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Tuesday, November 25, 2003
The Big Bad Butter Battle Book
Armed Prophet has pinpointed the exact moment when he turned to the "dark side" of American politics. Evidentially, Dr. Zuess' "Big Bad Butter Book" brainwashed AP into becoming a liberal as a child. While his once bleeding heart has since turned into a gasoline fueled, GOP voting engine, he's still bitter and convinced that this mere kid's story was the culprit.
Is he joking? Knowing him, probably not. After being confronted with the tired "video games also make children violent," AP disagreed:
I'm not familiar with any video games that communicate to the player a coherent philosophy, but if one did, I think the same could be said for that. Books tell stories with identifiable characters whose actions are portrayed as having consequences. Video games may show violence as having little consequence, but there's no reason for a player to draw comparisons between the world of Grand Theft Auto and reality. But I can only be sure of that because children also get information from their parents, from school and church that violence isn't okay. A balance of input is necessary for healthy development.
First off, he contradicts himself here by acknowledging that children also get information from parents, etc. Furthermore, he's convinced "Grand Theft Auto" has less to do with "reality" than a children's book filled with fanciful cartoon characters and "Jigger-Rock Snatchems." If short, moralistic fables can single handedly sway a child's philosophies, why couldn't a video game?
AP argues that these games don't offer consequences for their characters. Really? If Mario accidentally jumps down a chasm, he dies. Game over. The moral here may not be as poignant as the late, great doctor's but it's still evident: If you're a plumber who's found himself in a fantasy world filled with giant turtles you should lay off those "power up" mushrooms. No, wait. My mistake. Jumping off cliffs = bad.
Take the example of the two teens in Tennessee who were allegedly inspired to shoot up a real-life freeway after spending too much time in front of "Grand Theft Auto." The case was thrown out of court and, at best, "GTA" was probably only the tip of the iceberg. These kids were obviously troubled to begin with. If the game hadn't inspired them, something else would have.
Perhaps a better example is "America's Army," "the first video game to be approved by the US military." The game is clearly being used as a recruitment device. If the army is willing to invest millions in a game that can sway people into devoting four years of their lives to military service, isn't this proof enough of their abilities? Possibly, maybe, but probably not.
So what have we learned here? Video games don't turn people into violent maniacs and "The Butter Battle Book" did not turn Armed Prophet into a preadolescent Dukakis supporter. If that were the case, Blog, who read 80% of Stephen King's catalog in middle school, would now be in prison for chasing people with croquet mallets. AP's early politics had more to do with his upbringing in a liberal house in a liberal town. If it takes a village to raise a child and if that village votes democrat, the kid is liable to do the same.