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A political call to arms for gamers against government regulators.

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With all that’s going on in this country, there isn’t a living, breathing voter who should need yet another reason to become politically active as the presidential election looms next year. But, say you’re one of those real slacker types who thinks that political activism is better left to those who don’t spend days online playing Socom 3. Things are finally happening in this country that may get video game and Internet slackers off their couches and out to the polls.


First, in light of real issues like the war in Iraq, I wouldn’t pretend to list federal actions against gamers as the most important issue related to next year’s election. The fact is, however, that the actions and posturing by elected officials against gaming activities is a very real attack against an individual’s civil liberties. Politicians love to use little diversionary issues like video-game violence and online poker to try and curry favor with the portion of the electorate whose only foray into interactive gaming is shaking the little dice cup when they play Yahtzee. One man’s diversion is another’s passion. Trying to clean up video-game violence or preventing a guy from playing online poker means they don’t have to deal with real issues'like war, the economy and health care.


They also pick on us because they know we think there’s little we can do'and that’s just not true. Video games have become the new dirty song lyric; Grand Theft Auto is the new 2 Live Crew. Zeroing in on violence in video games is easy, just like the bullies in high school who always picked out the easy target to punish.


The issues of video-game censorship and the online poker ban aren’t really taken seriously by anyone. It’s an apparently nonpartisan issue, because politicians on both sides of the aisle are quick to jump on the bandwagon since they know it gets them ink. A couple of years ago, there was no bigger proponent of strict video-game regulation than Democrat Hillary Clinton. It was reminiscent of the dirty lyrics debate of the 1980s, when Tipper Gore'the wife of supercaring Democrat then-Senator Al Gore'and the Parents Music Resource Council were at the forefront of the call for censoring song lyrics.


The problem is that our elected leaders for some reason fail to see this as a violation of our personal right to choose the types of games we play, the songs we listen to and the movies we watch. They know they’ll only get a few lines of ink when battling over a bill to balance the budget. But hold a congressional hearing on a video game called Bully before it’s ever released, and that’s media gold, baby.


I’ve always said that there are obviously certain games that should only be played by a certain segment of the population. But to tell a 25-year-old man or woman from Iowa that he or she can’t play Hitman is outrageous. Censorship of games is not needed. More diligence in checking IDs when a kid tries to buy Manhunt is required, but game censorship is a political smokescreen that will continue until those of us that care about it stand up and do something about it.


It’s the same with online poker. There are some people that make their living on the game. There are others who just enjoy playing for low stakes in an area where a casino is not easily accessible. Either online or in a casino, poker is a game of skill, not chance. You don’t see the Legislature trying to ban chess'which some people play for money'because picking a fight against professional and amateur chess players isn’t going to get anyone any votes.


In a country where people organize and stand up for everything under the sun, it’s high time gamers start making their voices heard'or the only thing they’ll be using their consoles for will be as very expensive coasters.


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nUsually when I tell people that there’s a rumble in my pocket, I get slapped, punched and called a few nasty names. But now that one of my favorite games from 2005 has been released for the PSP, I can now say it without violating my probation. Rockstar has been at the forefront of doing a great job of transferring their console games to portable systems. The game has some control issues, but so do a lot of games not specifically made for the PSP. However, the spirit and fun of the original are here, and it’s still just as addicting as the original. When you factor in the $20 price tag, the game just may be the steal of the century. The Warriors ($19.99, Rockstar Games, PSP)

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