The last time I went in to GameStop I bought Dead Rising. As implied by the title the main objective of the game is to fight your way through a mall full of zombies to find the source of the outbreak.
On the front cover of the game, a large “M” in the bottom left-hand corner warns players that the game is meant only for people 17 years of age and over.
On the back cover, the same “M” is displayed along with the Entertainment Software Ratings Board’s (ESRB) reasoning for this rating, which are listed as: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, and Use of Alcohol.
When I approached the checkout counter the cashier asked to see my identification, which is standard procedure for a game with a Mature rating.
Most stores will not allow anyone under the age of 17 buy an “M” rated game.
The ESRB goes to great lengths to ensure that the video games put on the market are accurately rated and described so that gamers and parents alike know what they’re purchasing.
So why did the Supreme Court hear a case on Nov. 2 to decide whether violent video games should be sold to minors?
Because in 2005 a bill written by California State Sen. Leland Yee banning the sale of such games to anyone under the age of 18 was passed into law.
Retailers who break the law could be fined up to $1,000 per violation, and manufacturers who fail to mark their games with a 2-inch label proclaiming the game to be only for people 18 and over would also face penalties.
The Entertainment Merchant’s Association brought the law to court and both the District Court and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit have ruled in their favor.
The justices’ reasoning behind their decision was that even if psychological or neurological harm would result in young people being exposed to these games, this specific law was not narrow enough to prevent such damage.
Beyond that, research is not definitive on whether violence in video games has any affect whatsoever on the mind’s of children. There are those who would even go as far as saying video games are beneficial to the neurological growth of young people, regardless of their subject matter.
Christopher J. Ferguson, guest editor of the “Review of General Psychology” journal and researcher at Texas A&M International University, wrote, “Recent research has shown that as video games have become more popular, children in the U.S. and Europe are having fewer behavior problems, are less violent, and score better on standardized tests.”
Articles in the same journal, which is published by the American Psychological Association, state that violent video games are harmless to most children, and only have negative affects on kids with pre-existing mental health problems.
When a decision like this looms, other questions arise as well.
Is this only the beginning of larger prohibitions? How far should governmental media regulation go?
The only time that any form of freedom of expression should be hindered by the government is when it is detrimental to the health of others.
Violence in video games has not been proven to be harmful, and regulations for video game sales already exist — they are just not governmentally mandated. Creating a law to change this is unnecessary.