Throughout the history of video games, the oldest stereotype surrounding the industry has always been do violent video games affect player behavior and personality. It is a known fact that people who play games are exposed to more violence than the average consumer. From nuking entire civilization to obliterating players online, it’s has become more and more common now that games are more focus on squarely providing violent action. For this reason alone, parents have long held an underlining negative attitude towards the industry and those who stand by it, but is this criticism injustice or have developers gone to far? Should government step in?
This discussion all stems from last years U.S Supreme Court hearings that brought the amount of violence in video games into the spotlight. The case centered around making the sale of violent video games to children without parental consent. The bill originated in 2005 from California Senator Leland Yee who believe there was connection between violent video games and aggressive behavior in children. Finally after years in delay and stoppage the bill made it’s way to Capital Hill in 2011 titled, Brown vs. The Entertainment Merchants Association. What was the outcome?
The Supreme Court voted down the bill with a resounding 7-2 result. Most importantly, the Supreme Court Justices saw video games as an art form and followed it under the first amendment. Justice Antonin Scalia was credited being the biggest voice during the case and after the trials, Scalia was quoted saying, “like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas--and even social messages--through many familiar literary devices and through features distinctive to the medium. That suffices to confer First Amendment protection.”
I couldn’t agree more and was happy that Justice Antonin Scalia saw both sides and wasn’t setting an unparallel president. Far too often, people ignore violence seen in phases in our mass media society. To finding light porn in HBO’s True Blood to violent and un-appropriate behavior violence seen in Robot Chicken. It would be wrong to prosecute one form of entertainment when Movies and TV use it as an key attention grabber.
The most important thing to come out of the Supreme Court hearings was the looming future surrounding this issue. Other states like, Rhode Island, Arkansas, Georgia, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Washington have attempted to legislate bills that would make it illegal for minors to purchase mature rated products, but have all miss fired. The most recent attempt came last month when California Senator Joe Baca proposed that video games should carry a cigarette – stylized warning label that says “ Warning: Exposure to violent video games have linked to aggressive behavior.” We are a long ways away from this discussion and it’s for that reason alone that I believe both parties need to finally change for the better good.
First things first, video games have long had a rating system that restricts minors for purchasing matured rated content. As video games were evolving from the 8-bit era to the 16-bit era, the industry was becoming increasable violent with titles like Mortal Kombat and Doom. Established in 1994 by the Congress, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has rated every video game to hit the market since then. Ranging from kid friendly games like Super Mario that are rated ‘E’ for everyone, to ‘T’ for teen friendly games like the Need For Speed franchise series and where the highly controversial games like Halo and GTA are given the mature ‘M’ rating are found.
Even though the industry has a rating system, it is still very much overlooked by parents and media personal a like. The concept that video games spark youth violence is still in their minds, but evidence has proved other wise. According to the federal crime statistics, the rate of juvenile violent crime in 2008 in the United States was at a 30-year low. Now this is my biggest argument because video games have skyrocket to new heights and now have become a billion dollar industry (PBS), but we haven’t seen effects on the youth like people have proclaimed. Through more investigation, ages 9 – 14 used video games as a well to relive stress rather than choosing a violent path. Now if this were true we would have already seen the results decades ago. We really need to drop this notion that Violence in games causes kids to be mass murders. If that was true, I would have became a master guitarist from all the Guitar Hero I played in high school.
Currently the industry is in its golden era and messing that up will be catastrophic for many developers who depend on it’s current state. A label of any sorts decimating video games from our mass media society would be the death nail that many have wanted to nail for the longest time. Developers and publishers would lose jobs and have to obey entirely to government’s harsh restrictions or choose a brand new career path. So where should government step in? How much should they regulate?.
Up to now, government has the ESRB rating system, which has been working well with the youth, but how far should they go? I believe we need to let the current system work and not interfere with a proven method. As games are getting more and more realistic, this subject will always be brought up with us always over looking the artistic aspect of the industry.
Wildly known movie critic, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times spoke out how video games can never be seen as art. He said that gamers are more concern about what gameplay features are presented to them rather admiring artwork the setting. While he might be correct, I can’t help go back to Edgar Degas, a famous French artist who said, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”. That’s exactly what art has always been about from the very beginning. We have always allowed ourselves to fill in the blanks and let us interpret art in our way and that will never change.
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