If you live in Germany, blowing away virtual baddies may soon do more than stress your thumb joints. Pending legislation
in Bavaria and Lower Saxony would give creators, distributors, and--yes--players of violent video games up to a year in the slammer. To be specific, it would penalize "cruel violence on humans or human-looking characters." The move in the world's third-largest gaming market follows a horrific school shooting in a town on the Dutch border, where an 18-year-old gamer wounded 37 people before killing himself. Officials blame the rampage on the teen's fondness for the game "Counter Strike," although his video suicide note cites school, anarchist politics, bullying, a desire for revenge, social isolation, and the joy of gun possession--everything but
video games. Even so, insists Bavarian interior minister Günther Beckstein: "It is absolutely beyond any doubt that such killer games desensitize unstable characters and can have a stimulating effect
readers retorted: "Computer games don't kill people. It's the nutters with guns that kill people." And: "I propose a ban on bad parenting." But the outlawing of virtual crimes literally crosses the line between fantasy and reality. Maybe the best solution for virtual violence is a virtual prison sentence.