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Venezuela to ban violent video games

Why Hugo Chavez hates World of Warcraft, Counter-Strike and The Legend of Zelda.

“The more closely you look at the problem, the more it crumbles,” she said. A lot of politicians may be sincere, she said, but concentrating on violent video games “takes attention away from things we know can really make a difference.”

Violent video games can even be beneficial because they can have a cathartic influence by allowing children to release aggression in a safe environment, she added.

Venezuelan lawmakers were aggrieved by a 2006 video game developed by Los Angeles-based game developer Pandemic Studios. “Mercenaries 2: World in Flames” featured a plot in which “a power hungry tyrant uses Venezuela’s oil supply to overthrow the government and turns the country into a war-zone.” Venezuelan authorities said the game was a barbed reference to the controversial Chavez and that it was a coded plot to stir up support for an invasion of Venezuela.

Game developers in Venezuela say they agree that children should be protected from some violent video games but that the law is excessive in banning even adults from playing. Ciro Duran, coordinator of the National Industry of Video Games, Entertainment and Digital Arts, said the wording of the law would open interpretation for banning even apparently innocent video games.

“As video game developers, we are basically going to have to go to the government and ask them ‘what is a violent video game?’” he said. “We’re talking about a much more profound problem here. The kids who turn violent from playing violent games are kids who are already violent. There is a very real problem which is, 'What is the true cause of child violence?'”

Venezuela does not have a classification system like the one in the U.S. that ranks video games from "E" for everyone to "A" for adults only.

Iglesias said they considered that route but decided an outright ban was more appropriate because of Venezuela’s extensive network of pirate vendors. “I’d like to see someone protest about their right to kill virtually,” he said. “We hope this law will provoke an awareness and debate in society on the subject of violence.”

At the video arcade in Sabana Grande, the principal shopping street in Caracas, the manager, who requested not to be named for fear of reprisal by the government, said the premises would close down by February, leaving its five employees jobless.

He complained that the government was doing little to control real violence outside the arcade when police officers abandon the area to criminals after eight in the evening and over weekends. Criminals broke into the arcade and stole televisions and a cash register a month ago, he said.

Video game player Eduard Reina, 19, thought video games did not make him aggressive. “If they close down places like this one, I’ll play video games at home on my X-Box,” he said, while shooting at computer-generated mercenaries with a virtual gun.