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The Game Vines: Violent Video Game Ban Overruled!

blog by Gabrielle G.  • 

Score one for freedom of speech! If you haven’t been following the controversy, California attempted to ban the sale of violent video games to minors and after many appeals, the case reached the Supreme Court which overruled the ban yesterday.

The video game industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and it was surprising to me that the Governator himself approved of this ban. Really, the Terminator wants to ban violence?

The truth is: there is no concrete evidence to support a causal link between video game violence and real-life violence. Remember Stats class? Correlation does not equal causation? Even the correlations that have been used as “evidence” have no concrete source - they simply can’t pinpoint the cause for violence on any one experience, movie, video game, or song. Just like the debates about the effects of violent television and movies, there is no scientifically concrete evidence of this link between video game and real-life violence. In fact, a study by the Interactive Digital Software Association (NIMF) writes on its website in a written report “The most objective and methodologically sound studies of video game play and aggressive behavior find no link between the two.”  As the sourced CNN article goes on to report, “That report quotes former Surgeon General David Satcher as saying in January 2001, “We clearly associate media violence to aggressive behavior. But the impact was very small compared to other things. Some may not be happy with that, but that’s where the science is.” (source)

Naturally, parallels were being drawn between violent video games and other media formats like rap music and violent movies. Like these other media, video games have their own rating system, the ESRB and the most popular games of today (Halo, Call of Duty, etc.) are usually rated M (for Mature) which are not to be sold to anyone under 17 years of age. Somewhat surprisingly, the ESRB is a voluntary rating system. What’s this mean? It means that a game does not technically have to have an ESRB rating by law. That being said, most stores (including big guys like GameStop and Best Buy) will not sell unrated games (meaning the ESRB did not rate them).

So, the Supreme Court over-ruled the ban, but you still have to be 17 or older to buy an M-rated game unless you have a parent’s permission. California’s ban, therefore, was introducing the slightest of changes for selling M-rated games to minors. The only difference was that parents could not approve of the sale of a violent video game to their child if the child was a minor. Of course, parents could just go get the games and give them to their kids and no one would be the wiser, so the ban would not effectively stop minors from playing these violent games, but the ban was refusing parents the right to make judgments for their children.

Let’s be honest, no seven-year-old should be playing GTA, but a 16-year-old playing Halo doesn’t seem that wrong in my opinion. Yes there is shooting and “killing” (you re-spawn…most of the time) but in the scheme of things, it’s not as deserving of the big M as some other games out there.

There are pros and cons to the overrule of the ban and I’m not saying it’s all for the best, but it’s upholding the freedom of speech while finally officially placing video games “on the same legal footing as other forms of entertainment” (source).

It’s not over yet (is it ever really over?) as some people, like Senator Lee of California, are trying to find a way to reintroduce this law in a constitutional way. For now, minors can still practice their zombie survival tactics, intergalactic warfare strategies, and the occasional stealth missions (with a parent’s approval) in peace.

Want more information about the overrule of the ban? I’ve added a bunch of links for you to quench your curious mind’s thirst. You’re welcome.

What do you think about the over-rule of the ban? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!

Sources: Yahoo! News, Detroit Free Press, 1UP, ESRB FAQs, CNN - Sounding the Alarm on Video Game Ratings

TAGGED: controversy, esrb, freedom of speech, gaming, overruled, supreme court, video games, violence

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