I am responding to Chris' response to my response to one of his posts and I didn't want the discussion to get lost in the comments.
Chris said this: "And I do not believe we currently use our medium responsibly. Recent Grand Theft Auto games are fun, juvenile entertainment for adults - but we all know they are being played by young teenagers and children."
This, naturally, got my dander up because I am an unabashed GTA apologist and kneejerk defender of videogames. I cannot allow their honor to be besmirched.
Actually, I wondered how he could make such a broad statement.
Working in the industry and seeing the meetings, forum posts and e-mails, it's made perfectly clear that every aspect of a game gets examined over and over again, every act of violence is discussed in the context of larger concerns as well as relevance to the narrative/theme. In other words, we are responsible for our content, know it and act like it. Just because people aren't privy to what's happening behind-the-scenes doesn't mean we aren't exercising our best judgment.
And I know we aren't the only studio to do such things. Saying that studios are tossing out content without any thought for consequences, or not enough thought, is an argument from ignorance.
I then wrote: "The notion of responsibility is frequently (not necessarily in this instance) a call to not cross over a certain line. That line is typically arbitrary, restrictive and decided by the louder, more influential voices, not necessarily the most reasonable."
And that's exactly what I see happening. Developers are seen as irresponsible because they refuse to take responsibility for things which aren't their fault and are out of their control (such as the fact that children play M-rated games all the time).
Likewise, there is a tendency to downplay the role of parents. It's too hard to keep up or kids are targeted with advertising, which may be true, but hardly excuse the obligations of parents.
Responsibility, to me, is something a person takes on; Obligation, on the other hand, is something expected of you by others (the different types of social controls, which are identifiable because most of them can result in criminal action).
So what, exactly, should game developers be doing differently? What are the obligations?
More on this later, I'm sure.