British politicians engage in modern warfare

Keith VazTwo British politicians – both from the governing party – have clashed over the newly released Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Half of this story comes as no surprise. With the game inevitably (and almost certainly intentionally) attracting controversy over an optional scene where the player must pose as a terrorist during an airport massacre, one politician condemned the game in both the media and Parliament.

Keith Vaz first (pictured top right) told a newspaper “’I am absolutely shocked by the level of violence in this game and am particularly concerned about how realistic the game itself looks.” He then asked a government minister what steps were being taken to prevent it being played by children. (The answer was that the game is rated 18, meaning nobody under that age is allowed to buy it.)

However, what happened next was more unusual. Fellow Labour party member Tom Watson (pictured bottom right) joined the debate, saying in Parliament that “I have seen the content of the video game. It is unpleasant, although no worse than in many films and books,” and said that it would be better for politicians to “support the many thousands of game designers and coders, and the many millions of game users.”

Tom WatsonWatson has since created a Facebook group entitled Gamers’ Voice with the description “Are you sick of UK newspapers and (my fellow) politicians beating up on gaming? So am I. The truth is, UK gamers need their own pressure group. I want to help you start one up.” (In the interests of full disclosure, I should state that I have joined this group.)

There’s certainly a debate to be had about the morality of combat games and the potential effects if children are allowed to play them. But it’s certainly refreshing to see that, just as Vaz has become the media’s go-to guy for condemnation of violent games, Watson appears to be getting rapidly adopted as the spokesman for the positive side of the gaming industry, a particularly effective voice because he is a political colleague rather than opponent of Vaz.

In an unconnected note, Watson was the man responsible for one of the better (OK, one of the few) online pranks pulled by a British politician. Click to read and be sure to scroll to the bottom.

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