A growing controversy over hidden content in video games – sexually explicit or violent scenes – has led to a call for government regulation and fines. Is that the best way to address this problem? David Phelps calls for greater parental involvement in selecting appropriate video games for children, rather than a turn to the nanny state.

Read the full text here.

  • Jason O’Mara

    Dear Mr. Phelps,

    Since I discovered the website a few months ago, I have been a regular reader of the Acton Institute’s articles. I have been in nearly complete agreement with every article until this one.

    There have been and will be legitimate opportunities to criticize Hillary Clinton. This is not one of them. I am a believer in the "It takes a Family" philosophy and the principle of subsidiarity. I am a believer in the marketplace and freedom in general. But I also believe that government has a legitmate (and not small) role to play in restricting smut. The government has a legitmate interest here because pornography is so very harmful to society.

    Your critcism of Ms. Clinton in this instance smacks of the knee-jerk – if President Bush is for it, then we’re against it – attitude of the current Democratic Party leadership. Shame on you.

    Jason O’Mara
    Aurora, Colorado

  • Ronald Stephens

    Mr. Omera appears to overlook the overall idea presented in this article and to take opportunity to politicize the matter. Just stop it.

    Ronald Stephens
    Sacramento, California

  • David Michael Phelps

    Dear Mr. O’Mara,
    I am unaware of any point in this commentary where I criticize Senator Clinton. I merely point out an unstated premise of her (and many others’) call for increased governmental involvement. I am also unaware of President Bush weighing in on this particular issue, but my opinion would not change if he too jumped immediately to a governmental solution before a familial one. If you wish, reread the article replacing "Senator Clinton" with "President Bush"; I am more interested in the point about subsidiarity than I am about particular politicians.

  • John Powers

    It seems to me you could make a toy gun out of sticks, and find extremely violent things to do with this toy.

    Would Senator Clinton be issuing a $5000 fine for making toy guns with sticks?


  • Jason O’Mara

    Dr. Mr. Phelp’s,

    I re-read you article as you suggested, and I must admit that it seems less critical than it seemed when I first read it. Maybe I am the one with the jerky knee.

    However, I still don’t think that this was the best example that you could have used to illustrate the point about subsidiarity. I agree that the most effective means of protecting children (and adults) from pornography and violence is through the family. But government involvment in restricting this kind of trash does not impede the family or discourage it in any way from performing it’s protective and formative functions – at least not in any way that I can see.

    A better example of a detrimental government "solution" might have been about social security and the resulting abandoment of the elderly.

    In your response above, you say that you are merely pointing out an unstated premise of her call for increased government involvement. But, as I stated above, while increased government involvment is not an application of the principle of subsidiary, it is not necessarily a violation of it either. In other words, her ideas in this instance are a-subsidiarity, not anti-subsidiarity.

    Also, I didn’t mean to imply that President Bush had weighed in on the issue. I was merely trying to compare your (mild, but I still think unnecessary) criticism of Hillary Clinton to the common knee-jerk criticism of the President’s ideas – a comparison that I now regret and apologize for.


    Jason O’Mara
    Aurora, Colorado

  • David Michael Phelps

    Dear Mr. O’Mara,
    Thank you for your reconsideration of my article. I agree with you that the government does have a role in matters such as these, but I suppose my main hope is that when matters such as these arise, I would rather hear more about the family from the policy makers. Of course, be they Democrat or Republican, such statements might be received as "shifting responsibilities." My problem is less with Sen. Clinton for calling for increased regulation and more with a society wherein such calls are increasingly frequent.
    As an added nugget of consideration, what are your thoughts on Austraila’s recent ban on the game?

  • Jason O’Mara

    Dear Mr. Phelps,

    I was not aware of the ban in Australia, but I don’t think that I would be opposed to it. I understand that it is a slippery slope from banning pornography to banning other forms of expression, but I think that there is a line where pornography ceases to be art or free speech and becomes nothing more than an act of violence. I think that it is possible to put reasonable restrictions on these sorts of things without being arbitrary or tyrannical.

    I have an old college friend that now works as a crime scene investigator for a state-level agency. He has told me that there are two things that every violent criminal that he has investigated has had in common: possession of drugs, and enormous (he said ridiculous) quantities of pornography.

    I think that pornography poisons minds and causes real suffering. Who was it that said "your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins"?

    Also, thank you for remaining polite and forgiving my initial fit of belligerence. My mother would have said that it was my Irish temper, but my family has been here for four generations, so you would think that it would have been bred out by now.

    Jason O’Mara
    Aurora, Colorado

  • Manos Schizas

    Having actually played video games in the recent past, I would like to offer this piece of insight.

    Most PC games, and those running on many consoles, are never actually bought by the people who play them. Rather, pirated copies are distributed for free among friends, via p2p software or illegal copying, and parents never even hear of the transaction. All it takes is a DVD writer and/or a broadband connection.

    Given this fact, I should like to point out that the only way for parents to limit "exposure" to such material is for them to regularly monitor their children’s computer activities.

    But even that is not likely to work. A resourceful child (or any child with resourceful friends) would simply turn the volume down and be prepared to hit Alt Tab upon hearing a parent’s footsteps.

    There are solutions even so. Children might not be allowed consoles or private computers. Parents could perform suprise checks of the content of a pc or console. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But it is the only way.

    OR, parents could just come to terms with the fact that it is only human to be intrigued by violence. Take a look at your teeth in the mirror. Some are designed (or evolved) to shred raw meat off a dying animal.

    The point is not how to insulate children from scenes of violence, but how to steer them away from acts of violence. That is more complicated, because it involves more than just saying "you can’t do that". But it is the thing to do, nonetheless.

    Oh and Grand Theft Auto, at least the old releases I was young enough to be interested in, was one hell of a game.

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  • George Xu

    Mr. Phelps.
    Do you have any more examples about this, apart from Sen. Clinton? Or San Andreas?
    Have you played the game yourself? Have you any idea what you are talking about?