As I write this, I'm just listening to a discussion on Radio Five Live on the merits of new violent computer game Grand Theft Auto 4.
I have to say, violent computer games like that do nothing for me. I don't see the attraction of such entertainment and I have never played any of the previous ones in the series, or anything similar. But I certainly don't think the game should be banned, unlike the spokeswoman from that tiresome body Media Watch, who has been given airtime by the Beeb to make that case.
OK, she is certainly entitled to her view, but she is not only wrong but annoying in her dogmatic insistence that people can't be trusted to exercise responsibility over the sort of games they play. She's been trotting out the usual line that violent games promote violence in society, despite the lack of any real evidence that that is the case. And she's also been saying that kids will inevitably get their hands on the game, despite the fact that it's intended for adults.
That last point does have some validity, as some parents do buy 18-rated games for their kids, which they might not do if it was an 18-rated movie. But the solution to that is for parents to exercise real responsibility for what their kids play, just as they should for what they watch. OK, not all parents will exercise that responsibility, but I don't see that people who enjoy such games should suffer because of the failings of some. Giving the state the responsibility of being the nation's moral policeman is never a good idea.
What really got my attention during the discussion was the statement that the launch of GTA4 would be the biggest entertainment release ever, beating even the biggest Hollywood movie in terms of the amount of revenue it's expected to generate. That's either a splendid tribute to the success of the Edinburgh firm which has developed the game, or a worrying reflection of a society in which a lot of people will be spending so much time and cash on sitting in front of a computer screen playing a violent game.
However, that is the choice of the people who decide to buy the game. It's cetainly not up to anyone else to decide that playing violent games should be banned - unless they can clearly demonstrate that such games directly cause real harm. Thus far, people like Media Watch have utterly failed to make that case. GTA4 may not be the most wholesome entertainment in the world, but if we are to live in a free society then people must have the liberty to play such games.
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