Video Games

Responses to Reason's Gamer Poll: Is Personal Choice Really a Libertarian Thing?

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Would you kindly stop trying to lecture people on what this game is really about?
Bioshock

Reason's video game-themed issue has garnered some media attention and observations from places like The Washington Post, Roll Call, and The Huffington Post (who predictably declared the parody cover as sexist). Several gamer-oriented sites also noticed our coverage and offered some links to our content, particularly our analysis of how frequent gamers answered poll questions on political issues.

Comments on the gaming sites have been interesting and a bit of a learning experience about how poll outcomes get reported. There's a reason we titled our analysis "What's Libertarian About Gamers?" instead of "Gamers Are Libertarian!" We did specifically look at trends where gamers have a particular approach toward public policy that differs from the main. In some cases, we point out, they're more liberal. In others, particularly in areas of personal autonomy, we described them as more libertarian. Some commenters at other sites pushed back on this representation and wanted to lump personal choice as a progressive or Democratic position.

From Ars Technica:

Most Gamers generally support ideas that span both parties: better content ownership (Dems fight against), Less moral panic and censorship (Repubs fight against), Net Neutrality from ISP's (Libertarians fight against).

To take the single point about Censorship (which to be honest, both parties push for from time to time, but have historically been more Conservative Politicians) and to make larger points about "gamers" and how libertarian they are, is sooooo dumb.

Another:

LOL, i like the implication that the progressive platform is more government regulations about what people can do with their lives or bodies. Sounds like they are building up a straw man of other political ideologies, then interpreting the poll results in a way to bolster their own view while attacking their straw man competitors.

That must be a Libertarian thing to do…

And from Balloon Juice:

Since when were liberals or progressives into controlling what people can do with their bodies & lives? Aren't we the ones who are for freedom of choice & more sensible drug laws? The government regulating how much arsenic a corporation can dump in a river has nothing to do with personal freedom.

Well, Balloon Juice commenter (and others), perhaps you should check out our list of dumb quotes about the evils of video games by politicians and pundits. They are well represented by members of both parties. In California, it was progressive Democrat Leland Yee who pushed for a ban on sales of violent video games to minors, a law that was tossed out by the Supreme Court (and now he has much bigger problems to deal with). Progressive strongholds like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York are banning the smoking of e-cigarettes in public places, despite the fact that there's no evidence that there is any health risk to others in the vapor produced by these devices. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the current progressive president has gone after Four Loko for regulations, as have many states and municipalities whose political make-up runs the gamut from left to right. The FDA is also responsible for going after companies like 23andMe for allowing consumers to learn about their own genetic backgrounds and trying to ban trans fats.

And anybody who thinks the Democratic Party is that much better than the Republican Party on drugs isn't really paying that much close attention. The Department of Justice (DOJ) under Barack Obama is fighting to put people growing medical marijuana behind bars, even in states where it's legal. The proposed changes in drug sentencing and new clemency guidelines by the DOJ, while a huge improvement, are about achieving some sort of parity and end to disproportionate impact of prison sentences, not any sort of recognition of individual liberty. The administration argues that the sentences are unfair, not the criminalization of personal behavior.

The right to individual choice extends beyond whom you marry and what women do with their bodies. If progressives or liberals think the left is better at personal choice than the right, they better start contacting their Democratic officials, because evidence suggests otherwise.

There have also been some comments wishing that the poll had included broader questions for gamers in areas like gay marriage recognition and net neutrality. I actually agree. These weren't polls specifically designed for gamers. Rather, we added a question about gaming habits to two of our quarterly polls that tend to ask questions about the hot-button issues of that moment. Then we compared the responses to those of non-gamers in these more specialized polls. I'd love to see somebody take a broader look at the politics of gamers to see if there are other trends of note. Maybe the responses to our own polling will cause a firm like Pew or Rasmussen to take note.

Oh, and an aside to those who think we didn't know who the characters in Grand Theft Auto V were or what Bioshock was about: Of course we did. Even if Bioshock were intended as some sort of commentary against objectivism or libertarian philosophy, that would make it all the more important a game for libertarians to play.