Modern warfare against video games

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.

  • Nick2010

    Xavier: Very good argument. I totally agree with you. The fact that you used U.S. Department of Justice statistics to show that teen violence has been on the decline and dropping 33 percent between 1996 and 2008 was a very good point. I believe in any argument we must argue about the subject written, either in agreement or oppose it. I see that some commentators did not do that and talked about the writer.

  • apr345

    With or without parental consent, kids will still play violent video games whether we like it or not. Nobody really cares about the ratings. A 8 year-old boy might have his 18 year-old brother buy the video game for him, or the video game can be laying around the house and a 10 year old picks it up. It’s not the parents do not care about what their kids play, it’s just that sometimes, parents cannot control their kids anymore… or kids sometimes do things behind their parents’ back, like playing war video games.

    On another note, I’ve noticed that the comments above are not particularly related to the article. Another argument was started regarding the burning of the holy text/Constitution. I say we stick to commenting about the topic and not about other articles the writer wrote prior to this one.

  • Clarence Thomas

    Presently, there are only a few areas in which the government may restrict one’s First Amendment rights: obscentity, defamation, fraud, incitement to commit acts of violence, and speech if it amounts to criminal conduct.

    The Supreme Court has already shown numerous times that it is unwilling to create new categories when it comes to content-based regulation. Thus, any new ban on violent video games is likely to be deemed unconstitutional.

  • David the small-L libertarian

    Xavier: I find it interesting that you’re for the government staying out of this issue but you’re all for an amendment to the Constitution outlawing the burning of holy texts. Refer to your Sept. 15, 2010 opinion piece: http://sundial.csun.edu/2010/09/the-u-s-should-pass-a-constitutional-amendment-outlawing-the-burning-of-holy-texts-in-effigy/

    • Xavier Scott

      since you’re interested i recommend you gaze through other articles ive written. in that, you will find i am for government for some things and against them for others

      • David the small-L libertarian

        I tried a search and didn’t come up with much other than news articles.

    • BigMac

      Claiming that “this is like that” and you’re a hypocrite is a typical liberal attitude.A true libertarian looks at every policy on its own merits. You sir are no libertarian.

      • David the small-L libertarian

        I didn’t “claim” anything; I’m trying to understand Mr. Scott’s seemingly inconsitent thinking. As a “true” libertarian I believe that the government should largely step aside and allow people to be free to do what they wish as long as they don’t harm others. The two issues I cited are examples of where people should be free to do as they please. Mr. Scott’s positions seem to be based more on feelings than idology.

        You might look at some of my other posts by clicking on my profile. I think that they will show that I am a “true” libertarian. One note: I have plenty of libertarian posts under the name “David” before the Sundial moved to the new Disqus comment format.

        • Xavier Scott

          well you may not think so but i if someone’s burning holy texts, which constitutes the whole being of some people and even nations, it is harmful and has the potential to cause violence and even war. a small-town priest gained international news by doing. but imagine an incredibly conservative politician or even president? there would be negative consequences on a global scale. however video games have nothing to do with the government’s responsibilities in watching over this nation and the people in it and they should leave the matter to parents and overseers like the ESRB

          • David the small-L libertarian

            You’re right: I don’t think so. I’m not likely to convince you that these two issues are similar in that they involve issues of personal freedom but allow me to respond.
            The Constitution is almost entirely about the defining the structure of government and enumerating the things that government CAN’T do to its citizens. (A notable exception being Prohibition, which was repealed after its spectacular failure.) You’re not even asking for an (unconstitutional) state or federal law making it illegal for a person to burn a holy text; you’re asking for an amendment to the Constitution and that’s a big deal.
            So because some fool in Florida, or potentially some “incredibly conservative politician or even president” wants to exercise his freedoms by burning the Quran and that some group or nation MIGHT become violent or declare war against the U.S., you want to amend the Constitution prohibiting such behavior. (Note: That would include an “incredibly leftist politician or even president” who might want to desecrate Christian beliefs.) But why stop there? You should be consistent and call for a constitutional amendment prohibiting ALL activity that might elicit such reactions. A few examples come to mind:
            • Prohibit the depiction of Muhammed because Islamists may become violent or Islamist states may declare war on us.
            • Prohibit any person from writing or speaking negatively about other cultures such as those that subjugate women or kill them for having sex outside of marriage lest they become angry with the U.S.
            • Prohibit “artists” from publicly displaying “art” such as Andre Serrano’s “Piss Christ” (a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the “artist’s” urine), and David Wojnarowicz’ “A Fire in My Belly (a video depiction of Jesus covered with ants).
            • Prohibit any statement, particularly by a President, claiming the U.S. is superior in any way to any culture or country lest they become violent or declare war against the U.S.
            • Prohibit any video game that depicts the U.S. engaged in any military action against a foreign enemy lest it provoke that enemy to become violent or declare war against the U.S.
            Just imagine how many personal freedoms we could take away in order for the government to ensure our safety.

  • BigMac

    Vote for less government, every chance that you get.