Eliminate Restrictions for Minors to Purchase Mature, Adult Only and Rating Pending Rated Video Games
As a little girl I always beat my dad. Playing fighting games such as Soul Caliber, countless hours spend in the basement of our quaint New Jersey home were consumed with playing video games. For younger sister and me, these were the best times of our childhood bonding with our dad. We’d play age appropriate games such as Mario and Lego but more often then not we’d be playing M for Mature rated games our father would bring back from the local GameStop. My favorite out of these video games was God of War, a Rated M game that didn’t hold back in portraying all the gore and violence of Homer’s The Odyssey, the epic poem of which the game was based on. My sister and I’s childhood seemingly unusual for little girls is not uncommon, especially with the growing video game industry. Along with the expansion and improvements in the gaming world the presence of violent mature rated games has only increased. In 2008 out of the 10 most popular video games in the United States, 6 of which included violence and 4 of these games held a M for Mature rating given by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). Under this rated M label audiences under the age of 17 would not be recommended so play such games (Kierkegaard 278). Even though it isn’t illegal to sell minors M rated, AO (adults only) and RP (rating pending) games, it is enforced store policy among major retailors. These major retailors make up 80% of video game sales (Olsen at al, 77). This makes it almost impossible for minors to purchase mature rated games on their own which is why, the policy restricting the sales of adult rated video games to minors has become a negative influence on underage players, game retailers, and the gaming industry and therefore should be eliminated. The policy is also unconstitutional under the First Amendment, Freedom of Speech. With this policy eradicated, the economy surrounding the gaming industry will thrive.
Lost Revenue in the Game Piracy Circuit [Consequence and Circumstance]
With most video game stores restricting the sale of mature rated games to minors, these young gamers have found alternatives to attainting the hottest M rated game through other means. These methods of attaining games are often illegal due to the increasing number of game piracy. Piracy can defined as the “authorized intellectual property that is produced by inventors (writing images, music, film and games) who are legally protected by an authorized council to prevent imitating or copying of the original products without permission” (Phau 741). Piracy and sharing go hand in hand as mediums in which individuals work around the policy. Sharing is the process of distributing material that is ours to others for the purpose other people’s personal use and the taking of other people’s material for our one personal use (Belk 1597). So the web of illegal piracy and sharing begins with one individual obtaining a game (legally or illegally) and sharing it online. From there other people online will take this file and on certain websites these takers are required to contribute something of their own, continuing the cycle of illegal piracy and sharing (Belk 1597). Just like illegal websites such as LimeWire that emerged in popularity when music became digital, sharing and piracy among video games has become just as widespread with the majority of perpetrators young adults between the ages of 18 and 29. These individuals that participate in this type of illegal activity do not perceive their actions as morally incorrect even though it violates copyright infringement laws (Phau 740). Perpetrators, mostly young people (Belk 1596) morally accept sharing and pirating games, is partially due to the fact that they otherwise would not be able to legally go into a store and purchase the physical game itself. The presence of the policy has caused a negative impact by on the gaming economy because when retailor turn away minors, these minors turn to illegal sharing or of age parties to purchase the game for them. The revenue lost due to piracy and sharing is estimated to range from $1 billion to $3 billion dollars internationally (Phau 741). This number combined with the $2.15 million dollars in US tax payer money used to fund the 12 cases imposing game sale restriction policies, that have been presented since 2000, add up to a lot of lost funds due to these restrictions (Phau 741). The loss of revenue from piracy and sharing consequential to retailors refusing minors a legal means of preaching games is a consequence of ratings themselves.
Ratings Based on Interpretation and Opinion (Definition)
In order for a game to receive the label of M for Mature it would have to contain material this is “generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, and graphic sexual content,” according to the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). These points are open to interpretation due to the vast variety of games and material. Since each game is unique it is impossible to categorize them equally. Bias towards game rating is prevalent as an outcome of this open interpretation. In comparing raters of games who have children to ESRB raters these is a disagreement with the designation of many ratings deemed suitable for different ages. Violent video games consist of a majority of these disagreements (Walsh and Gentile). For a policy that is based on an interpretation cannot be stable. What the policy of restricting the sales of violent video games has become is a result of this waterfall effect. Minors can’t purchase adult rated games from retailers due to ratings that are not based on a factual process. This cycle stems from the false connotation that violent video games cause violent behavior, which holds no validity.
Violence in Video Games to Violent Behavior (Authority)
Violence in video games has been a constantly repeated idea but in reality holds no factual support. Following incidences such as the Columbine shooting in 1999 when two perpetrators who played violent video games and listened to metal music opened fire on a Colorado school, leaving 12 students and 1 teacher dead, violent video games have become the central stated cause for violence in youths (Zhang 268). But just because this statement is repeated every time a violent event involving a young adult occurs does not make it true. In a study conducted by Christopher Ferguson, who serves as department chair of phycology at Stetson University and guest editor for the American Psychological Association, he found that there was no correlation between violent behaviors to violent video games. This study was conducted in an environment where family violence exposure was controlled (Ferguson 310). This brings up the hypothesis that violent behaviors in youth may not be due to violent games but instead other factors children are exposed to. Also, so accurately form a conclusion about the effects of violent video games people must take into consideration all parts of the argument including the benefits of violent video games. Violent games have shown to improve spatial cognitive abilities while non-violent video games that also require players to perform visual tasks do not show an improvement in these same abilities” (Ferguson 311). The presence of violent video games in development might actually be beneficial instead of harmful to players, which are not presented when, the media excuses violent acts on the influence of violent video games. But even with the misconception about violent video games a policy that restricts a group of people from certain material, the policy itself is unconstitutional under the First Constitutional Amendment, Freedom of Speech.
Schwarzenegger vs. The Entertainment Merchants Association
With the growing development of the gaming industry and the constant flow violent video games being produced every year, there will be policies presented to regulate and protect gaming minors. An example of this demand for restriction is the California ban to that would outlaw the sales of mature rated video games to minors below the age of 18 streaming from the Schwarzenegger vs. The Entertainment Merchants Association case (Zhang 267). The conflict being addressed was if the obscenity of violent video games to minors outweighed the First Amendment regarding Freedom of Speech. This case is parallel to many others that have surfaced over the years. Legislators in 20 states and the District of Columbia presented bills protecting minors from adult rated video games in 2005. In Illinois, Michigan and California a bill specifically outlawing the sales of adult rated video games to minors less than 18 years of age was submitted. In both of these cases the bills were blocked from enforcement. (Olsen et al, 77). The Schwarzenegger vs. The Entertainment Merchants Association ended similarly in it being overturned (Kierkegaard 278). What this means is that for future of the gaming industry, presented regulations still must follow the Unites States Constitution or otherwise be deemed unconstitutional. This however has not stopped major retailors from enforcing their own policy weather it be constitutional or not. The abolishment of the policy restricting the sale of adult material to minors means more than attempting to protect our youth from inappropriate material. It would prevent the spread of censorship from flowing into other forms of media such as television, music and books.
The Value of the Freedom of Speech (Value)
When government begins to regulate video games under the basis that the material they project is harmful what will prevent them from deeming other material inappropriate as well? China has already banned the linking to website from linking material that encourages the glamorization of violence. This ban also includes material that promotes drug use, obscenities, gambling, and crimes (such as rape, vandalism and theft)(Kierkegaard 280). China’s ban has already spread to the Internet in controlling what websites can or can’t show. But in China’s communist state, acts such as these are not unfamiliar. What are protecting the United States are our amendments, which secure our freedom to say what we want without the fear of censorship. There is no current law illegalizing the sale of M rated, Adult Only rated or Rating Pending rated video games to minors and to protect out fundamental rights it must remain that way. With that said, the policies that a majority of retail stores enforce that act as invisible laws must be abolished with the overturned proposals that have been presented.
Overall the policy restricting the sales of adult rated video games to minors has become a negative influence on underage players, game retailers, and the gaming industry and therefore should be eliminated. The policy is also unconstitutional under the First Amendment, Freedom of Speech. The policy standing that a majority of retail stores hold stand as an obstacle for minors to evade using illegal game pirating and sharing. This growth in piracy has caused the gaming industry a massive hit in revenue loss. The gaming economy has suffered from ratings given by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), which are impossible to rate accurately and are disputable. Will all of these considered; the fundamental principal that has caused this waterfall of restrictions is the misconception that violent video games cause violent behavior. For a policy to stand it bust be rooted in undisputable proof.
Belk, Russell. "You Are What You Can Access: Sharing and Collaborative Consumption Online." Journal of Business Research (2013): n. pag. Web. 9 Dec. 2014.
Ferguson, Christopher John. "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: A Meta-analytic Review of Positive and Negative Effects of Violent Video Games." Psychiatric Quarterly 78.4 (2007): 309-16. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.
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Phau, Ian, and Johan Liang. "Downloading Digital Video Games: Predictors, Moderators and Consequences." Marketing Intelligence & Planning 30.7 (2012): 740-56. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.
Walsh, D. A., and D. A. Gentile. "A Validity Test of Movie, Television, and Video-Game Ratings." Pediatrics 107.6 (2001): 1302-308. Web. 9 Dec. 2014.
Zhang, J.d. Xiaolu. "Setting the Stage: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Video Games Prepare for Battle in the United States Supreme Court." Computer Law & Security Review 27.3 (2011): 267-77. Web. 9 Dec. 2014.