In the recent weeks, lawmakers have been debating over a seemingly transparent law on the restriction upon minors to rent or buy video games depicting serious injury to a human being that is especially heinous, atrocious or cruel. The law was passed back in 2005, but didn’t gain much attention due to the fact enforcement was difficult and the content in addition to other legal challenges posed, was vague regarding First Amendment rights.
In this one, presented by the unpopular Schwarzenegger, the law is given a makeover clearly stating its guidelines and issuing hefty fines to retailers who don’t abide by its rules. As of now it is still up for debate, both the alleged effects of violent video games and the First Amendment right of minors being the themes of the argument.
But, don’t video games already provide a rating system? The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) was established in 1994 and has been providing ratings based on the content of each game. They are precise, unbiased and use a process that requires the work of people who either have experience with children professionally or are parents themselves.
With their label placed boldly in black and white in plain view on the left side of each game package, their message isn’t hard to miss.
Additionally, they provide on the package minor details as to why the game has been rated whatever it has. Though brief, if the game is rated “M” standing for “Mature,” the ESRB uses phrases like “Blood and Gore” and “Intense Violence,” easy enough guides for parents to comprehend and know exactly what it is their children are buying or what they’re getting ready to buy for them. Which poses another question: Aren’t there at least two enforcement bodies that already have the power to restrict the buying or renting of violent games to minors?
Retailers and parents both have an obligation to follow the ESRB’s guidelines. Be it that the ESRB doesn’t fine retailers for selling “Mature” games to minors, said obligations only come from a moral standpoint in regards to retailers. However, their message is clear, providing the age appropriateness of each game based solely on the research regarding human development and the recommendations as to the graphic nature one is shown at any specific age.
Though many stores have policies that follow these guidelines, granted if they had been enforced, this law wouldn’t be up for debate.
The trend of today’s parents seems to be obsequiousness by some twisted means to please their children, enabling children who, by some standards, should not be seeing someone or engaging in killing others at such a young age.
It is up to parents to filter the games they think are right for their children, and the ESRB provides the perfect guidelines even for those least educated on the subject.
Violent video games haven’t been shown to have any negative effects on minors since their release. The most violent games have been made mostly during the beginning of the 21st century and provide better graphics, entail more realism, and better interactive gameplay, which requires the gamers to make the decisions.
However, according to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, teen violence has been on the decline, even dropping 33 percent between 1996 and 2008.
Lawmakers and the media have exacerbated events such as the shooting at Columbine High School, which had nothing to do with video games and everything to do with two teens who were sociopaths, and the Virginia Tech shooting, after which investigators found the shooter never played video games.
Though probably not the entire cause of teen crime declining, there have been many studies done finding video games to be a good stress reliever. Using displacement, many teens who perhaps would go out and kill a real being can instead kill a virtual being right in their very own living room.