StateCraft: Update

StateCraft: Update
Won't Someone Think of the Children?

Bonnie Ruberg | 28 Mar 2006 07:01
StateCraft: Update - RSS 2.0

Sex in videogames: Is it corrupting our youth? Politicians and parents across the country have certainly voiced their resounding "Yes." After all, what's the world coming to when teens, lured in by the simple promise of a cup of coffee, can find themselves simulating intercourse? These games are almost - dare we even say the word - pornographic. We have to regulate them, otherwise smut could flourish somewhere it has never been found before: in the hands of our young people.

Which, of course, is nonsense; our youth are just as corrupted as the rest of us. And videogames are hardly the only culprit.

Anyone who's ever accidentally typed a poorly-chosen phrase into Google ("tasty Asian," for example, instead of "good Chinese restaurant") knows the sheer abundance, diversity and accessibility of porn on the internet. Surely, any child who can hack Grand Theft Auto can effectively use a search bar. Add to that the fact that everyone knows "the internet is for porn." So, why is it that videogame sex and hardcore pornography - the former reviled, the latter often ignored - receive such very different reactions?

Porn, it seems, enjoys a limbo status. It's frowned upon, but at the same time, it's considered something of a necessary evil, or at least an unavoidable one. People, we feel, will always like pornography, so other people will always make it. Not that porn is without its legal restrictions: Like M-rated games, it's 18 to buy, and, like M-rated games in tomorrow's Utah, a felony to sell it to underage consumers.

Still, thanks to the internet, porn is so easy to acquire as to render over-18 laws almost negligible. Many sites make it clear they're for adults only, and parental controls are always an option, but these, too, do little to stop determined teens. Especially since, if all else fails, there's always text-based cybering. Does this ruffle the feathers of concerned parents? Certainly, but on a larger scale - both cultural and governmental - we seem to have let it go. We recognize that only extremists would try to illegalize porn completely. More importantly, we acknowledge that pornography is not the root of evil. Young people seek it out. It doesn't seek out them.

Yet, when it comes to sex in videogames (which, by comparison, could rarely be considered graphic), we're still running around with our hands in the air, shouting, "Won't someone please think of the children!"

Why? In part, it has to do with interactivity. The biggest difference between a pornographic movie and a sexy videogame is, whereas the movie viewer only watches, the videogame player is directly involved - and implicated - in the on-screen action. It's the same argument anti-game campaigners use about videogame violence. Not only do you witness someone die, you kill them. Not only do you see someone having sex, you perform the penetration.

It's this immersiveness, many argue, that gives videogames their unique ability to corrupt, to enter the minds of young, impressionable players who are unable to distinguish between the moral systems of the game and that of reality.

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