Violence in video games

Video games have been a topic of controversy for many years now. Should there be laws against violent or sexually explicit video games? Or are these games really just... games? In order to answer this question in an educated way, one must do research into the effects of violence and sexuality on children. There is research out there which favors both sides of the argument. However, the facts that support the laissez faire approach far outweigh the disadvantages of instituting legislation against the sale of those types of video games to minors. State and local government should definitely not enact any legislation that bans the sale or rental of excessively violent or sexually explicit video games to children under the age of 18. The popularity of video games amongst children has grown and continues to grow each year. In fact, nowadays one would be hard pressed to find a household with children that doesn't own at least one video game system. More and more people are beginning to raise concern of the effects that games could have on children and their growth both mentally especially concerning if these games are making children aggressive. Despite opposing arguments violent video games already have a rating system along with parental supervision without impeding the first amendment rights of the video game creators; furthermore there is no reason for government to create any further legislation to ban selling to minors.

First, the background of video games started from the Japanese based company, Nintendo. They started a gaming consol called the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES and the release of Super Mario Brothers. Next from Nintendo came the handheld system called Game Boy. Now everyone wants to a piece of the video system market; Microsoft with Xbox360, Sony with Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii, which is today the leading game console in the entire world. Ever since the first videogames, they have grown at an exponential rate and predictions are that by 2010, the video game system market will reach a value of forty-seven billion dollars for the entire world.

Another huge part of the video game market is the extra equipment and the games themselves that cost around an average of $50 each. One of the most violent and controversial games that keeps this topic relevant is the Grand Theft Auto series. While these games are very controversial Grand Theft Auto 4 was the top selling video game of 2008 as of September 2008 with selling about 6.5 million copies just in the United State and United Kingdom alone. This video game had its debut in April 2008 and had not been released in Japan prior to this statistic. The first week of sales was at about $500 million dollars from around the globe and the budget was supposedly only one-hundred million dollars. If these numbers do not speak for themselves, I am not sure what could. This shows how many people are playing these games with little or no signs of long-term aggression with this being one of the most violent games of all times.

The opposing view of game playing is a very interesting one that tries to demonstrate why violent video games should be regulated and children under the age of 18 should not be allowed to buy or rent them. Many people have blamed violent video games for devastating tragedies such as school shootings. The media has created a stereotype for violent video games and school shootings as if they go hand and hand. Many different associations have concern about video games for many reasons because of psychological effects that violent television has had on children in the past. Associations, such as the Uyghur American Association or UAA, are not completely sure of their findings since this is based off of violent television and not just violent video games. The reason professionals believe it will have the same consequences as violent television are good points, but they have yet to be proven. There has been information that implies aggression right after playing violent games but nothing more than seeing a scary movie. Kids are more prone to copy what they see when they are playing with the same character and especially in more violent video games because the kid are the person causing the violence. Another reason is that video games require much more involvement then does when watching violent television. When children are playing these games continuously they are learning from repeating the same actions, meaning they are practicing violence.

Lastly, these researches concluded that since games are all about winning and incentives, showing that when the kids win, they are winning through violence. They also think that since being shown this violence it creates a stimulant and aggression towards others and are more likely to use the same anger when fighting someone. The professionals on the other hand stated how kids in the top 20% of hostility became more aggressive when they played the violent games then did the lower 20%. It verifies that this behavior is pre-determined and violence in video games just enables it like it would in any other situation like the simulated on in the video game.

Their study also speaks about how violence in video games makes aggression worse in actions, emotions, and thoughts all through a few experiments that all referred back to whoever begins with the most aggression always ends with the most aggression. This article, by Dr. David Walsh, lacks long term affects of violent video games and proves only that directly after playing a violent video game aggression slightly increases, but is not lasting. There is still no proven data from any of the sources that long term violence or aggression increases from playing too much or too many violent video games.

With this in mind, the arguments on how violence in video games does not affect children and their behaviors are much more overwhelming than that of the previous information. Young teenagers' favorite type of video games is of the mature or M rating. Researches put forward the thought that even though these games are meant for people that are seventeen and older that much younger kids are playing them and using them as a way to let loose and liberate some of the stress and anger they encounter on a daily basis. The results of an experiment conducted was that from a group of 1,300 teenagers around the age of 13, seventy percent of boys played mature games and twenty-five percent of the girls did too a lot in 2008.

Grand Theft Auto IV was the most popular, which earlier stated was the highest selling game in 2008, among the boys and second for the girls. The kids surveyed said that through these games they could let their hostile feelings, stress, and emotions out, which is in a safe alternative if considered what kids could be doing instead. These teenagers are not confined and loners yet they are now able to play with people all across the world and are much more likely to. Since there is a new way to interact with others children always would rather play with their families or friends but now they can interact with others online as well. The research proves that the kids who play violent games are more liable to participate in groups when not playing video games. Before online gaming children that played a lot of video games were called anti-social and people who kept to themselves and now with online gaming this has changed this perception greatly.

Teens can access these mature games more and more and the laws regarding games to limit accessibility need to be re-considered since numbers of teen crime has gone down even with so many playing the violent, explicit video games. In response to laws limiting mature games for kids Cheryl Olson response stated this comment:

“Violent game play is so common, and youth crime has actually declined, so most kids who play these games occasionally are probably doing fine. We hope that this study is a first step toward reframing the debate from 'violent games are terrible and destroying society' to 'what types of game content might be harmful to what types of kids, in what situations. We need to take a fresh look at what types of rules or policies make sense,"

Cheryl is focusing on how so many kids own and are playing these games that the crime rate of teenagers does not reflect from the number of violent games that have been sold nationwide or globally.

Focusing on more recent legal issues involving violent video games continues mainly by state to state. Last month, February 2009, there was a ruling in California to ban people under the age of eighteen from purchasing violent or mature rated video games. The ruling was upheld that this ban was unconstitutional since the content inside of a video game is considered to be free speech. It is considered free speech since there is no concrete facts that there are negative consequences to minors if they play these types of video games. “The government may not restrict speech in order to control a minor's thoughts,” said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, California.

Judge Consuelo Callahan agreed that this is “a form of expression protected by the First Amendment.” Before anything can disagree with the first amendment it has to be proven that there is some kind of harm that will happen to minors if they partake in a certain activity and no one has been able to prove that particularly with violent video games. When the California government looked into if the research proved negative effects on kids, there was not enough evidence and the evidence that was presented was very arbitrary. No one offered other options to this problem besides banning minors from buying certain games which showed lack of motivation on the pro age limit law side.

Callahan also showed how there was already a system without the ban by how the game manufacturers are required to put a rating on their games and that consumers are aware of the content of the game they are purchasing. Another problem with trying to restrict the distribution of these explicit games is that most kids these days are: capable, able, and have access to internet where you can purchase these games virtually almost anywhere. This makes the argument a lot harder to enforce since you cannot tell who is actually purchasing these games online if they are eighteen or not.

This is not the first attempt to limit these video games; most of the discussions never make it further than that, a discussion. The few rare times it has gone past discussion stage it is always denied mainly because of first amendment rights. More specifically, within the first amendment two things prevent the ban of minors from buying games; one is the fact they are not trying to ban these games for everyone and the fact that by limiting access to children with violent games their rights are infringed.

A state Senator Leland Yee pushed for an appeal to the Supreme Court so parents were the ones that had to be buying the games for the children and would always know that they are buying a violent game for their children. There were attempts to have the age limit law passed by saying pornography is limited and since some games do display sexual content, but it is not enough to be considered pornography to the Supreme Court it is just under the category of obscenities not pornography. Once, again the age limit law was turned down.

Other arguments is that as parents they have a duty to oversee the things their children take part in which is established in law, because parents are being looked to deter their offspring from partaking in destructive behaviors while showing them positive ones. It is the parents obligation to punish, take away, or not buy if they feel video games are affecting, which they are not, their children in a negative way they are supposed to be monitoring their actions which has been acknowledged by the Supreme Court. All of these prove that the violent and explicit content within video games does not have an overwhelming affect on today's youth in any way shape or form.

In addition to this my views on violent video games has not changed and I feel that these games do not need to have any further precautions or restrictions then already set in place. I find that having a system of ratings for gaming companies to follow is effective enough to show parents who are interested enough that there is a system if they feel the necessity to monitor what their children are playing.

Since the opposing arguments did not prove that there can be any harm to the children playing these games it shows after all the information presented that no new laws, limitations, or government action that could potentially break people's rights do not need to be put in place. Violent video games are something that has become a part of our culture and is not going anywhere anytime soon. From the research it has been very clear that there is no harm from these mature games and that limiting them to only some people is breaking the law and more importantly the first amendment.


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