Common Sense Media revealed the results of a nationwide parent poll that says “nearly three-quarters of adults would support a law that prohibits minors from purchasing ultraviolent video games without parental consent.” According to BusinessWire, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on November 2 in a case that pits the video game industry against the state of California over a 2005 law banning the sale of these games.
I haven’t played a video game since middle school, when I was busy saving the princess at the end of Super Mario Brothers, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this week. Needless to say, I haven’t experienced as a first-hand player the content of games like the Grand Theft Auto franchise or the Halo series. Not that I have any interest in sitting behind the console to play either game, since it’s no secret that in addition to being sexually charged and full of violence, Grand Theft Auto and its ilk are full of sexual violence perpetrated against women. In a video created by Common Sense Media to support their case against this type of entertainment, a car is shown rocking and we hear a woman moaning. She exits the car abruptly, followed by the male character chastizing her, saying, “I told you I was a pimp, bitch.” Then he hops out of the car, runs after her, and beats her to the ground, stomping on her face until she’s lifeless. Ever the gentleman, the pimp says, “Hey look, I’m sorry about this,” before fleeing the scene of the crime. The moral: it’s okay to rape and beat a woman as long as you feel bad about it.
It comes as no surprise that the majority of parents support a ban on the sale of violent games to minors, especially considering all of the tragedies that have been attributed to video game addiction. In 2007, a 16-year-old from Ohio shot both of his parents after his father, a minister, tried to keep him from playing Halo 3. But not everyone agrees that violence in video games results in real-life crime. The Interactive Digital Software Association has said that “concerns that the violence in video games can result in violent teenagers is unfounded,” and in 2001, former Surgeon General David Satcher noted, “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.”
Though the percentage of violent acts that have been methodically linked to video game play is about 12% according to the secret service, the question remains: is this type of imagery something minors should be exposed to? Certainly many R-rated movies contain sexual violence on par with what happens in video games, which is why children under the age of 17 are not encouraged to see said films. The difference between movies and video games, however, is that video games are controlled by the player. While I don’t like the idea of a minor passively viewing sex and violence flickering before their eyes, I’m even more uncomfortable with the idea of a 14-year-old boy actually clicking the A’s and B’s in order to kick a cartoon prostitute in the face.
James Steyer, the CEO and founder of Common Sense Media says, “The results of this poll clearly show that not only do the effects of ultraviolent or sexually violent games weigh heavily on the minds of parents, but also that parents feel the video game industry is not doing enough to protect kids from accessing these games.” Do you agree?