Every now and then, a politician comes up with some sort of legislation in an attempt to ban or regulate the sale of violent video games to children. In 2005, California State Senator Leland Yee drafted state legislation (AR 1179) that would ban the sale of ultra-violent video games to minors in the California. In 2006, Louisiana’s Representative Roy Burrell, with the help of former attorney and activist Jack Thompson, drafted similar legislation.
Now, Senator Dianne Feinstein gave an ultimatum to the video game industry. She basically told them to stop glorifying violence in video games or Congress might have to step in and do something about it.
I’m not sure what she plans to do beyond what has already been done. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know either.
In 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that video games, even the violent ones, were considered art and fell under the protection of the first amendment. So why would Senator Feinstein make such a statement in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Her concern is that violent video games can be utilized as simulators for individuals (she means “would-be-murders”) to practice killing. It’s a very clever way of saying that these “individuals” would use violent video games as a means of desensitizing themselves from the horrors of killing another human being. Although, to be honest, anyone who wants to fool themselves into thinking that killing is ok is most likely crazy and really determined to stay that way.
Do violent video games really desensitize their audience to real life violence? Does the enjoyment of committing virtual acts of violence in video games cause a person to enjoy committing similar acts of violence in real life?
Penn and Teller say no.
The idea that the interactive nature of violent video games reinforces violent behavior in children is a terrifying prospect, to be sure. To those who have never played a violent video game in their life, or to the few who have and have found it not to their liking, this line of reasoning makes sense. A kid who spends countless hours pressing a button to shoot a gun, slash a sword, or just to plain punch a video game character to death just to earn points could most likely become a violent person conditioned to tolerate violent behavior and even emulate it.
For those of us who have played video games all our lives, it boggles the mind. Why? Personal experience.
I want to be clear. Children should not be allowed to purchase M-rated video games. I would not even recommend many of the M rated titles out there for a variety of reasons, many of which are printed on the back of the games by means of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) rating system. There are even some I wouldn’t recommend just because I know they’re terrible games. But hey, you don’t have to listen to me. There are plenty of blogs and gaming sites that provide easily accessible reviews for just about every game out there. You can even Google “<Insert Game Name Here> review” and voila…
Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve played video games all my life. I’ve been lucky enough to play games for almost every console out there from the original Nintendo (NES) to Playstation 3. I’ve played almost all of the Super Mario games, Doom, Mortal Kombat, the Half-Life series, and the Assassin’s Creed Series. Regardless, I can say with certainty that I’m not a violent person, nor have I ever had any crazy violent tendencies.
Ok… that’s not entirely true. When I was a kid, my friends and I used to pretend we were Mortal Kombat characters and battle each other in the back yard. We had some pretty epic fights. We even got into some heated arguments. I was Scorpion, he was Sub-Zero. I know I got him with my “Get Over Here!” move, but he claimed to have dodged it and froze me somehow. I know I pulled my move first, thereby cancelling out his move, but he claimed otherwise. But that’s beside the point. Some of those friends have played more games than I have and they aren’t violent people. This is why I have serious reservations about drawing a line connecting violent video games and violent acts.
And what does science have to say on this matter? Does video game violence cause violence in human behavior? As of today, there have been no conclusive studies that have shown a causation between violent video games and violent behavior. Rather, these studies have shown that there is a correlation between violent video games and an increase in aggressive behavior.
Aggression does not necessarily mean violence. By definition, aggression can be a physical, verbal, mental, or emotional action for the purposes of either expressing anger, asserting dominance, intimidating, achieving a goal, expressing possession, or responding to fear or pain. Everyone has shown aggression in their life in one form or another, whether it was expressing their opinion and sticking to it, honking their car horn when someone cut them off, or even in expressing romantic interest in that special someone. In fact, you could even say that State Senator Yee was aggressive when he challenged both the California and Supreme courts’ ruling that his video game law was unconstitutional which subsequently resulted to his wasting taxpayer’s money on a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation.
But that’s ok, State Senator Yee and Senator Feinstein are some of the few politicians who know what they are talking about and would be willing to spend however much of the money that is not theirs to regulate an already self-regulating gaming industry, all for the sake of our nation’s children. Whenever someone cries out, “For the love of God, think of the children!”. They’ll be there. It screams aggression for all the right reasons, even if they aren’t really doing anything.