It’s been a busy year for handwringing media watchdog groups, especially on television, as we’ve progressed from Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl nipple slip to ABC affiliates’ fear of fines for airing an uncut Saving Private Ryan. Not to be left out, the National Institute on Media and the Family has released its annual Video Game Report Card, which singles out Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as being particularly “killographic” and accuses video games of “contributing to the obesity epidemic among American youth.”

What irritates me about the NIMF report card isn’t so much that it thinks that games like GTA:SA are violent and amoral; to be honest, they are. It’s that they think children don’t understand this, that they’re mindless automata that will unquestioningly absorb and believe whatever they see on the screen. Of course, the “media effects” argument goes over particularly well with people on Capitol Hill for two reasons: it gives them something to preach about, and as a bonus it has to do with protecting the children; more importantly, a world in which people believes everything they’re fed can only be good for politicians, who are of course experts at feeding people a line.

Oddly, the report card lists both Madden 2005 and ESPN NFL 2K5 as games “recommended for chidren and teens.” I wonder how they would react if those games added cutscenes featuring a naked white woman jumping into a black player’s arms.