I have had it up to my eyeballs with people on the news repeatedly beating to death the idea that there is a supposed link between fictitious violence in video games & other entertainment media and real-world violence such as the tragedies in Aurora, Colorado & Newtown, Connecticut.
As a response to this idea, I would like to quote this message prepared by the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) for concerned gamers to submit to their Congressional and Senate representatives as well as President Obama (my own commentary will resume after the quote):
“Christopher J. Ferguson, the chair of the Texas A&M International University’s department of psychology and communication, among others including federally funded studies, have shown there’s no link between violent video games and real world violence like mass shooting, bullying or youth aggression. Past research has been mixed, at best, and often weakened by substantial methodological flaws.
While video game sales have increased, according to the FBI’s own statistics, violent crime has been steadily decreasing. In 2011, violent crimes nationwide decreased 3.8% from 2010. Since 2002, it’s decreased 15.5%. This is all during the time when games like Call of Duty and Halo have dominated sales.
At the same time, federal courts – including the Supreme Court – have routinely held that government regulation of media, including video games, is unconstitutional. Funding more studies – or passing laws that then get fought out in courts – costs taxpayers like me millions of dollars.”
Now, do I feel it is appropriate for young children to play video games that have been rated “M” for “Mature” by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)? Absolutely not! I would no sooner buy a young child a copy of a game like Grand Theft Auto IV or Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 than I would a copy of a movie like Scarface, The Godfather, or Robocop.
However, the ultimate responsibility for making sure that young kids aren’t allowed to view violent video games, movies, or television shows does NOT belong to the government or the entertainment industry–it belongs to the parents/guardians of those young children. Sadly, many parents don’t seem to take the time or put forth the effort to educate themselves about the content of “Mature”-rated video games.
This is the description of the “Mature” rating, courtesy of the ESRB website:
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.”
As further illustration, here’s a picture of the rating symbol & content description from the back of a copy of the popular BioWare game Mass Effect 3:
Seems pretty clear, wouldn’t you agree?
I work in the electronics department of a major retail chain, and I am constantly approached by parents, grandparents, or other guardians who approach me asking to purchase “Mature”-rated games for kids. Every time this occurs, when I get the game out of the case, I turn the game’s box over to show the parent/grandparent/guardian the “Mature” rating symbol as well as the description of the exact kind of content the game contains, and I say something to the effect of: “This game is rated Mature, and this is the content that makes it have that rating. Do you still want to purchase it?” The overwhelming majority of the time, parents/guardians approve of the game, and they usually do so without really paying any attention to the rating or content description.
This is not a failure on the part of the video game industry. This is not a failure on the part of a video game retailer. This is a failure on the part of parents and guardians.
Some of you might be saying, “Well, what about all the retailers who don’t try to show parents the ratings and content of games?” I’ll grant that retailers should all do a thorough job of making sure customers understand the content of the games they’re purchasing, but even so, the ultimate responsibility lies with parents to educate themselves about the content of the games and other entertainment their kids consume.
In closing, I want to reiterate that it was not a video game that killed 12 people & injured 58 others in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. It was not a video game that killed 26 innocent children & adults & injured 2 others at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Those people were killed and injured because two deranged men who had no business being anywhere near dangerous weapons were able to access military-style assault weapons.