Each week Dennis McCauley contributes The Political Game, a column on the collision of politics and video games:
A lot of nasty stuff is happening in the world these days: war, poverty, terrorism, racism, and the collapse of the housing market, to name just a few.
And yet Mitt Romney, the pretty boy among Republican presidential candidates, has time to fret about the cartoon violence in video games and other forms of media. Okay, he's entitled to his view. But his view looks hypocritical - even bizarre - when you consider the fact that real-world torture is okay with Mitt.
If you caught the recent CNN/YouTube Republican debate, you saw Romney refuse to condemn the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique. Now, waterboarding is acknowledged as a form of torture all over the world, except for two places: the Bush White House and Romney campaign headquarters.
When Romney couldn't find it within himself to condemn this form of torture during the debate, straight-talking opponent Sen. John McCain proceeded to tear Romney a new one on stage. Among Republican candidates McCain alone can speak on the topic with authority. He spent six years as a POW in North Vietnam and was himself was a torture victim at the hands of his captors.
McCain has been there; he knows torture is inhumane, degrading and evil. Actually, so does Romney. He just can't bring himself to say it publicly. That's because he is shamelessly pandering to what he interprets as the wishes of the Republican base.
And that brings us back to video games, which Romney lumps into what he terms the "ocean of filth" in which our children are supposedly swimming. Pardon me? Zapping cartoon images onscreen is bad but torturing real people is okay?
Maybe Mitt should run for president of Bizarro World.
And then there's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California. The guy with the biceps made roughly a bazillion dollars acting in violent movies over the years. And then he picked up a few extra greenbacks by allowing himself to be portrayed in the – mostly lousy - video game versions of some of those films.
But Schwarzenegger, then sagging in the polls, rocked the video game world by signing California's game law into effect in October, 2005. And when a U.S. District Court judge ruled earlier this year that the law was a First Amendment violation, the Governator immediately ordered the state to file an appeal.
This week, Schwarzenegger has been making it a point to distance himself from THQ's recently-released Conan game. The irony here is that the 1982 Conan the Barbarian film – far from a bloodless movie - was a major stepping-stone in Schwarzenegger's path to Hollywood superstardom. So, the message out of Sacramento seems to be: It was okay then, but it's not okay now. Or maybe, it was okay for me, but it's not okay for you.
Note to Arnold and Mitt: Your hypocrisy is showing.
Dennis McCauley is the Political Editor for the Entertainment Consumers Association (www.theeca.com), tracks the political side of video games at GamePolitics.com and writes about games for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Opinions expressed in The Political Game are his own. Reach him at