I hate it when people argue past each other.
Take Gamasutra’s Kris Graft. He’s arguing that representatives of the game industry shouldn’t be meeting with VP Joe Biden to (as Biden put it) “look at concrete solutions to gun violence”. He thinks that the meeting would be an admission of guilt; that by showing up, you demonstrate that you’re part of the problem. Wal-Mart isn’t showing for that exact reason; they don’t accept blame, so won’t accept its consequences.
Fair enough. Sometime you do have to take a stand and say “no, your ‘reasonable compromise’ isn’t reasonable at all.” Right now we’ve got far too many woolly-headed calls for “dialogue” or “discussion” or “debate” that purport to disdain the critics while quietly endorsing their every claim in an attempt to be “reasonable”. Taking a stand and saying “NO” matters a lot.
But then take IGN’s Casey Lynch. Casey makes the point that games are going to get blamed anyway, whether they show up at the meeting or not, and that it’s better to be on the inside than on the outside. If you aren’t there, you’ll get blamed by those who are.
Lynch has a good point too! There’s a lot of good science backing up the point that there’s no real connection between games and gun violence…but there’s also a lot of studies pointing to a connection between games and “aggression”. Those studies have been criticized as being pretty dubious–good luck defining or measuring “aggression” in a way that means anything, let alone tying it to real-world violence–but it does still exist.* Rest assured, the NRA will be happy to trot it out if they can.
(They’re lobbyists. It’s their job.)
But this debate is ridiculous. Lynch and Graft are both arguing the same thing! They’re both arguing that game-makers shouldn’t be turned into fall-guys. They both don’t like the idea that this terrible tragedy is being cynically exploited by the industry’s critics.
They’re just coming at it from different directions. We just need to reconcile the arguments.
Here. Try this instead:
“We are happy to meet with you, Mr. Vice-President. We look forward to showing you why these concerns are unwarranted. We anticipate the opportunity to discuss the scientific proof that there is no connection between gaming and violence, and we’re delighted to demonstrate how the ESRB’s best-in-the-industry media ratings system ensures that parents can make proper purchasing choices.”
The political game is about definition as much as anything else. It’s about having the discussion on YOUR terms, instead of the other guy’s terms. It’s not about hiding away, but about getting out in front of the issue, being honest, demonstrating sympathy, and fearlessly advocating your position.
Don’t let them pass the buck to duck their own responsibility.
Stand up for yourselves.
Be fearless advocates. That’s what’s best for the industry, and since video games really aren’t the issue here, it’s what’s best for America.
(* If you’re that curious, just Google “Craig Anderson”. He’s a psychology prof at Iowa State. It’s pretty much all him.)