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The Battle For Brazil's Game Future
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The Battle For Brazil's Game Future


October 13, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next
 

But to really understand how we got here, we have to look back in the '90s, when a few decisions paved the way for the debate that is currently taking place in the country. In 1997, the first of many "administrative decisions in defense of consumer rights" prohibited the game Carmageddon.

Then, in 1998, another decision banned the first game in the Grand Theft Auto series. The justification for this decision was that the game was a menace to society due to its message that "crime pays," and the ideas it nurtured in players were that it was a tempting possibility to go out in the streets and cause mayhem by stealing cars, running over people, and escaping from the police.

Then, two years later, a judicial decision prohibited six computer games in Brazil, specifically Blood, Requiem, Mortal Kombat, Postal, Doom, and "Duke Nuken 3D" -- yes, it's on the books with an 'n' at the end. With shallow descriptions of each game, the document stated how these works negatively impacted children and youth in general.

Yet despite how absurd and flawed these descriptions were, there was no one to fight for the rights of developers and game consumers, so laws like these sailed through because of the political gains that could be made by demonizing such an easy target.

Politicians proudly stated that the evaluation of these games was done through the viewing of VHS video tapes and proceeded to attribute the same games -- especially Duke Nukem 3D -- as causes of shootings that took place in the country (similar to the Columbine incident).

It became clear that no fair evaluation was being given. No one in power was even attempting to understand the medium before dismissing it, because they didn't have to; the stereotype did all their work for them. Had it been an evaluation of a movie, the judgment certainly would have been different.

But now let's jump forward eight years, when the bannings resurfaced. In 2007, Counter-Strike and EverQuest were the targets. The judge on the case decided Counter-Strike taught players urban warfare strategies but, curiously, nothing was said of the latter. Nothing in the document, not even a single paragraph, mentioned the reasons EverQuest should be prohibited in Brazil. However, the text was absolutely clear in impeding any sort of distribution and commercialization of both, ranging all the way from magazines to game cartridges, and even reusing the exact same text from the 1999 bannings.

Thankfully, the lawsuit came to a close in 2011. The verdict lifted the prohibition of the specified games and even cited the Supreme Court's decision on the Brown v. EMA case. Regardless, the game medium was accused, yet without proper justification. Was it worth it to prohibit a 2000 game in 2007 and spend public resources by debating the issue for four years in court?

Shortly after, in 2008, the game Bully was also a victim of censorship. Through a hasty handwritten judicial decision, all distribution of the product ceased in Brazil based on "violence that took place in a school environment." The judge stated society would lose its ability to raise its children if they had access to such games.

Following the streak of judicial decisions, legislative bills also regained their strength. Although at least 12 anti-game bills are currently ongoing throughout Brazil, specifically one that began its life in 2006 and came into the media spotlight in 2009 after an approval report went public: bill number 170/2006, authored by then-senator Valdir Raup.

This bill aims to prohibit the distribution and development of all offensive games. The problem, however, is that it not only makes use of such a broad and subjective concept, but it also makes use of non-existent (or unproven) game references, such as one "in which you take control of a super flying thug and beat Jesus' twelve apostles". Curiously enough, the tone in which the games are described resemble much of Jack Thompson's Modest Game Proposal.

It becomes evident that the decisions that are being made regarding the video game medium, lack proper justification and knowledge. Perhaps it is part of society's gradual adaptation to a new medium. Nevertheless, this adaptation also implies that those who truly believe in it must take their stand; just as once the saxophone ceased to be the "devil's flute", games must cease to be seen as "time wasters for underdeveloped men" and "corruptors of youth".


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