Washington D.C. Councilmember Michael Brown is probably running for mayor of the nation's capitol city in 2010, and he has a unique point-of-view regarding the largest problems facing urban D.C. At an April meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5A, Brown criticized a school beautification problem by saying that it doesn't address D.C.'s main problems, which are: A lack of vocational/technical schools, gunfire, a lack of neighborhood amenities such as grocery stores and excessive video game playing.
Having spent a mercifully brief time in inner-city Washington D.C., I can vouch for the gunfire and lack of neighborhood grocery stores, and I'll take Brown's word about the lack of vocational training for D.C.'s residents, but excessive video gaming? Really, Michael Brown? That's one of D.C.'s main problems? I've been to D.C., and I'm certain there are a lot of more pressing issues with the town than too many kids playing Super Mario Galaxy.
I'd like to propose an alternative theory. If the video game playing in D.C. is actually excessive, maybe it's a reaction as opposed to a cause of D.C.'s problems. If things are really as dire as the picture Brown paints, how could anyone blames D.C.'s kids for playing games? If I lived somewhere where guns were going off all the time, I couldn't get training for a job and there was nowhere I could walk to get a Pepsi, I'd play a lot of video games too.
Brown's speech is an example of a depressingly common political ploy that is being employed by would-be office-holders on both sides of the political spectrum. It works like this: If you say games are bad, people who don't understand games will believe you, mainly because "those damn vidja games!" seem so foreign, and getting rid of them seems like a very easy answer to very complicated problems.
Even in a country with a Free Speech clause built into the Constitution, banning games is easier than addressing the real cause of a city's problems, which are, in my opinion, a combination of bad resource dispersal (IE: The Rich getting richer and the poor getting the shaft), deep-seated historical and cultural issue that date back hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of years, and Man's brutal, violent nature. The real causes of D.C.'s problem are an unsolvable puzzle that's painful to think about, so of course people want to blame it on the cultural evil du-jour. In the 50s, it was comic books, in the 80s it was heavy metal and horror movies on VHS, and now it's video games. In 20 years, when video games are regarded as an essential part of the cultural landscape, it will be those new fangled holodeck, violence-o-trons the kids all seem addicted to.