The following rant is rated “M” for “mature”, and contains foul language, sarcasm, and use of the word ‘douchebaggery’. Parental discretion is advised.

Hillary Clinton is a lot of things. She’s a former First Lady. She’s stuck in a loveless marriage to a redneck buffoon, who happens to be a former US President. She was elected into the Senate, effectively, by default (after a certain former mayor of NYC backed out of the race due to prostate cancer). And now, she’s elevated herself from being the trophy Senator from New York to being the loudest voice in the Hall of Douchebaggery.

If you’re reading this space, you probably already know why I’m upset. Senator-by-Default Clinton has taken it upon herself to vilify Rockstar Games, the creators of the “Grand Theft Auto” series. “But M-D,” you say, “this is old news. Clinton and her ilk have been criticising so-called violent video games since after the Columbine incident.” This is true. Heck, it goes even earlier than that – back in 1992, Senator Joseph “MegaJew” Lieberman tried to rally the ‘pro-family’ faction against the “Mortal Kombat” series, stemming from the gruesome (and insanely popular) ‘fatality’ combos.

This time, the hubbub surrounds a Dutch hacker’s modification to “GTA: San Andreas” (which Darren and I are currently playing through in our spare time – what little there is). The mod is called “hot coffee”, and is supposed to unlock a minigame in which the playable character, C.J., can have simulated video sex. Bear in mind that this is in a game designed around stealing cars, beating people up for money, killing people, and using prostitutes as power-ups.

Senator Sandy V. Agina seems to believe that this mod, which is totally illegal and a violation of the licence agreement for the game, crosses the line into pornography, and has made it her mission to do two things:
1) get the ESRB rating for GTA:SA changed from “M” (Mature) to “AO” (Adults Only)
2) get Congress to pass a law making it a federal offense, punishable by a fine of $5,000, for video game retailers to sell “M”-rated games to minors.

But it goes even further than that – in a press conference, Clinton has said, in no uncertain terms, that “violent and pornographic” video games need to be regulated in the same manner as alcohol and tobacco.

Let that sink in for a second. In an age where we, as a country, are fighting an unwinnable war in the Middle East, government advisors are blowing the cover of CIA operatives, and oil prices are at all-time highs, a sizable contingent of our governing body is turning their attention to censoring a nine-month-old video game and equating games like “GTA” and “Halo” – games which, in the REAL world, have never killed anything other than time and social lives – to the causes for lung cancer and alcoholism. Fantastic. (As Jon Stewart would be quick to point out, I’m sure we’ll be hearing someone in the video game industry being compared to Hitler in no time flat.)

The point that everyone – and by ‘everyone’, I mean Clinton & Lieberman, the pro-family dingbats, and the media – seems to be missing is that games like “GTA” – games that carry an “M” rating – are intended for ADULTS. The “M” rating specifies that the material in the game is intended for players 17 and older, just like the MPAA’s “R” rating for movies. Plus, the ESRB uses 30 different modifiers on the rating to describe the contents of the game, so no one who looked at the rating on the GTA:SA package should have been surprised about what was in the game.

Of course, no one is laying responsibility on the parents. GTA was one of the most popular games of 2005, in no small part because parents don’t pay attention to the ratings (much in the same way that parents don’t pay attention to movie ratings and bring 5-year-olds into “R” rated movies), only to what their kids ‘have to have’. (Or, even worse, a parent knows that their child likes video games, but has no idea what’s popular, not to mention age-appropriate – so they rely on the sales help at stores like EB and what they see other people buying. And if they’re buying GTA…) These are people who might buy “Conker: Live & Reloaded” because it has a picture of a squirrel on the cover of the game. But hell hath no fury like an angry mob, and logic and accountability have never gotten in the way of a good crusade. And suddenly, what should be a story about a popular videogame getting illegally hacked becomes a story about how ‘our children’ are being exposed to hardcore pornography and outlandish violence masquarading as ‘innocent’ videogames.

Look, the ESRB ratings aren’t perfect, but no rating system is. One of the points getting missed in all the douchebaggery is that the video game industry has been policing itself for years. It took the motion picture industry a good 30 years before the Hayes Code was implemented, and another 30-or-so years after that for a genuine ratings system to emerge. The record industry didn’t start mandating parental advisory stickers until the late 80s-early 90s. And TV’s rating system…well, don’t even get me started on that. But the ESRB’s ratings are usually pretty on, and the warnings are there.

So, basically, I’m calling ‘bullshit’ on this whole situation. Thankfully, I’m not the only one: there are plenty of op-ed pieces and blog entries that shoot down this jihad against adult video games, but take a look at this article from Tech Central Station – author Adam Thierer manages to sum up the flaws in Senator I-Didn’t-Have-Vince Foster-Killed’s plan quite nicely:

As a parent of two kids, and as a life-long gamer myself, I say keep your hands of my X-Box Hillary! My wife and I can decide for ourselves what is right and wrong for our kids. And if they buy a game we don’t like at the store, we’ll find out about it soon enough. After all, where are they going to get the money to buy that game?