Vice President Al Gore announced today that he has chosen Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut as his running mate for the upcoming presidential election. Lieberman has long been a proponent of censorship when it comes to computer games, putting them far below other forms of entertainment in terms of constitutional protection.
Each year Lieberman leads an attack on the game industry by creating a list of violent computer games, highlighting them as one of the reasons society is rapidly moving away from its "moral compass." This anti-game frenzy seemed to reach a crescendo last year following the Columbine High School shootings, when it was learned that the two teenage gunmen had played the game DOOM repeatedly.
GiN was present when Congress held hearings on the matter. Although it was mostly a matter of posturing, several members of the committee expressed their disgust at the violence level in computer games. One Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R – Texas) actually held up a copy of a game and said, "We may have a constitutional fight on our hands." Her goal, and that of many of the committee members, seemed to be government regulation of the computer game industry. Don’t laugh, it happens in other countries with less strong constitutions.
In his defense, we have never actually heard Lieberman say that he wants to censor games in the way that Hutchison did. Lieberman seems more predisposed to a rating system for games, which incidentally falls into Tipper Gore’s parental code plans for records.
Gore’s choice of Lieberman, one would suppose, had absolutely nothing to do with computer games. Mostly likely Lieberman was chosen because he was one of the first and only Democrats to speak against President Clinton during the impeachment process, yet still voted against tossing him out of office. In this way he can claim the mantle of loyal Democrat, while still being outraged at Clinton’s behavior. Gore gets to use Lieberman to distance himself from Clinton’s behavior while still riding the coattails of the popular president.
So where does his leave the game industry? Well, despite the initial knee-jerk reaction that this could spell the doom of DOOM and other violent games, we really don’t think much will change. Those of you who study government know that the vice president does not really have a high profile job. In fact, most vice presidents have been all but invisible in the past. Electing Lieberman could actually cool the pressure on the game industry, as vice presidents are not known to take stands on issues that might overshadow the president. And Gore is friend of Hollywood. Have you heard much from Tipper since he became the Vice President? No, and you won’t if he becomes president either.
Now the other side of the coin is George Bush, who probably does not even know what a computer game is, much less ever played one. Nobody knows what his stance would be on violent computer games, but being conservative on every other issue, there is not much doubt that he would come down hard on computer games if he was ever put in the position to actually take a stand on the issue. Texas senator Hutchison has made her position clear, and she and Texas Governor Bush generally agree on most issues.
So who is an avid all-American computer game player to vote for? The answer is that both choices might be bad ones. But we really think that Lieberman will trade his crusade against the industry in for the anonymous clothes of the vice president if elected. And ending his annoying violent list is a noble cause.