Do video games really need to be censored by the United States’ Government? Essay

Rated M: for Misunderstanding
Do video games really need to be censored by the United States’ Government? Over the past several years there has been a controversial court case under discussion to censor video games. This case is trying to get the United States’ Government to prohibit the selling of all video games that may include graphic violence, virtual sex, violent and gory scenes, partial or full nudity, and portrayal of criminal behavior or other provocative and objectionable material. There are numerous arguments why video games should or should not be censored. Video games should not be censored because parents should show responsibility in raising their children, it is unconstitutional, video game companies take enough steps to already censor their products already, and censorship would impact the video game industry tremendously.

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During the past years there has been the first ever video game court case called Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association, trying to pass a law against selling or renting violent games to minors . This case has been going on for several years and has recently escalated all the way to the Supreme Court. The morning of November 2, 2010, the United States Supreme Court began hearing arguments for this case. During the arguments, both sides gave their reasons of why they thought the bill should be approved or thrown out. This brought up instant argument weather or not could this be broadened to just video games or all sources of entertainment that could be considered violent that minors have access to. This case goes all the way back six years to 2004, with the Grand Theft Auto San Andreas scandal where players could download a mod that allowed characters to have sex with each other. This case could result in video games being classified in the same way as extreme pornographic material. Another game that is used to support the court case it Postal 2. This game is a horrible example to represent the video gaming industry, because of the fact this it is arguably the most violent and intense video game.

Postal 2 is a first person shooter released in 2003, which brought up an enormous amount of controversy. Due to the amount of graphic violence in the gameplay Postal 2 has been banned in several countries. The Californian State Senator targeted the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) for not putting an adult only rating on the game. Comments on the scandal brought back up the controversial topic of censoring certain video games. The Senator introduced a bill that will criminalize the sale of “ultraviolent” video games to minors. This bill will result in video game retailers to keep adult title games separate from other games on the market. The bill would fine retailers as much as one-thousand dollars per-sale for any game they sold to minors. In 2004 the bill was signed by Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger into law and prohibiting selling games containing adult content to any minor.

This law was fought in court and ruled unconstitutional. Banning the rights to a consumer to purchase and play specific types of video games violates the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution. This court case is still ongoing and the Supreme Court can go either way with their final decision. In the California State Government’s own words, “ultraviolent entertainment” is what a huge piece a content that is has brought up controversy, but in this bill they are very vague of what that constitutes. They have listed “killing, maiming, torturing of human beings”, but does not specify if a game like Call of Duty or a more violent game like Postal 2 is the problem. To counteract this, the Senator says that this bill is not directed towards all violent video games, but only the “interactive ultraviolent” types of games. This brought up the point that all games are interactive in some way. As of now he does not think his bill will pass in the way it is written because it is not specific enough. After the arguments, almost all of the justices thought this bill was too vague and can be broadly applied.

They said that it would put too much of a restriction on game publishers and writers with their First Amendment Rights. One of the biggest arguments against this case is that it is none of the government’s business what children can and cannot watch. From the CATO Institute, it says, “In a free society parents should decide what their children see, hear, or play; Uncle Sam should not serve as a surrogate parent”. It is saying that parents can and should be able to decide what their children do. They believe that the government already regulates enough in society and that parent should be able to choose what their children can do in their own personal time. Under the Representative Democracy form of government parents should be allowed to set their own limitations on their own children. If the government regulated how parents raised their own children, it would mirror a communist dictatorship. All children should be raised differently under their parent’s standards. “All ‘one-size-fits-all’ forms of content regulation are unlikely to recognize that different parents have different definitions of what constitutes acceptable for their children.

The eye of the beholder makes a difference and in a free society it is the eyes and ears of parents that should decide what is in the best interests of their children”. Parents should be able to mold and bring their child up the way they want. This law would put limitations on what parents can and cannot do with their very own children. Video games are what children do for fun as a hobby. Video game censorship is a topic serious enough to require a written law for parents to monitor their children. Even if the bill is passed, parents that do not mind their kids playing these games will just purchase the games for their children anyways.

The government does not need to have laws to censor what minors buy and play since video game producers look out for what happens to the children that play their games. Joe Sapp from the International Game Developers Association says that, “The IGDA stands behind informing parents about their media decisions and allowing them, rather than governmental bodies, to decide for their children” The Entertainment Software Rating Board helps parents monitor what their children play. One of the last steps that are taken before a game is released is, “Game publishers submit responses to a detailed written ESRB questionnaire, specifying exactly what pertinent content will be in the game. Along with the written submission materials, publishers must provide a DVD which captures all pertinent content”. Both the game producers and the ESRB take these steps to inform the public of the content of their games. After the questionnaire has been submitted, staff members from the ESRB play a version of the game and the game material and DVD are reviewed by at least three professional game raters. The ESRB says that “game raters must be adults and typically have experience with children, whether through prior work experience, education or by being parents or caregivers themselves”. This qualification for being a game rater is so that they generally know what children at different age groups can experience under the common standards in society. After reviewing the DVD, the raters recommend a potential rating. Raters can look at similar games’ previous ratings.

The raters all deliberate until they all reach an agreement. After the agreement an official rating certificate is presented to game producer to be accepted or appealed. The Appeal Board is a group of publishers, retailer, and other professionals. Once the game is completely finished it is sent to the ESRB to be reviewed again and to make sure it is given the proper rating .The possible ratings are: Early Childhood, Everyone, Everyone 10+, Teen, Mature, Adults Only, and¸ Rating Pending. The ESRB is responsible for the enforcement of the ratings. I disagree with video games being censored because they are unconstitutional. Game producers say, “As a gamer you have the right to buy and play violent video games. They are covered by the First Amendment just like R-Rated movies, controversial books, or obscene music”. The First Amendment prohibits any law that restricts the establishment of religion, interfere the freedom of press, speech, petition, or assembly. By this law buyers can and should be able to purchase and play video games as they please. The First Amendment not only protects spoken speech but symbolic speech as well.

The only kind of speech that is not protected by the First Amendment is speech that harms another person’s reputation, obscene speech, and speech that violates criminal laws. In this situation a video game is considered speech that is protected by the First Amendment. The rating system, partnerships with retailers and warnings do a good enough job censoring video games. All of the steps that the ESRB take to rate the games and give ratings should be all that is needed in censoring video games. Just about every game retailer has a partnership with the ESRB. This partnership controls and regulates which games are sold to specific age groups. All of these partners have a policy of being 18 or older to purchase games that are rated Mature or higher. After purchasing a game that contains adult content, there are warning labels informing the gamer before the game play begins. There are several myths and theories that state violent video games are linked with aggressive and violent youth. These theories are what brought this whole case up. This science in the case has already been up for debate.

Many doctors have said there is not enough sufficient data to prove a direct correlation between aggressive video games and making kids aggressive. A doctor from USC says that, “While the video game industry was exploding between 1994 and 2000, juvenile violent crime arrest dropped by 44% and you adult arrests dropped by 24% according to the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Further a major study on youth violence by the U.S. Surgeon General’s office in 2001 also confirmed that youth violence has declined significantly nationwide and noted that academic research had not shown any significant correlation between video games and youth violence”. This does not mean that there is no connection between violent children and teenagers with violent video games because; violent people are attracted to violent things.

This just means that violent video games do not make people violent. If this bill is passed then it will tremendously affect the video game industry. The International Game Developers Association has criticized California’s bill. IGDA is saying, “Limiting forms of expression in video games limits the expression of game creators, which violates their constitutional rights to free speech in the United States abroad as specified by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from the United Nations”. The IGDA is arguing that singling out video game from other forms of media is unconstitutional and puts unnecessary limitations on one of the largest industries in our economy. The Video Game Votes Network says “government regulation based on games’ content will stifle creativity, and will have a chilling effect on game publishers who may feel the need to dilute content due to the threat of government action and fines”. These regulations will put vast limitations on video game producers that producers of other forms of media don’t face.

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