This week marks Freedom to Read Week across Canada. For those of you in the United States, your event, called Banned Books Week isn’t until September, but the information below can hopefully give you a head start on affecting positive change. As a Librarian, this is obviously an important event for me, but my interest extends to the realm of video games as well. Censorship is something that pervades any kind of art form or entertainment industry. Where there are people creating content that is popular, that speaks to a wide audience, and that may be controversial, there are also those who wish to suppress it. It’s certainly not a new concept, and it is important to bring attention to when materials are challenged.
Those of us who play/make/write about video games are also no stranger to hearing about people who want to censor, limit, or outright ban video games. It’s mostly quieted down in the last couple of years, but there are still crazy cases that pop up in the mainstream media from time to time. It’s not only important to take these challenges on but to make sure we’re doing it in the best possible way, so here are some useful tips for you when you’re talking about video games and fighting censorship.
Get Involved, For Real
What I’m talking about is actually getting involved in adding to the pool of knowledge and understanding about issues in video games. Start a Tumblr or a blog, create content, and post regularly. Get your opinion out there. There are some people who I don’t even agree with them on 80% of their views, but they are putting forth a point of view that is intelligent and considered. This is something that should be supported regardless of what you may think about it.
So, next time you see a post about something related to video games, leave a comment, or even better, go write a blog post of your own in response. The key is dialogue. Censorship exists to silence dialogue about art and its roles, causes, and effects in society. If you are simply shouting down people on Twitter or Facebook and not offering any kind of counterpoint, you are actually silencing a potentially vital discussion. Now with that in mind…
Remember the three ‘P’s when dealing with people who do not like video games. Be professional, prepared, and poised. The fact is, if you allow yourself to get angry and start insulting someone on the other side of the issue, you are playing right into their hands. People who believe in censorship already believe you are an immature, irrational crazy person, so don’t take the bait. Don’t be the sucker that they think you are, and kill them with kindness.
Realize That Advocacy Is Marketing
If you are serious about putting out a message of advocacy for video games, you need to treat it like a marketing campaign. You need to carefully consider who your audience is and target your messaging at them in the most effective manner. For example, you’ve got people who are predisposed to not support your views. The way to get through to them is with hard data stating your point of view. Focus on the numbers and be smarter and more prepared than them.
Conversely, there may be allies who are already sympathetic to your cause. They don’t necessarily need to be convinced with the data, but what they want is the story. They want the inspirational tale of how a group of soldiers came together through playing Call of Duty, or all the happily married couples who met playing WoW.Believe it or not, many parents are cool with this situation.
Stop Treating Parents Like They’re The Enemy
This is especially true if you’re not a parent yourself. Some parents, like myself, Chaz, or Chris, are longtime fans of games and are well-informed about them. This allows us to make educated decisions about what we feel is most appropriate for our children. Not all parents have this information, and it is incredibly unwise to make them unwelcome as a default which is something this community does all too often.
Consider; there are things that each of us knows a lot about, and there are things we don’t know much about. If you are taking a step towards trying to understand something, it can be stressful or even a little scary. Certainly you appreciate when somebody takes the time to help you understand something new, and it only makes you want to support it more. If you’re the kind of person who responds to parental concerns about games with, “Those stupid parents should just do a better job of raising their kids”, you are not being part of the solution. You’re oversimplifying what is probably the hardest and most complicated job in the world, and alienating a possible ally.
Support Your Library
Yeah, yeah. Here I am beating this dead horse again, but I’m going to keep doing it until everybody goes out and supports their library. You probably don’t even realize what kind of amazing materials and services your public library has. Hell, Yami didn’t even realize that the Miami Public Library carries video games until I showed her last week. Libraries are the first and sometimes only line of defense between freedom and censorship, and they will stand with you wielding this badass document.
I hope this has been helpful for you, and I hope you get involved in fighting positively for freedom of speech wherever you live. Our hobby and our community is a wonderful thing and it’s worth protecting. Let’s make sure we do so in a mature and constructive fashion.