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08 Mar 2010

At Last, the Perfect Opportunity to send Hugo Chavez a Game

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It feels slightly taboo to say you support Venezuela's famously populist president, Hugo Chavez. At best you mark yourself out to be a hopelessly gullible idealist and at worst some kind of child-eating communist. But from what I know, I'd take Chavez over any of our party leaders here in the UK.

We've been meaning to send Chavez a War on Terror since Day One but we lacked a solid pretext except to say, "We think you're alright; here, you might like this". Not that we need a solid pretext, but in Chavez's case, it seemed requisite.

Well today we have our pretext and unfortunately it's a negative one. Last year, Venezuela passed a law that comes into effect this week, banning the import, sale and promotion of violent video games and toys.

Video and electronic games with violent content will be banned, as will toys that mimic any number of tools of violence - guns, knives etc. Additionally, toys that "stimulate aggressiveness or violence" also come under the ban.

Trying to ban violent video games or violent movies is about as pointless as trying to ban violent art or violent books Not only are the contraband items rather vague and general, but the application of this new law is equally broad and open to all manner of subjective interpretation. For example, the "promotion" of one of these toys is now unlawful and punishable by up to 5 years in prison. What constitutes promotion however hasn't been defined.

Why is this so bad? For a start, even if the law were laudable, it's hard to imagine how it will be effectively enforced. Modern history is littered with failed attempts to try and ban x or y genre because of its supposedly degenerative effects. It never works. And it shouldn't. Censorship isn't the answer. Trying to ban violent video games or violent movies (the two most common entertainment forms under attack) is about as pointless as trying to ban violent art or violent books.

More importantly, even if you accept that violent games really do have a negative effect on society, any blanket, extreme measure like this wipes out too many entirely valid games and toys because not everything that deals with violence and aggression is bad. Of course, War on Terror encourages a violent, short-sighted and aggressively greedy disposition to succeed (most of the time). It demands this attitude because the game is, at its heart, an exercise in role-playing and through that process you reach a greater understanding about the world and the forces that drive it.

Acknowledging then that some toys and games are "acceptably violent" raises the even trickier question of who decides what is an isn't valid - hence the need for the extreme blanket measure in the first place. This approach, while absurd and unfair, is far preferable to the minefield of subjective whim and fancy that would follow a case-by-case evaluation.

The reason that Chavez and the Venezuelan government have got this so disastrously wrong is that this ban is the answer to the question: "How do we reduce violent crime in our society?". Providing opportunity and reducing inequality, along with effective policing and education are the key tools for reducing crime. Never has it been limiting access to the Playstation. If this were the case, the most violent countries would be those countries where children played the most games.

So we finally have a good reason to send Chavez a War on Terror. I'm still debating whether to include a lengthy, reasoned argument or simply the single line: "Surely, you don't want this banned too?" The latter would be a lot easier to translate into Spanish.

We'll be sure to update you on any response we might get.


Posted by Andy S on 8 March 2010 - 1 comment

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Comments so far:

  1. Good idea! Maybe comments from people who are generally supporting the Chavez gouvernment are more helpfull than right-wing propaganda against Venezuela. Keep us informed! Andy P.S.: Interesting article about Venezuela and media campaings against it: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/mar/18/venezuela-electionAndy from Germany - 22 March 2010

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