Furian Fridays: Our Friend Keith

Ah, Keith Vaz. Defender of our children & crusader against the dark influence of video games. Or at least, that’s how he sees himself. I am, of course, talking about the Labour backbencher and all round curmudgeon Keith Vaz, who is once again calling for the blood of the games industry. And what’s got him all hot and bothered this time? Well, media-savvy as ever, Keith is taking the recent comments by Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik that he “trained” for his despicable act of attrition by playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 as God-given proof that games are a negative and potentially harmful influence on us all.


So Keith, we’re going to take the word of a man who’s been described as being “unable to distinguish reality” from the warped fiction in his head? A man who wears the number of dead children he massacred on his chest like a proud high-score? I know this man genuinely feels games are a negative presence in our lives, but if you take anything a crazed mad-man says as a confirmation of your point, you instantly dismiss it by proxy.

Every time someone with any semblance of a public profile spouts a random point there’s always a ‘survey’ or ‘paper’ by some two-bit University that confirms their words. Just like there’s always a ‘study’ that claims the polar opposite of a given ‘academic survey’. Attempting to quote speculative science as a means of solidifying your argument is about as wise as quoting a mass-murderer.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I respect Mr Vaz’s right to his own opinion, but haven’t we been over this old argument a hundred times before? Grand Theft Auto 3 was cited as a negative influence, so was Manhunt. The latter even got banned for a short while, proving just how much the media can a) misinterpret the point of a game and b) create a mass hysteria based on nothing more than 2nd hand information. Call of Duty or Manhunt are no more violent than a Hostel movie or an episode of Game of Thrones. Are these forms of entertainment being banned for showing blood, guts and acts of extreme violence? No, despite them all being as fictitious as video games. Perhaps it’s the out-dated connotation that video games still have as being the past time of young children that colours the minds of Mr Vaz and readers of the Daily Mail.

The fact that Mr Vaz’s Early Day Motion (kind of like an in-house petition in the House of Commons) only got the backing of seven other MPs shows us just how little oomph his little crusade really has. Video games are steadily becoming this most lucrative and wide-reaching mediums of entertainment, raking in millions despite the economic downturn of the last three or four years. Video games are not going away anytime soon and are undeniably a significant part of our British economy and digital identity.

Perhaps Mr Vaz’s core point is that games need a stricter system for age rating? The European PEGI rating process is already a reliable and strict rating system, so why would we need anything more stringent? If his desire it to protect our children, then surely the watershed on violent video game advertising on television and the age ratings on certain adult-themed titles is proof that these particular video games are not for children? We’ve all watched films, television shows or played games well under the recommended age rating when we were kids, that’s just part and parcel of the accessibility of online shopping and the communities we all form at school and home.

Awful tragedies such as Columbine did not serve to prove games are training tools for would-be killers, it showed that academic bodies need better screening and profiling of children and young adults in order to pre-empt and rehabilitate aggressive or anti-social tendencies.

Video games are an incredibly versatile and unique art form that allows a person to go from spectator to player. No other art form provides you with the core sense of power and control a game does. If the same strict and merciless censorship laws that exist in Germany or Australia were enforced here a significant proportion of the games we play would be removed from retailers and UK-based online shops. Dead Space? Gone. Grand Theft Auto? Gone. Silent Hill? Definitely gone. Let’s keep promoting the benefits we all get from games by voicing our informed opinions to the wider world. Hey, maybe one day we might see ol’ Keith in a Call of Duty lobby waiting for a match. Or maybe he’s more of a Halo man? Who knows?

Source: Telegraph Online

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