Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Night Lines

I would like to commend Jake Tapper and his crew for the great work they did on the War Games story that aired tonight on Nightline. It raised some good questions about who is getting paid as a so-called expert, and what expertise they actually have.

Unfortunately the anchor, Cynthia McFadden, had to add her own commentary at the end of the piece. Instead of saying something intelligent and giving the viewer some extra information, she chose to disparage the game featured in the story, and also the people who play it. She commented that 'Certainly none of us would endorse such a game, or allow our children to play it.'

Many of the people who play it aren't children. Most are probably in the vaunted 18-54 demographic to which broadcasters are increasingly trying to appeal. I'm sure attracting that demo is part of the reason for the current format of the show.

A Reuters article from a few weeks ago reported that the gaming industry has an $18 billion impact on the nation's economy. What does the gaming community think about the news media? Gamers feel they have a target on their backs. Publicity seeking zealots like Jack Thompson villify their hobby so he can make money. What's worse is that he exploits greiving families to do so. Gamers are not the anti-social gunmen-in-training that the national media make them out to be. The sick individuals who perpetrate these killings would do so anyway. Their parents have failed them by not being involved enough to teach them the values they ought to have, or see the direction their lives are taking.

Games are not the problem. I play them and consider myself a gamer. I am also a journalist nearing the age of 30. Playing video games hasn't caused me, or millions of other gamers, to attempt to take out a building full of people. If games had that kind of power, gamers would have already taken the country by force.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Great Conjunction

If you've seen The Dark Crystal, you know what I'm talking about. If you don't, watch it and learn.

I must have been feeling the effects of that celestial combination on Monday. After spending the morning watching the mud fly in committee, we were directed to do a story on sex offender IDs. Since the ole 'Polisher left, I have taken residence in Huey's Habitat. Surprisingly I have found that I actually enjoy the time spent there. My great-grandfather was a representative in these same hallowed halls, and maybe some of that blood runs in me.

Grumbling about the lost opportunity to provide our viewer (do we have that many?) with the proof that LA politics have changed for the better, I steered my steel horse onto River Road. "Let's go to a park and grab some MOS," says Cassie, earnestly trying to stay positive, but not quite feeling it. "How about City Park Lake?"

As we make our way along Dalrymple Dr., we spot a lone blanket with three people on it. At this point we didn't know the treasures this blanket would hold for us. As we pull into the parking lot, the trio becomes a quartet. We can see two women and two children, what luck! One of the women is a lawyer, and her brother-in-law, who is a pediatrician and father of the two kids, is on his way. The whole family is a gold mine of sound and we walked away with a tape full of the mother lode.

We shoot a killer stand-up and head back to the station.

Hands down, this is the best package I have ever put together, thanks to some excellent teamwork in the field and back at the station.

Check it out.

Friday, June 02, 2006

HB 1381

It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. I'm pretty sure it will pass the full Senate, probably without objection. The only change I can see possibly being made is changing the penalty from a felony to a misdemeanor.

In reading some responses to a Gamespot article, I feel the need to clarify some points. The bill only restricts minors from buying these games. If a kid wants a game they have to get their parent to buy it for them.

Basically it adds video games to a pre-existing law concerning material that is harmful to minors. It has a good chance of passing constitutional review, since it follows the same idea of keeping children from buying tobacco, alcohol, and pornography.

Grand Theft Auto wasn't the only game they had samples from, but all the samples were from games that put the player in the role of a criminal killing police officers and other people.

I thought the discussion that took place in the committee was fair and both side made good arguments. The only problem that may arise is that it makes it a felony to sell or rent these games to minors, instead of a misdemeanor, which one of the senators questioned. Because the law is somewhat vague, the standards might apply to more than just M-rated games, putting the retailers in an uncomfortable position. Unfortunately the bill couldn't use the ESRB ratings system as the standard, because it is a private system and not subject to being changed by a vote of the people.

As a gamer I not comfortable with having Jack Thompson sitting in a chair, five feet in front of my lens, railing against my hobby. As a journalist I couldn't allow my personal feelings to get in the way of objectively covering the story. In the end I came to the conclusion that nothing in this bill would prevent me from enjoying the games that I want to play.

Unfortunately it does nothing to help the children whose parents lack the skills necessary for good parenting. It also won't prevent some kid whose thought processes are so screwed up that they want to kill everyone in sight. These parents don't care what games, movies, music, or magazines are available to their children.

I don't think a parent should totally shield a child from the world; it's rough and they will need some knowledge to survive, but children should have a chance to see the world with innocent wonder and experience the beauty in nature and people before they come to know ugliness and cruelty.