Venezuela bans violent video games: a first-person guest essay


Guido Núñez-Mujica, a 26-year-old Boing Boing reader in Venezuela who is an avid gamer, writes in with this extensive personal observation piece about a new law that widely criminalizes video games in the South American country. As you read the piece, please also bear in mind that publishing this sort of thing under one's full name is not done without personal risk.

These games are a cherished part of my life, they helped to shape my young mind, they gave me challenges and vastly improved my English, opening the door to a whole new world of literature, music and people from all around the world. What I have achieved, all my research, how I have been able to travel even though I'm always broke, the hard work I've done to convince people to fund a start up for cheap biotech for developing countries and regular folks, none of that would have been possible hadn't I learned English through video games.

Now, thanks to the tiny horizons of the cast of morons who govern me, thanks to the stupidity and ham-fisted authoritarianism of the local authorities, so beloved of so many liberals, my 7 year old brother's chances to do the same could be greatly impacted. After the jump, Núñez-Mujica's essay in full.

Last Thursday in Venezuela, a new law criminalizing "violent" video games and toys was approved by the National Assembly.

The law scapegoats gamers for the obscene levels of violence in our country (see below), and goes to extraordinary lengths to criminalize gaming, to the point of holding out long jail terms to people who buy the wrong kinds of games.

It's no joke. Last year, on a trip to the US, I was able to buy a Nintendo DS for my brother, and a puzzle game that deals with using weapons to defend the fish stock of penguins in Antarctica, Defendin' de Penguin. Early next year, when the law kicks in, bring such a game could land me in jail for 3 to 5 years, for importing forbidden violent games, as the penguins use snowball guns to ward off walruses, foxes (in Antarctica? OMG think of Biogeography!), polar bears and the Yeti.

The law is just the latest nail in the coffin of Venezuelans' right of dissent and broader civil liberties. A pitiful attempt to blame video games and toys for the widespread lethal violence in our country, instead of a defective judicial structure, systemic corruption and governmental (purposeful?) ineptitude to deal with the problem.

I am 26 years old. Ever since I can remember Venezuela has been a very dangerous place. Every year the body count seemed to climb higher than the previous year. Being on the streets after dark, especially in the big cities, became a little bit more dangerous with each passing year, no matter who was in power or how high prices for our oil rose.

I believed it was just a fact of life. Then, ten years ago, Hugo Chávez came to power promising change at every level, promising a new, less corrupt, wealthier, safer society. Most of my friends and family voted for him, to register their contempt for our traditional politicians, because they wanted justice and a decent country.

Ten years later, we are indeed wealthier, thanks to a feverish oil boom, but the country's also falling deeper into debt, issuing bonds and getting loans even from the despised Capitalist tool that is the IMF, and printing money like there's no tomorrow, while our electric system collapses, many staples are hard to find on store shelves, our hospitals are rotting and corruption and crime are still getting worse.

The official position is that crime is a byproduct of poverty and inequality. The official numbers say that poverty and inequality have decreased dramatically so, how is it possible that today we have one of the worst crime rates in the entire world? Our murder rates are among the top five in the world. Barinas, the rural State where Chávez is from and where his brother is governor, has the highest kidnapping rate in the world. (The governor's reply? People are kidnapping themselves to make the government look bad.) And if you live in Caracas today, you are at substantially higher risk of meeting a violent death than if you live in Iraq these days.

One thing is clear: either crime is not caused merely by poverty and inequality, as the murder rates in Bangladesh seem to confirm, or the government has not reduced poverty and inequality as much as it claims (as a glance to the barrios of Caracas seems to confirm). Or perhaps both.

Either way, the government has proven grossly incompetent at protecting its citizens. The pseudo-socialist clique that governs us plainly cares much more about protecting its own members. Recent press reports show that more cops in Caracas are devoted to protecting politicians and their families as body guards than to roaming the streets, and let's not even talk about crimes carried out by the police. Amid all this, the authorities seem to spend what limited resources are at the justice system's disposal on criminalizing dissent.

Venezuelan chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega has repeatedly argued that having the wrong opinion (a.k.a. "publishing information that may destabilize the government" or "causing a perception of impunity through the press") should be made a crime punishable with 10 years in jail. After recent protests, she has put student protesters in our worse jails because they spray-painted walls, and detained dozens labor movement protestors without trial for months on end for what amount to political crimes.

While Venezuela burns, our authorities are busy criminalizing those who protest, rather than those setting the fires.

Let's put this in perspective. Last year, we had almost 14,000 deaths due to crime, out of a population of about 27 million people. Let's round it up to 28 million, and make some calculations: If Bangladesh had our murder rate, there would be 125,000 murder victims there every year, if the US had our murder rate, we would be talking about 150,000 deaths due to crime, if Japan had our problem, there would be 60000 Japanese dead due to crime every time our pretty planet goes around the sun. If China and India had our levels of violence, we would get rid of 1,100,000 people every year.

The numbers of death due to violence do not seem so big in Venezuela due to our smallish population, but this a serious problem that is only getting worse after almost 11 years of Bolivarian rule. The number of people mugged, assaulted and robbed are much greater than that. Some relatives of mine have been shot and stabbed, most of my friends have been robbed at least once, and I had to jump from a bus in motion to avoid being robbed a month ago, in Mérida, where I live, a university town that not so long ago used to be relatively safe. In Valera, where my parents live, it is unwise to go out after 9 in the streets, and after 8:30, it gets really difficult to find public transportation.

So, will the government correct its strategy, accept that we have a huge problem that has to be solved ASAP and will follow its rhetoric and work along the communities to tackle crime (Death penalty and traditional top-down approaches won't work)?

No. Instead, it will blame the gamers for the problem.

Yes, we are to blame, because we cannot tell fantasy from reality and because video games make us violent, morons who will throw people out of cars just like in Grand Theft Auto and kill them, because even though games come with ratings, just like movies, I, an adult citizen, cannot be trusted to use them wisely.

This law makes selling video games to anybody actually worse than giving real guns or cigarettes to a minor, or even forcing him or her to work, as you get less jail time and lower fines if you do any of those things.

I have to be protected from them, so I don't go into a killing spree. (If I were so impressionable, I would not be writing this, I would have swallowed completely the huge amount of propaganda they feed to us). Our Parliament, instead of addressing our real needs, behaves like the bunch of escapist, authoritarian demagogues they are, imposing their decrees on us, because they are know they are right, and those of us who dissent, surely are rich elitist bastards who hate the poor, traitors who hate Venezuela and work for sinister, evil and shady foreign powers (If you follow American politics, this attitude should ring some alarms to you).

Surely a government that calls itself Socialist would have corrected a gross mistake by previous administrations: our marginal tax rate for the richest citizens is 34%, which is less than what the American marginal tax rate was when Bush gave tax cuts to Donald Trump and Warren Buffet. One would think that after ten years of Socialist government focused on the poor and against the evil rich, the fiercely egalitarian Venezuelan MPs would have found the time to increase the taxes of the hated rich to the same level of such boring, bland, flavorless, countries as Finland, New Zealand, Sweden or Canada.

Instead, they have been too busy forbidding video games, porn (2 to 6 years in jail for filming porn, as it goes against "good customs" and family) and human genetic engineering (The law is written in such an imprecise language than creating Human Recombinant Insulin could lead me to jail), while our president befriends murderers, genocides, golpistas (coup makers, like Gambia's president Yahya Jammeh), and tyrants and replicas of the sword of Bolívar, The Liberator.

Our president also claims that despite shutting down 34 opposition radio stations based on administrative technicalities, despite the constant harassment of dissident cable stations, and criminalizing of protests, this is the country with most Freedom of Speech in the whole world, the same thing that Silvio Scumbag Berlusconi said about Italy and pretty much what American jingoists, immune to facts love to say, "America is the Freest Country in The World", despite America's sickening incarceration rates and its aversion to cognitive liberty.

Venezuelan authorities' record on cognitive freedom is also laughable, with our authorities making wild claims about super marijuana (provided by the evil Colombians) that causes Alzheimer, and banning Family Guy from the air because it promotes the evil liberal American attitudes to drugs.

Most likely, not that many people will end up in jail due to the anti-gaming law. But it could easily be used to coerce, to extort and to pressure people who find themselves on the revolution's shit list, to make you feel powerless, like a criminal, to make you ashamed and scared.

Laws here get enforced selectively, but when the government issues so many laws criminalizing so many behaviours, sooner or later you are going to break one, so you better be well behaved and, above all, you better not criticize the powerful. If you do, they'll go through your hobbies... and when they do, they're bound to use something they can use against you.

Another possibilities is that they may be trying to target cybercafés and Internet services for those who lack net connection at home, as Counter Strike and other on-line games are a big source of revenues for cybercafés. In any case, even if individuals don't go to jail, stores won't sell games anymore.

Whichever explanation you favor, what we have here is just another brick in the wall, another piece of a strategy to slowly but surely build a legal wall against political dissent, even as our society goes to the dogs.

This situation is painful to behold. Even if I barely game at all these days, I am a gamer at neocortex. I spent countless hours solving puzzles, riddles and fighting monsters in dungeons. I rescued Toadstool many times, only to be told that thanks, but my Princess was in another castle, later I joined Link and rescued Zelda from Agahnim and Ganon, using the Master Sword and the Silver Arrows. I got the Zantetsu sword and cut metal, I summoned Ifrit, Odeen and Behemoth. From Dragoon, I became a Paladin. I sneaked on Big Boss' fortress in Zanzibar and stopped doomsday with Solid Snake. I fought along a Double Dragon trapped on a Final Fight, using my Killer Instinct in a Mortal Kombat in which only the greatest Street Fighter would come alive. I was Linked to the Past by a Chrono Trigger, my Soul Blazing, as I lived my Final Fantasies, Wandering from Ys, arriving to a Lagoon, to learn about the Secret of Mana, and finally understood that there is Ever More to life.

These games are a cherished part of my life, they helped to shape my young mind, they gave me challenges and vastly improved my English, opening the door to a whole new world of literature, music and people from all around the world. What I have achieved, all my research, how I have been able to travel even though I'm always broke, the hard work I've done to convince people to fund a start up for cheap biotech for developing countries and regular folks, none of that would have been possible hadn't I learned English through video games.

Now, thanks to the tiny horizons of the cast of morons who govern me, thanks to the stupidity and ham-fisted authoritarianism of the local authorities, so beloved of so many liberals, my 7 year old brother's chances to do the same could be greatly impacted.

Even if my parents could afford to buy a NES or a SNES when the times were good for us, we could not afford to buy games, so I played Mario a lot. I used to go to game parlors and play, made friends there, speaking not only about swords and crystals, combo breakers and special attacks, but also about AI, the future and technology, about that mysterious thing called the Internet (I met a girl who tried Compuserve!) and about nuclear war.

Fifteen years later, my little brother lives in a world where the scarcity of games can be bypassed with the right tools, where mod chips and special cards allow him to emulate really old games on newer devices, where he needs to learn the basics about hacking if he wants to fully use his Nintendo DS.

Yesterday I was explaining to my little brother how any computer could in theory, emulate another computer, and how that made it possible to play really old games (Older than him!) on his DS. I was explaining what a terminal window and a program were and how I converted videos to a format that his DS can understand. And he was thrilled, his eyes lit with pleasure, technology was a bridge that got us closer. If we blindly follow the copyright and video game forbidding laws, we won't be able to do this anymore, and he will stop learning as much as he could gaming and hacking, finding his way to talk to machines to get them to do what he needs.

But I won't obey, I will be an outlaw gamer, and I vow to teach him as much as I can and as much as he is willing to learn, as early as possible. I refuse to give up my rights to a government that is commanded by Vuitton clad jerks asking sacrifices from us, I refuse to stop gaming because a bunch of control freaks tell me that I will become a killer and that the wonderful games that enriched my childhood are psycho factories.

If I get fined for writing this (Article 13, promoting the use of violent videogames), so be it. If I go to jail because I carry rooms in my hard drive or in an R4 card for my brother, next time I return to the country, so be it. But I'd rather go to jail than betray the gamer culture, partially responsible for making me the person I am today.

Enough is enough, and I am fed with this government of morons, pretending to be socialist while living a luxurious lifestyle, paying very little taxes and plundering our oil money. This is a travesty, a pacifist government who gets loans from Russia to buy rifles, tanks and missiles, whose official motto is "Fatherland, Socialism or Death", whose leader calls other people subhuman, and constantly speaks about war. A socialist system that offers lower taxes than Bush for the rich people, that gives no-bid contracts to Chevron Texaco, a progressive govt. spreading lies about marijuana and promoting a new law that requires education on breastfeeding for our girls, but no education on reproductive freedoms, a system that promotes sovereignty and dignity micromanaging my life and telling what I have to do, what I cannot do and stepping on my rights to mind my business as long as I do not harm anybody else.

The only thing more puzzling to me than liberals being eager of supporting this, is that social conservatives hate him despite his strong family values, opposition against vice and low taxes for the rich.

Now, that games have been outlawed, I am an outlaw, but there is hope. My brother is learning that sometimes being an outlaw is the right thing to do, that some laws are not fair and must be opposed and that breaking the law does not makes you a bad person.

That is a hard thing to explain to a seven year old, but now he understands it really well. I do not know if he will ever become a hacker, but he is already a rebel and a happy mutant.

More links about the situation in Venezuela:
Caracas Chronicles
The Devil's Excrement
El Libertario (In Spanish, Anarchist News)
Radar De Los Barrios (In Spanish, complains from the people living in the slums)


  1. The best question one can ask in this debate about the correlation between violent video games and real violence….

    What videogame did Hitler use?

    Why cant people just understand some people just arent right in the head…

    1. @anon #1: Obviously, the correlation between violence and videogames is pitiful, and this move is all about Chavez’s crazy grandstanding. However, your “Why cant people just understand some people just arent right in the head?” represents a particularly useless flavor of active nescience.

      There is huge variability, between individuals, classes, cultures, and nations in various behavioral traits, violence and other flavors of criminality included. Asking what causes these variations is entirely reasonable(and the answers would be quite valuable, if available). The explanation “just not right in the head” is about as useful as the old “just because it is” standby. That is, not at all. Human behavior is complex; but there is no particular reason to despair of the possibility of unraveling it, at least to a degree. If some people are not right in the head, why not? Why do some situations have large numbers of such people and others few?

      Video games, as best we can tell, seem to be a very poor answer to such questions; but that isn’t at all the same as there being no answer.

      1. “some people just arent right in the head”
        maybe not useful to you, but its still true.

        No we dont know the reason or the psychology behind every violent episode, yes we should look for possible reasons and try learn,
        but if there’s one thing history can teach us it’s that *humans are violent*

        no matter how fancy you try put it, theres no law, no reason, no knowledge that will cure humanity, we are flawed to start with.

        look at for instance youtube, you will find disturbed people posting hate speech to any topic you can imagine.

        there could be a picture of a potted flower and someone would make a racist comment.

        video games is just the latest scape goat in the “oh we dont like this it looks dangerous and we’re not sure what it’s really about. let’s ban it!” trend we humans are so fond of.

        Oh well, banning the use/sale of ________ solved nothing this time around (again), let’s try the exact same approach again tomorrow.

        also consider that if you are 100% safe, it would be cause you are living in a totalitarian society and you happen to agree with the right people.

  2. Venezuela was a crime-free Utopia up until the early 70s when PONG was released. It was all down hill from there. The violence started on the tennis courts where young children wanted to emulate what they saw in the arcades and soon the tennis courts would run red with blood…

    Way to go Atari.

  3. It’s very interesting to read this perspective – thanks Guido for writing it and Xeni for posting it. It’s great to hear from people living under “controversial” governments that are discussed so much in the US.

  4. This is a brave statement by someone who is most certainly risking being made an example of by his corrupt government.

    Gaming is a funny thing. To people who don’t game, it appears to be a trivial waste of time at best or a dangerous indoctrination into a culture of violence at worse. But to gamers it’s plainly a playful and life affirming part of life, as important as literature and film is to others. It doesn’t just teach language skills, though it can do that, it also brings people together and presents challenges that help foster positive personal growth in all kinds of ways.

    If you want to know something about actual violence associated with recreational activity look no further than the game of football. I happen to love football, but I recognize its truly violent nature. It’s far more violent than computer games, and psychological studies have showed much more troubling behavioral problems associated with football than gaming. That’s not to say football is bad. It isn’t. It builds a sense of self esteem and team work (so do computer games!). But in terms of violence, our culture not only tolerates football it embraces it all the while demonizing games and gamers. It’s absurd.

    Good luck, American gamers are 100% behind you!

  5. I love this line:

    “The only thing more puzzling to me than liberals being eager of supporting this, is that social conservatives hate him despite his strong family values, opposition against vice and low taxes for the rich.”

    It shouldn’t be that puzzling, if you exercise your “cognitive liberty.”

    While I disagree strongly with the law, that letter was all over the place, totally confused. If he’s trying to convince people in other countries, too, he probably shouldn’t be insulting Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, and, over and over again, America. He could argue his point without offending his audience.

    1. No, no, he’s not insulting anybody, he’s using the same derogatory terms Chavez uses when refering to those countries…

    2. Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, and, over and over again, America. He could argue his point without offending his audience.

      Whilst the boring, bland, flavorless comments seemed completely unnecessary (I think his point was to simply demonstrate you don’t have to be revolutionary to have higher tax schemes for the rich, but it was poorly put). I think most of the comments about the US simply added weight to his argument.

      They were all comparisons and comparisons that a lot of readers would understand. Bush did give sickening tax breaks to the rich, they do have absurd incarceration rates, etc. These are all widely publicised points that a lot more readers could relate to over something that’s happening in a smaller country where it doesn’t draw nearly as much global attention.

  6. Sadly, many liberals and left-wingers here (in the UK) feel Chavez is a saviour who is leading Venezuela to become some sort of Utopia. People who actually know ordinary folk from the country know that’s not the case. Well done to Guido for speaking out

    1. In that camp (i.e. left-wingers) myself until recently, but something is clearly going wrong.

      I think most people into politics with some socialist leanings looked at Chavez’s ascent with a degree of hope. The country was (and mostly is) mired in poverty. At the time, it was waiting on the whims of a tiny minority of hyperpriviledged oil-rich American-supported gits. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a South American country get on its feet, instead of being one more pumping station or clothing factory for the US?

      As usual though – the ladder to power has poison rungs. Either Chavez is surrounded by advisors with their own agendas, has gone mad, or was mad in the first place only no-body noticed because at the time, he was doing things the people were prepared to support.


      1. Re: “Wouldn’t it be nice to see a South American country get on its feet, instead of being one more pumping station or clothing factory for the US?”

        It exists: Chile. They have built a modern economy and lifted thousands out of poverty by embracing free trade, cutting regulations, and enacting strong protections for property rights. They have become a model of Latin American democracy and human rights and are now the first and only South American country to join the OECD.

        Plus, they make some damn good wine.

  7. Almost perfect!

    I am Venezuelan, and a gamer too.

    However, I find one thing lacking: A brief exploration of the background of the real killers: of the boys and young men who pull the trigger.

    An extremely violent environment, a violent culture stressing a get-rich-quick without work attitude, no respect for human life (even oneself’s, they know they won’t live a long life), corruption, brutality and criminal behaviour from the police, poverty, parental abuse and mistreatment, school desertion, hellish schools, hellish jails, living on the streets, etc. etc. etc.

    Nothing at all like the gamers we know.

    It’s not only that the “Revolutionary” government is hideously off-target. It’s that it has done NOTHING EFFECTIVE, and probably NOTHING AT ALL to change this situation.

    In that light, a law like this is pure prevarication.

  8. What an an impressive missive. It’s really not just about gaming but about individual freedom (especially populist freedom) being criminalized and used as scapegoat for issues the government should be responsible for. We have enough broken promises and lame excuses on this end of the continent, but it seems totally out of control in Venezuela. We hardly hear anything about it.

    @Roach- I’m from Canada and I read that comment as facetious, not an insult. I could be mistaken of course, but he seems too astute to personally dismiss Finland and Canada as ‘bland countries’ without knowing more about them.

    It’s not worth much, but I wish him the best.

  9. As a hardcore leftie, I was impressed by what little I’d heard of Chavez until I saw a documentary on the guy. Which left me utterly mortified.

    I’d be amazed if there’s a more blatantly hypocritical and incompetent ‘leader’ operating at a national level anywhere in the world. You wouldn’t believe Chavez could be half as fucked in the head if you hadn’t seen it…

    He makes up policy on the fly, much of it while presenting his weekly propaganda show, and then when his harebrained schemes inevitably fail due to being unresearched, uncosted and often plain stupid, he publicly humiliates and relentlessly excoriates his ministry of yes-men to ostensibly deflect the blame, even though everyone knows it’s his fault anyway.

    Almost every Venezuelan capable of offering a meaningful contribution to the nation’s development has been discouraged from sticking their neck out, and is considering leaving the country or has left.

    It’s the most amateurish approach to ‘government’ I’ve ever beheld, and this shameless abrogation of responsibility is justified with nothing but barefaced lies. It’s nothing but a litany of disaster for Venezuela, and it’s locked in for another ten years. And the biggest tragedy is that as long as Chavez plays nice with those who want to exploit Venezuela’s resources, the world will be happy to allow him to remain.

    History has made it plain that human rights abuses alone aren’t worth a damn in the list of reasons to overthrow another country’s government, so ordinary Venezuelans shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for a helping hand.

    Venezuela needs another revolution – a genuine one. It would be a beautiful thing to behold an authentic attempt at socialism… preferably before Chavez has a chance to smear the word with many more layers of his own shit.

    1. Be careful, or else your hardcore leftie colleagues will kick you out of the club. Do you still support Chavez’ buddy Manuel Zelaya? If not, do you think the Obama administration was wrong in deciding Honduran constitutional law, contrary to the Honduran Supreme Court? Be careful, or else you’ll be cast out into the neocon wasteland.

  10. The ultimate Family Values are freedom and rule of law – and that is why conservatives dislike him. Also, you have made the mistake of placing “social” in front of conservative, when even very religious conservatives are more often live and let live than not. The day you wake up and realize liberal support of fascism is what has led to where Venezuela is today, is the day your puzzle is solved… fascism allows for the leaders of the land to do what is “best” for the people, unopposed by pesky detractors who might disagree with your approach.

    I hope you can bring Venezuela back somehow, but you can no longer look to the U.S. for any help in shifting government attitudes.

  11. “The only thing more puzzling to me than liberals being eager of supporting this, is that social conservatives hate him despite his strong family values, opposition against vice and low taxes for the rich.”

    maybe you should reconsider what you know about liberals and conservatives. Lotta misconceptions out there, especially if you believe what you see on tv. (american tv anyways)

  12. Oh Guido your words are so true and sad. But I have to add that the only thing this law does is fuel even further the pirated CDs market.
    I don’t live in Venezuela any more but I have to explain over and over again what is really going on and who Chavez really is, and how he has rigged election after election, especially to liberals in the US, UK and Canada.
    Thank you for being so brave and writing all those truths.

  13. I apologize if my tongue in cheek comments about the countries that I admire the most were bad received.

    I said that because to me, every time a post about Chávez or another left wing jerk comes up, it seems that the only political choices are either the US or Cuba/China, and these countries barely get named at all. To me, they (and others) should be our role models, not Iran, Cuba and Zimbabwe.

    They are free, happy, healthy, wealthy, well educated, egalitarian. What else could anybody else ask for? To me, they are the most beautiful societies ever seen on Earth. But nobody really speaks about them and they are dismissed while so many people has the hots for Chavez, Fidel and some other colorful bastards. That was the reason of my comment, and again, I apologize if they were bad received. It was not my intention to insult, but to draw attention to this fact in a sarcastic way. The fact that I oppose strongly Chávez does not means I support the US as a model.

  14. He is absolutely right. I’m from east germany currently living in the u.s. and I know what it means when governments call themselves to be socialists.
    Socialism is just the same hollow phrase used by totalitarians as well as the opponents of the politics of the present us-government. It is always used as a piss take: by governments to cant their people or by opponents to raise some obscure angst but not willing to use the word communism as it has approved that is something wich has been eliminating itself 20 years ago. It is used by some utopians to describe their imaginations of a better society but those folks citing cuba/venezuela/etc. as good steps in a better direction are just proved by this letter (and so much other examples) to be kicked out of serious considerations.

    Folks, there is no good “socialism”. That thing only exists in theory. Its not working. The only thing how we can come close to a society wich has good “social(ist)” attributes is to talk about how to achive a real working democracy combined with education for everyone regardless his money-background and a zero tolerance to coruption or lobbyism.

    And if anybody feels insulted by naming his or her country in a critical way: all I can say to you is, that there has always been no worse -ism than nationalism. It has been the cause for the most annihilating wars in history so far.

    I hope that Guido will not be harmed cause of his brave letter.
    Keep watch him, boingboing.

  15. There’s one little detail people seem to forget when discussing Chávez… as bad as he may be he was still democratically elected and as far as I know it was a fair election. Or this is not the case?

    1. Which just goes to show that the democratic process is not as sacrosanct as we in the states make it out to be. I’ve read an interesting point of view, which was that a monarch feels that a country is his property, and will guard it’s resources and nurture it; but a president knows he will be out in 4 years, so there is every temptation to loot the treasury as quickly as possible, if he is unethical.

      Pure democracy has the potential to become the “tyranny of the majority”. America, for instance, was always a Republic, at least in theory – where the power of the overall government and any office within it was severely limited. History will probably not be kind to our own gradual but nearly complete destruction of those limitations.

    2. Sadly, Americans only like foreign elections when their own favorites are elected.

      Best of luck to you, Guido.

    3. There’s one little detail people seem to forget when discussing Chávez… as bad as he may be he was still democratically elected and as far as I know it was a fair election. Or this is not the case?

      since you read the post, I guess, and given that you wrote your comment as “anonymous”, I really, really hope you’re trolling. In any case, I’ll (most probably) waste five minutes of my time to remind you, and everyone for that matter, that Chavez threw a failed coup d’etat in February 1992, and was behind another one in November of the same year. Now, this is clearly a man who doesn’t give a flying fuck about democracy; that he was democratically elected is a moot point, and has nothing, NOTHING, to do with the horrible mess into which he has lead the country. Don’t make me or anyone else Godwin this thread.

    4. I live in Venezuela and I really don’t think they will give a fuck about this law. Where I live, the pirates are still selling shitloads of pirated violent games/movies. Unless the law only applies to legal copies, which doesn’t affect me and basically everyone else I know.

  16. Americans dis socialism as a word while Guido celebrates a fully-realised socialism in the countries that support it. Canada, the Americans’ closest neighbour, is a socialist-capitalist mix, where porn and pot are meh, and we endlessly debate other drugs and police power, while most of our police are concerned primarily with public safety.

    A stereotype, but true: “It’s gonna go below freezing tonight, eh? You gonna be OK?” That’s the usual way the Canadian cop addresses the homeless. Not only is it helpful, it causes less discord.

    As an educational lesson to any interested Americans, look up the tv show “To Serve And Protect” — it’s the Canadian version of COPS and is quite illuminating of the differences.

  17. What can you expect of a country where ruled by the military? I think true social governments are something we need in America (the continent you gringo!) If you are into linux write to Stallman, if you are into movies write to Sean Penn, if you are into fashion write to Naomi Campbell, ask them to stop supporting a military tyrant.

  18. This is an excellent article, and deserves top page posting.

    While the current regime in Venezuela may well be better than some of the US-backed dictatorships over the last several decades, it is still an example of what happens when government makes the promise to solve all of the problems of society. After a while, realizing that this is an impossible task, it must go to more and more ludicrous ends to at least appear this it is doing SOMETHING.

    The larger promises made, the more must appear to be done – even if the actions taken are ultimately harmful.

    It makes me think of the reaction of our congress to the importing of large amounts of lead contaminated toys from China, which was putting up laws that threatened small toy makers and resellers. Or, you know, the housing projects – that seemed much less stupid than this on the face, not even comparable, but were ultimately more destructive than anything even Chavez has done.

    The real problem is when those who stand to benefit have control over things. Then, the solution presented to a very real problem is one that ends up helping primarily those with political power and exacerbating the underlying problem, as the health care bill looks like it’s going to be. (for the health of the thread, I won’t respond to any replies to that last comment ;)

  19. “There’s one little detail people seem to forget when discussing Chávez… as bad as he may be he was still democratically elected and as far as I know it was a fair election. Or this is not the case?”

    There’s one little detail people seem to forget when discussing Chávez… as many elections as he won in the past he steps on the rights of people with the excuse of being democratic, there are things that no ruler should do, no matter how many votes he has. And concern trolls forget he stopped to pretend being a democrat when he ignored election results in Caracas and put his own puppet as head of government, stripping the elected mayor, Antonio Ledezma (which I do not like, but he was elected by the people) of most of his authority and budget. He did similar stuff in states where the opposition won.

    If you asked me before March, Chavez was not a dictator, now after he won the elections that allow him to become re-elected (again) he is drunk with power and things have changed a lot. Is he a dictator? If he isn’t, he is much closer than in March. I think now he is indeed a dictator and his behavior of the last months is appalling.

    And, BTW, even if he is not a dictator. How is that supposed to change crime, a failing electric system (we never had any blackouts, now we can spend 4 hours a day with no power, the govt will stop the importations of Air Conditioners and water heaters, in a country with so much oil and hydroelectric power) and the fact I can be fined a shitload of money for writing what I wrote?

  20. Great article. I will now be sending this to everyone I know who has even a bit of interest in games. It’s a wake up call to governments everywhere that plans to ban violent video games.

  21. I’m Loving this post, that was my life back when I was a kid/teen in Venezuela. Games were too expensive so you got really good at the ones you had. And when Mortal Kombat, Virtua Fighter, Killer Instinct were the hottest games we’d spend endless hours dropping “tokens” on those arcades. Making friends (and “enemies”) from all kinds of places, with one thing in common, the challenge of the game and being the best you could be at it.

    Video games like Mortal Kombat were the first thing to teach me about disciplined training, striving for perfection, strategy, not letting your enemy breathe. Those skills then were used for sports like basketball, for chess, and ultimately for engineering, and business.

    @Gubatron – Expat Venezuelan

  22. “There’s one little detail people seem to forget when discussing Chávez… as bad as he may be he was still democratically elected and as far as I know it was a fair election. Or this is not the case?”

    One of the leaders of the CNE (national elections council) was named Vicepresident after Chávez won an election, how fair and transparent is that?

    Kudos for your essay Guido, as a “caraqueño” i agree exactly with you and will pass this to a some friends.

  23. I thought I’d crosspost my thoughts on this from my blog, where I link through to some older posts.

    In America we’re familiar with efforts to censor video games because they are too violent, pornographic, etc. Its attractive because its easy and it feels like progress, but it isn’t. If you want to make your culture less violent you have to confront actual violence rather than things that look like violence but aren’t.

  24. don’t see wtf zelda, secret of mana have or mario have to do with a ban on violent videogames. like would discussing a ban on extreme movies necessitate talking about casablanca, or a wonderful life. I kinda switched off then it felt teh confused, he might need to check his meds.

  25. Octopod: I think you need to read the text of the law before making such statements. Have you done it? Or maybe I imagined all those swords, bombs, arrows and monster smashing in those games you named. Any game that uses weapons or violence is forbidden. Not only Counter Strike.

    Care to back up your comment and prove me wrong?

    1. hi, no, I hadn’t read it as google failed a bit, from articles about it however, and forums posts by alleged venezuelans asking who would decide what was violent, I guessed maybe it was something like:

      “The proposed law would give Venezuela’s consumer protection agency the discretion to define what products should be prohibited and impose fines as high as $128,000. ”

      ie selling violent video games would be a bit of a no-no, well whatever, germany seems a bit like that too.

      there’s an upside tho:

      “The Venezuelan bill would mandate crime prevention classes in public schools and force the media to “implement permanent campaigns” to warn against the dangers of violent games. Another provision requires the government “to promote the production, distribution, sales and use” of games that teach kids “respect for an adversary.”

      tbh, I think the “respect for an adversary” thing is quite charming. so much for tea bagging in teh Haloz.

      of course, comrade chavez has all that lovely oil we’d so dearly love to bathe in, but there seems to be a problem with ppl murdering each other , even a loonytune would prefer to have ppl inside playing video games. tho, ymmv, I’d think allowing ppl to play the murdery ones wouldn’t be so bad as he thinks, but whatever.

  26. I agree with a lot of what Guido has to say. I’d just like to add that Chávez LOST the 2007 referendum and then PASSED all the laws ILLEGALLY through the Court packed in his favor and the Assembly 96% in his favor. He currently holds a militia that answers DIRECTLY to the President (aka does not respect military hierarchy) and has approved laws that were CLEARLY rejected by us, the people.
    This is a flagrant violation of “democracy”, just as forcing state employees to march in his favor or forcing them to sign petitions.
    These are documented facts. “Winning” an election is a stupid way of measuring democracy if in order to win it you violated all principles of representation, free speech and free choice.
    I would’ve been with you on that before february 2009, when he illegally used all state resources for propaganda in favor of his party and then ignored Ledezma being elected. Would you say Obama was a democrat if he ignored the Mayor of New York and decided to hand-pick Al Gore to do the job, taking away his budget, office and police?
    I think not.

  27. Thanks for this article, Guido. I’ve always found your comments on BoingBoing to be very well-reasoned and insightful, and this piece is an excellent extension of that. Keep up the good work (writing and gaming)!

  28. Guido –

    I should be clear that I have no problem with valid criticism of other nations. And clearly the irony in the bit on Finland etc. was lost on me – your later comment made it clear. That the world is often split between America and, well, everything else is certainly an unfortunate lack of nuance.

    What caused me problems was that you introduced all sorts of other arguments into the discussion of the law on video games in Venezuela. For example, while I agree that America’s incarceration rates are intolerable, I’m not sure I agree about cognitive liberty, which put me into a somewhat adversarial position when it was only tangential to your thesis. Additionally, I’m never sure about modelling this country on that one – it’s certainly not working for America in Iraq, and I’m sure it wouldn’t work for Finland on America. As for Venezuela, I don’t know, but it’d take an extensive article for sure. These are all totally separate arguements, and I don’t mention them because I want to argue them, but rather that as a result of them, I became unclear on the purpose of your essay. That’s why I was having issues.

    In any case, keep dissenting and stay safe!

  29. Very clear picture of whats happening, a civil war is in place and is a matter of time, Venezuela will implode and after it happens, the reconstruction will start.

    shame on Chavez and all his followers.

  30. For each Castro there is a Batista.

    The corruption and mismanagement of Venezuela by the ruling elite (rich people in general) prior to Chavez explains amply why he is so popular with the poor and dispossessed in the country.

    He is clearly a megalomaniac, but people will look towards such kind of leadership when all their hopes are dashed by decades of people governing who simply didn’t care about their needs.

  31. From a psychocological point of view, there is no evidence that there are any long-term effects from videogame violence on real violonce OR in building out violent cognitive structures.

    You remeber that one? 95% of all persons running amok did eat bread before they killed other people. High correlation, right? This is exactly how videogames are treated. Nonscientific!

  32. “but people will look towards such kind of leadership when all their hopes are dashed by decades of people governing who simply didn’t care about their needs.”

    So, I guess that explains why Carlos Andrés Pérez and Andrés Caldera won second terms…

  33. My fellow Venezuelan, I couldn’t have spoken better words, I’m a 16 year old avid gamer, thanks to games not only I have learned English, but many things that have shaped me into who I am, it is indeed true that we, true gamers, tell the difference between fiction and reality and act accordingly to society and rules.

    Let’s all unite and resist what is possibly one of the dumbest things ever thought as a law.

  34. The leaders of the country are getting tired of getting their behind pwned by their citizens in CS. That’s why they’re banning video games.

    Although I can’t say I’m in nearly as bad a position as you, I can at the very least sympathize. I come from Thailand, which is also quite well known for its corruption (although not quite as badly as in Venezuela). We have more than our fair shares of corrupted cops, and our politicians and military men are among the top mafia and drug lords in the country.

    I was there when Thailand whip out the ban hammer against online game–the first country in the world to officially do it. Of course we have seen the governments blaming all manners of things on a glut of other things since before that time, and many afterward.

    I hope that your country will one day be blessed with a government that really does care for its people.

  35. EXCELLENT. This is the best essay I’ve read on Venezuela in years. My wife is Venezuelan so we follow the news there closely. One thought though: be careful with the whole non-violent resistance thing. Venezuelan prisons are the most dangerous in Latin America and the country has been cited repeatedly by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for violations, citations that have been ignored. During the first six months of 2008, there were around 250 violent deaths in a population of around 25,000.

    If you end up in a Venezuelan prison, you will probably die.

  36. Hi Guido. Im 19, my name is Graven and im from England. I just wanted to say that this has infuriated me. In every country, the Government is twisted, corrupt and turns its back on there people, but no more so than Venezuela. This “No Games” law has really taken the biscuit. It’s absurd. Im a gamer with a less than comfortable back ground so I fully understand how games have kept you occupied, is a place to escape the harsh realities of life, but to name a few reasons why games are so important. At the moment I am training to become a Games Designer and when I get to be coming one, im going to put across these issues that you have brought forth in your blog. In the mean time I will try to do anything that will hopefully help in backing your argument. As some people have already said, this law shouldn’t be in place because its only a few people that abuse games. The rest are just mentally unstable or are just psychopaths. Anyways, Thanks for being so brave and Good Luck. The Gamers of England are behind you!

  37. >During the first six months of 2008, there were around 250 violent deaths in a population of around 25,000.
    >If you end up in a Venezuelan prison, you will probably die.

    I’d guess, pedantically, that you’d have to be in the slammer for 35 years for that to be true, assuming violent death is the only significant cause of death. without a calculator.

  38. Beautiful article.
    The paragraph where you start gushing about the games you’ve played made me ridiculously giddy.

    1. Phrosty: It is great that you noticed. I tried to include some of the games that made me happy and kept me out of trouble at home, which is a very big reason that parents buy video games these days: It keeps the kids out of very unsafe streets.

      Octopod: Again, you are talking about something you have not even the slightest clue. The maximum jail sentence in Venezuela is 30 years.

      1. hmm. sorry, you misunderstood. I was estimating that .99^70 ~ 0.5, ie the number of half years required for an untimely end in chavez grim dungeon.

        cuando usted lo tiene, el español está muy bien

  39. Thanks to all the people concerned and for all the congratulations. I wrote as well as I could, as this matters a lot to me. And it matters enough for me to not bowing to them. I plan to start yet another blog and buy a domain, and once the law begins to be enacted, promote video games.

    This is very necessary civil disobedience and defense of Freedom of Speech. If we all obey their laws, they will just keep on forbidding more stuff, knowing we are afraid. I am afraid, of course I am, but we should have stood long time ago.

    An update: A week after the law was passed, the govt. is promoting howto shoot classes for the people from the barrios.

  40. Very well-written article Guido. Your arguments seem to be very well supported by reasoning on the facts. I just found this site and as a Venezuelan decided to have a look at your article right away to find out what it was really all about. Well,I must say that after reading the first lines, you really caught my attention which made me to continue reading,nonstop, your long (oh, yes; it is long)butvery much interesting essay (although, I must confess I hate violent video games, It´s just not my thing). However, I believe that the starting point or “starting thesis” (which I consider it is not the actual thesis or main idea,to say it in plain words)of you writing, was not so much the banning of violent video games and the like in Venezuela but the absurd, bizzard, etc., behavior of “the owner of the circus and his clowns”. The fact that you are such a young person with such mature reasoning and good handling of writing skills amazes me. I really digged your writing in general and I wish to have the opportunity of reading more of you. Well done, Guido! Keep up the good work!

  41. If violent internet games becomes a symbol of freedom, I can only say “poor world”. Why we all don’t hate violence?

  42. A good read… thank you for writing. I really hope the system changes dramatically for the better one day. :( I wouldn’t be the person I am today, nor would I have met many of my best friends, without the gaming culture.

    Your last two paragraphs reminded me of an old PC game called Ultima 5, where the government has become corrupt and tried to twist moral and virtue into law. It was a game I grew up with, and it helped teach me that not all laws are good, even if their intentions might have been. Sometimes you have to break them or oppose them to achieve a better world.

    Good luck to you and your brother. He’s lucky to have you :)

    And good luck to all gamers.

  43. Guido, this letter was wonderful and beautifully written, and I thank you for it.

    While I disagree with some of your comments (mainly the ones about taxes and “true” socialism), the vast majority of your article rings very true with me.

    Here in the US, politicians attempt to ban things like violent videogames as well. Thankfully, our society is still free enough that they don’t often succeed… but there are definitely exceptions, and the list of stupid laws grows every day.

    (By the way, if you haven’t read “Little Brother” by Cory Doctorow, DO IT. I have a feeling you’d like it, and I bet your little brother would too when he gets a little older!)

  44. As a fellow Venezuelan mortified by this stupid, nonsensiacl law, I take my hat off to you. Bravo!

  45. Sencillamente…Genial!!

    En español en apoyo a los venezolanos

    Uno de los mejores manifiestos que he leido en mucho tiempo. Mi total apoyo al autor y recordando aquellas inmemorables palabras “Las leyes, las hacen los vencedores” le digo al señor Chavez…bueno NO lo es, que recuerde que todos los dictadores, por que SÍ lo es) han terminado recordados por los mares de sangre que han causado.

  46. Thanks for writing this man, you have resumed what many of us wanted to say.

    BTW I loved the “Vuitton clad jerks” part :D

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