As a kid there were two things that encouraged me to explore new worlds and learn English: rock music and videogames. Some days ago in Venezuela, my place of birth, they started to enforce a law to practically ban videogames., with fines from 30.000 to 60.000 US$ and prison time from 3 to 5 years for those who import, sell, distribute and (use?) videogames. That is very sad for me, as Venezuelan and as a gamer. I feel they are closing a way for kids to learn English with games to have more and better opportunities than the ones who don’t develop language skills (it is important to note that before the current generation of game consoles, which are multilingual, we had the same North American releases, in English). The major driving force behind the law is to protect children from violent games, a thing in itself very plausible, but is a total ban we are talking about, ignoring any age rating system that exist or the rights of adults to enjoy these products as well.
The law’s name is Law for the Banning of Videos and War Toys. It is no secret that there’s a huge problem of crime and violence in the country, this is one of the premises supporting the law, as the congress state that “there are scientific studies that prove there is a notorious influence on the future citizen’s conduct and the activities they do in the games”. But how about the incendiary speeches of most of the politicians in the country? And the possession of guns among the civil population and the shootouts in the slums? How about the continuous acquisition of guns, weapons, planes, submarines, etc? The almost declarations of war with neighboring countries?
The politicians at the congress indicate that this law “is not going to solve the problem of the violence, but it opens a space, a positive scenario for the discussion in different areas, nationally and internationally”. These statements only show the shortsighted criteria used by the politicians to make this law, how do you open a space for discussion with a total ban? It’s like in the United States with the prohibition, you only encourage the creation of illegal channels and businesses which is way worse as history has proven. As a gamer, I had to cope up with the problems of distribution of games in Venezuela, there are no GameStops, so there were independent importers who could charge you up to 140 US$ for a game and about 900 for a console (these were numbers I found out between December-February when I went to Venezuela), now with all videogames related economy being illegal, how much should be the price for an original game?
As many of the country’s laws intended to censor something, the solution is to ban, to punish or close, like they did with the radio stations they closed, with the television channel they had the luxury to close two times, can one be critical? No, the government won’t even try to find a middle ground, to cite a Venezuelan politician: we have a clash of classes.
Some could say that the law is not a total ban, but it’s so vague, so we can be talking about that stomping on goombas or racing a kart while throwing turtle shells is violent and war-like.
So it’s Game Over and no Continues left, it’s a sad, sad day…