To Ban or Not to Ban Political Regulations of Violent Video Games By: Mrs. Rachel Thompson

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To Ban or Not to Ban

Political Regulations of Violent Video Games

By: Mrs. Rachel Thompson

“Video games aren’t addictive and they don’t promote racism or sexism. They just depict storylines in which those things might be involved.” (Thegamingbrit, 2010)

Figure 1 Santola, Matthew. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Scene at Russian airport shooting unarmed civilians. 07 December 2009
The popular YouTube and Screw Attack personality, Thegamingbrit, had a heated commentary recently to discuss the topic of recent bans in the gaming industry. Over the one-sided debate on the Alan Titchmarsh show you could hear him passionately cut down every argument presented by a panel of guests who believed violent video games should be banned or censored.

The show argued that the violent video games affect children negatively by making them more violent, withdrawn and have lower self-esteem. They argue that there is more violence in video games than in entertainment from previous generations and that it is more easily acquired by young children. Tim Ingham argued that there is also more violence in other forms of entertainment such as movies. Thegamingbrit countered by suggesting there isn’t more violence, only better ways to depict that violence as technology has advanced. The latter opinion would seem to be a fair assessment if you take a look at The Dispatch’s November 10th 1982 newspaper edition which stated, “Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, speaking Tuesday in Pittsburgh, charged the popular games produce ‘aberrations in childhood behavior’ and that in the most popular versions, ‘everything is eliminate, kill, destroy.” Even in the 1980’s violence in video games was an issue that caused some countries and places across the US to ban or regulate video game use.

There is a rating system similar to the one for movies which is supposed to keep violent games out of the hands of

children. The ratings begin with EC (Early Childhood), go to E (Everyone), to E 10+ (Everyone 10+), T (Teen), M (Mature), AO (Adults Only), and finally RP (Rating Pending). There is also a content description with the lettering system to explain why each game got the rating it received. Since the rating system’s inception there has been controversy surrounding it. Is it correctly

rated? Harvard did a study in 2001 that suggested 3 out of 5 video games rated E for Everyone had high levels of violence. Nolan Bushnell, inventor of Atari, has a different perspective. He believes that the more you regulate the gaming industry, the more you limit the next generation of inventors. The debate has caused distress in many circles through the past few decades.

Figure 2: Schneider, Chris/AP. Lindsay and Danny Abrams at candle vigil in Columbine for 10 year reunion of massacre. 19 April 2009.
In 1999, President Clinton was noted as saying, “the more children see of violence, the more numb they are to the deadly consequences of violence. Now, video games like ‘Mortal Kombat,’ ‘Killer Instinct,’ and ‘Doom,’ the very game played obsessively by the two young men who ended so many lives in Littleton, make our children more active participants in simulated violence.” His comments were ignited by the then recent Columbine shootings where video games were blamed for the violence acted out by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold on April 20th 1999. The two students managed to kill 12 people, one teacher, injure 21 people directly and 3 indirectly before committing suicide. It was not uncommon then or now to wonder if access to violent video games could cause a person to have violent tendencies.

Patrick Markey, a psychologist at Villanova University, was questioned about the soundness of this theory. His answer was that violent video games only have a very limited effect on a person’s aggression level. There are only a small number of people who are affected by video games strongly. He says people who become violent while playing video games are people who are already prone to anger and violence. “What’s happening is these school shooters are doing these shootings because they played the violent video games. They’re doing these shootings most likely because they are angry and they’ve been provoked in life. Perhaps one of those provocations might be violent video games but there’s all the other daily provocations that happen so it’s not the video games fault for these school shootings. It is the person’s fault for these school shootings.” (Cheaptest)

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