means. I would think that if you set out to “sensitize” folks to violence you’d be considered to be torturing them.

    It’s not like we actually have kids becoming more violent because they think, hey, shooting people’s no big deal. If it had, we’d have increased rates of violent crime. But we DON’T.

    We just have a bunch of adults who think that boys’ heart rates aren’t elevated enough when they see violent crime on television.

  15. McPhee is “all for First Amendment rights,” but

    How many tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimes must I say it? When someone (including the ACLU) starts a sentence with “I’m all for first amendment rights, but…” it’s time to fall back to the amendment that is second and get the firearms out.

  16. Well, according to a New Yorker article on Will Wright I was just reading, Sim City gave us a whole generation of architects and city planners.

    Yet another reason why certain video games should be banned…

  17. Yeah…GTA “promotes” spilling innocent blood in the same way that it “promotes” getting a rap sheet bad enough to get the national guard to chase after you through residential streets in a tank, and then suddenly getting them off your back by finding a magical floating “police bribe” icon hiding in an alley. Yeah, man, after I played San An, I started doing that every day…

    Oh, the fucking ignorance of some people is purely astounding.

    Selective freedom of speech is no longer freedom of speech. What part of that do they not get? And I don’t give a shit if it’s “for the children”. Why in the hell should we suddenly suspend the basic tenets of this nation just because they conflict with the desires of some people to have their children grow up in a sterile, rubberized, safety-netted world?

  18. As asinine as these arguments are, I don’t think that anyone is literally arguing that people learn to fire weapons by playing video games.

    Dave Grossman does.

  19. mediageek – I just visited killology.com, found an article by him on video game violence and after a quick look through it, he seems to be arguing that video games remove any inhibition against killing. His whole site seems to be about this idea. Where does he argue that video games teach people the skills necessary to fire weapons? Even if he does make this argument somewhere, it doesn’t seem to be central to his case.

  20. So if speech does not have the power to influence people, why again is it so important that it be protected?

  21. I’m older than you guys so the bad behavior I learned from watching television shows that taught violent behavior has lead to a lifetime of slapping people in the face, poking them in the eyes, and spinning around on the floor while shouting “woo woo-woo-woo woo-woo-woo” until someone can feed me a piece of limburger cheese.

    Years of therapy have, so far, been ineffective.

  22. hey, WTF is up with the popups? Not even Mozilla’s popupstopper can stop them.

    Stupid Reason…very stupid. I have a steadfast rule that I will never, ever buy something that advertises via popup. So you just lost a customer because of your tricky little popups. Hope it’s worth it. What, the thinly veiled subsription pitches weren’t getting the job done? Pshht.

  23. Trollman Dan,

    Good to see your intellectually lazy ass in true form today! Nobody said that speech “does not have the power to influence people”, simply that an ad for a violent video game does not have the power to convince an otherwise normal child to suddenly start shooting people. There are isolated exceptions to this just as there are with anything, but on the whole, it’s absurd.

    Why is everything in black and white with you? Does your brain just not have the ability to compute the vast gray area where most issues exist?

  24. Nobody said that speech “does not have the power to influence people”, simply that an ad for a violent video game does not have the power to convince an otherwise normal child to suddenly start shooting people.

    But I don’t think anybody necessarily said that, either…but judging from most of the comments here, the CW is that it’s absurd to think that violent video game playing in any way might affect a person’s thought process.

    You could just as easily mock the whole idea of advertising, ironically enough…I mean, I’ve seen plenty of ads for Grand Theft Auto, and yet I’ve not been inspired to go out and buy a copy!

  25. King Kong:
    I can only speak for myself, but I learned how to destroy entire cities while playing Rampage at the local pizza place in high school.

    I always played the giant lizard, because she turned into a naked chick rather than a naked dude at the end of the game.

  26. You could just as easily mock the whole idea of advertising, ironically enough…I mean, I’ve seen plenty of ads for Grand Theft Auto, and yet I’ve not been inspired to go out and buy a copy!

    Since you brought it up, Dan, I do mock advertising on those grounds. Except in cases where an ad tells you about a product or service you’ve never heard of before, merchants buy advertising as a way of rubbing their worry beads. They know that commercial success depends on circumstances beyond their control.

  27. Dave B.-

    Right here.

    ” Michael Carneal, the 14-year-old killer in the Paducah, Kentucky school shootings, had never fired a real pistol in his life. He stole a .22 pistol, fired a few practice shots, and took it to school. He fired eight shots at a high school prayer group, hitting eight kids, five of them head shots and the other three upper torso (Grossman & DeGaetana, 1999).

    I train numerous elite military and law enforcement organizations around the world. When I tell them of this achievement they are stunned. Nowhere in the annals of military or law enforcement history can we find an equivalent “achievement.”

    Where does a 14-year-old boy who never fired a gun before get the skill and the will to kill? Video games and media violence.”

  28. The person who says “I’m all for the First Amendment” and then proposes or supports restrictions to free speech really DOES NOT support the First Amendment at all!

    It’s called a hypocritical double standard, and these people need to be called out and challenged on it.

  29. Evan!

    Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps Dan trolls here because people like you willingly respond?

    Jesus, either restrain yourself or install a filter or something.

  30. Given that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas sold over 12 million copies, it stands to reason that we should have an army of gamers wandering the streets killing people. That is, if you believe that games affect people’s thought processes the way these people think they do.

  31. “Get your ‘but’ off of my Bill of Rights.”

  32. Maybe they get their “I’ll thump ya skull bitch” attitude from Warhammer.

    Depends on the version:

    Warhammer Fantasy: “I will cleave thy head in twain, foul strumpet!”

    Warhammer 40,000: “Now, filthy heretic, in the name of the most holy Emperor of Mankind, you will taste the might of my plasma pistol!”

  33. geek,


    Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps Dan trolls here because people like you willingly respond? Jesus, either restrain yourself or install a filter or something.”

    I know…I just felt like cracking him over the skull with a little bit of actual thought. So sue me. What amazes me is that the Trollman keeps coming around here, even though he is laughed out of every comment thread he dares inject his intellectually deficient brand of contrarianism into. Yeah, we could all just ignore him, but what fun is that? He’s like an intellectual punching bag, if you will.

  34. Ten years of playing Myst and its four sequels have caused me to wander around aimlessly from one point to the next, touching everything in sight and tinkering with anything that moves. It’s really embarrassing.

  35. geek

    You want to know something, I don’t even own a console game system. I don’t even play PC games. None of the games really interest me all that much so I don’t have any use for them. All of my gaming pleasure comes from good old pencil-and-paper RPGs and miniature wargames.

  36. I went to school in Boston, rode the T every day, saw a dozen of identical (well, the ads had a handful of different character portraits but were otherwise identical) “Liberty City Stories” ads plastered to the wall of the Hynes Convention Center stop each morning and again each evening. The only influence they had on me was to cause me to think to myself “the reviews for Liberty City Stories were horrible” once.

  37. GTA offers an excellent test case for the games-promote-copycat-crimes theory. Has there been an increase in carjacking since GTA3 came out?

  38. Does anyone remember what video game it was that inspired Cain to kill Abel?

    And really, just distributing that book with that story in it is inspiring copycats. We should put an end to that, too. For the children.

  39. I believe that was Grand Theft Offering: Genesis tales.

  40. Where does a 14-year-old boy who never fired a gun before get the skill and the will to kill? Video games and media violence.

    Ya know, mediageek, a very quick scan of that article doesn’t show that the kid in question every played videogames. Seems to be a rather large assumption on the part of the author.

    And I can tell you for a stone cold fact that no video game in existence can teach you to use a real gun.

  41. “””I train numerous elite military and law enforcement organizations around the world. When I tell them of this achievement they are stunned. Nowhere in the annals of military or law enforcement history can we find an equivalent “achievement.”

    Where does a 14-year-old boy who never fired a gun before get the skill and the will to kill? Video games and media violence.”””””

    Are you kidding? Your saying that video games are a better instructor than you or the military can be. You’ve got to be kidding to the point I’m questioning if your really an instructor at all.

    It seems that a real instructor would understand that,
    1. Some people are naturally better at shooting than others.
    2. Simulation is no subsitute for the real thing.
    3. Simuation is no subsitute for the real thing!
    4. Placing a cursor over an object is not the same as aiming a firearm. Sights must be lined up, this is not true for the video game. (this is assuming the kid was aiming)

    “””And I can tell you for a stone cold fact that no video game in existence can teach you to use a real gun.””””

    I second that statement.

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