SYDNEY Horror writer Stephen King has criticized plans by a U.S. state to ban violent video games, saying such a move would be undemocratic and it was up to parents to monitor their children's entertainment.
King, in a pop culture column he writes for Entertainment Weekly, said he was no videogame fan but was outraged when he heard that a bill in the state of Massachusetts could ban the sale of violent games to anyone aged under 18.
"What makes me crazy is when politicians take it upon themselves to play surrogate parents. The results of that are usually disastrous. Not to mention undemocratic," wrote King.
The move comes amid an ongoing debate in the United States, Britain and Australia about banning violent games. British and Irish authorities last year banning videogame "Manhunt 2" in which an insane asylum escapee goes on a killing spree.
The jury remains out on whether violent videogames lead to violent behavior.
King, whose stories such as "The Shining" and "Carrie" have been made into Hollywood horror movies, said it seemed to him that the games only reflected a violence that already existed in the society.
"What really makes me insane is how eager politicians are to use the pop culture as a whipping boy. It's easy for them, even sort of fun, because the pop-cult always hollers nice and loud. Also, it allows legislators to ignore the elephants in the living room," he said.
He pointed out that there already was a rating system for videogames and banning them was pointless because if the youngsters wanted to get hold of them, they would find ways.
King argued that the growing divide in between the haves and the have-nots in the United States and the country's gun laws contributed more to violent behavior than computer games.
He said it was too easy for critics to claim -- falsely as it turned out -- the Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui was a fan of shooting game "Counter-Strike."
"If he'd been stuck with nothing but a plastic videogame gun, he wouldn't even have been able to kill himself," wrote King.
The author said the most effective bar was parents knowing and caring about what their children were watching and reading, what they were doing and who they were hanging out with.
"Parents need to have the guts to forbid material they find objectionable ... and then explain why it's being forbidden," he said.
"They also need to monitor their children's lives in the pop culture -- which means a lot more than seeing what games they're renting down the street."
(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Sophie Hardach)