Violence & Kids & Mods

Those who take issue with violence in gaming and its impact on young people have found a new issue to take up, as Game critics slam violent 'mods' on ZDNet (originally published in the Wall Street Journal Online) looks at the fact that some of those making game modifications are minors, who are not only exposed to violent imagery, but are involved in creating it (thanks Mirsky). Here is a bit from the article that offers quotes from both sides of the issue:
David Walsh, president of National Institute on Media and the Family, a nonpartisan organization that looks at the impact of entertainment on children, contends that underage mod makers are the moral equivalent of teenage pornographers. He thinks the game industry should apply the same rating system used on games to the mods themselves and restrict kids' access to Web sites where mods are posted.

The issue is starting to catch the attention of Congress. "This is a whole new problem," says Dan Gerstein, communications director for Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut. Lieberman is the author of a bill that would authorize the Federal Trade Commission to penalize companies that intentionally market adult-rated entertainment directly to children. But the legislation is finely tailored to address deceptive marketing rather than prohibit kids from making mods for mature-rated games, Gerstein says.

Game companies say they are essentially powerless to regulate mods since they're usually written by people in their homes and posted on Web sites. (The companies' games, on the other hand, usually can't be downloaded from the Web but instead must be purchased from retailers.) Mark Rein, vice president of Epic Games Inc., the Raleigh, N.C., developer of Unreal Tournament, says people are getting upset about mods when the problem is that parents let their kids have the games. "If you don't have the game, the mod is worthless to you," he says.
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Gamers need to take a more active role politically. Right now, computer games are an incredibly easy target for ambitious politicians. What they need to realize, though, is that gamers are their constituents. I have sent a number of letters to my senator (who just happens to be good ol' Joe Lieberman) on the matter, and I encourage others to do the same thing. If gamers make their presence as healthy, normal individuals known when they're accused, rather than just talking on BB's, maybe games won't be such an easy target.

-Uther

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