Violent content in video games, such as blowing monsters up or shooting enemies in the head, is often a source of criticism as video games are often blamed for violence and aggressive behavior among children. According to Terry Flew (2008), professor of media and communication at Queensland university of Technology in Australia, the video games cause violence’ discourse is mostly based on psychological research. These research studies, not necessarily empirical in nature, are often influenced particularly after horrific events such as the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.
While several studies do show a correlation between violent content conveyed through entertainment media and violent and aggressive behavior, others consider the evidence for such conclusions weak and highly contestable (Vastag, 2004). When it comes to the matter of legality, it is currently not illegal to produce violent video games. In fact, there are no specific laws on the contents that can or cannot be produced by production companies. There are, however, federal and state requirements as far as advertisement and labeling of these games.
It is very unlikely that laws will ever be passed to halt the production of violent video games as both the production of such games and gaming in itself is often thought to be protected by the First Amendment freedom of speech/expression clause. The issue of ethics and moral responsibility are entirely a different matter. One must ponder whether it is ethical to produce violent video games that ay or may not be harmful to children. Further, there is a need to examine if there is even a negative effect from playing these games. Ethics is often a matter of principles and rules of conduct set forth by the majority.
When it comes to determining whether the prod uction of violent video games IS ethical or not depends on the social audience addressing the issue. If ethical or not, the question still remains–is there a moral and social responsibility that video game companies are failing to uphold by producing these games anyways. Companies do have a social responsibility to society and consumers. The idea is that companies must act in the interest of stakeholders who are the consumers of their products. It is very common and popular today that companies will invest in green marketing and sustainability.
Yet, video game producers have yet to oblige to any such social responsibility in taking consideration that their games may send out the wrong message to children. There seems to be a fine line on exactly what that responsibility is, if there IS one. On one hand, companies are willing to invest in sustainability but on the other hand, they are willing to mass produce violence to children. The significance of this paper is that in the past decade, this debate has been ongoing and remains a hotly debated issue in which no real definite conclusion has been reached.
The various violent video games that are widely popular, the different court cases and pending lawsuits and the general violent culture we live is in an indication that this matter will not be resolved anytime soon. In fact, the dispute on video content has been so controversial that the matter reached the Supreme Court in 2011. The legal dispute as far as video games content is concerned involves whether states have a legal ight to ban violent games from being sold or if video game companies are protected by the First Amendment freedom of speech/expression clause.
Violent Video Games Examined Grand Theft Auto (GTA) is a video game series set in fictional locations modeled after American cities (later visions modeled other countries as well) in which players engage in series of violent activities from motor vehicle thefts, drunk driving and drug dealing, to murder. In fact, crimes such as drive-by shootings, gang warfare, the killing of other humans and police officials are shown in gory details.
For example, gamers are able to pull up to car, drag the driver from the vehicle and before stealing it, shoot the driver with a machine gun then run them over with their own stolen car and along the way, pick up a prostitute, have sex with her, shoots and rob her, engage in a shoot out with police officers and move on to the next mission with gets more and more violent and bloodier along the way. The focus of the game is that players can choose various missions to progress to an overall story while along the way engaging in the side activities described above.
The game follows the storyline of various protagonists and heir attempts to move up in the ranks of the criminal underground. Whether is setting someone on fire with a flamethrower to bombing an entire city, grand theft auto as suggested by the title is actually very pale in comparison to the unlimited number of criminal activities that players can embark on. While the game is meant to be a sort comedic satire against American culture, it is in fact very violent in nature with serious adult contents.
The game is so widely popular that since the original release in 1 997, four other sequels have been released. In fact, according to The Guinness World Records 008 and 2009 Gamer’s Edition, Grand Theft Auto is the most controversial video game series in history, with over 4,000 articles published on its violent content and potential effects on corrupting gamers (Soze, 2008) Further, the game is currently condemned in Great Britain, Germany, and France as those countries cite “extreme violence” and in Brazil and Thailand, the game is simply banned (Reed, 2008).
Yet, this has done very little to halt the fan frenzy behind this game as it stands as one of the most successful games in history with over 114 million copies sold worldwide. Manhunt, a 2003 psychological thriller, is constantly ranked as the number one most violent video game in history. In the game, players are able to advance to the next level only by stalking and killing victims chosen by an unknown director who urges making the killings bloodier, more cunning, and horrific. The sequel, Manhunt 2, follows the same concept except now players have been injected with a drug to bring out their homicidal tendencies.
The game consists of 12 levels in which players are ranked at the end of each one based on the level of gruesomeness in which the murders occur using eapons such as crowbars, bladed items, baseball bats and plastic bags for suffocating victims. For example, players are able to knock out victims using a blunt object, then decapitate them with a chain saw and later store and use their severed heads as weapons to throw at other victims. The game is currently banned in New Zealand, Australia, Germany, and in Canada, the game was classified as a film in 2004 and restricted to adults only.
Resident Evil 5 is a game loosely based on the series of Resident Evil movies in which players are able to use guns, chainsaws, and hack and slash ncoming enemies producing copious amounts of body parts and bloods. Players must bomb, stab, and shoot, their way through thousands of human zombies and monsters. The violent nature of the game is further fueled by the severe foul language and sexual dialogue players engage in. Another example of a violent video game under fire is God of War II.
In this game, loosely based on Greek mythology and set in Ancient Greece, players control the protagonist, a Spartan warrior name Kratos, who can do everything from twisting off the head of Medusa to slicing off enemies arms with chains to ripping out the eye of a Cyclops. A. Introduction of Legal Section The issue of marketing violent video games often comes down to a matter of freedom of speech. Since it is currently not illegal to produce and distribute violent games, attempts to create such a law have been rejected in the past on the account that it would infringe on freedom of speech/expression.
The first right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution is the freedom to express beliefs and ideas without government restrictions. Freedom of speech/expression not only grants Americans the political right to communicate one’s opinions but also the right to express their ideas freely as ell as to seek, receive, and impart on information and ideas through various media outlets. Further, the right to freedom Of expression is considered to be a universal human right.
In fact, Section 19 of the universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts and make it international law that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression,” (Haley, 2009). While this right is subjected to certain restrictions and limitations as freedom of speech is not absolute, when it comes to either producing or playing violent games, the courts have found that this protection does extend to both developers and gamers. B. Statement of Relevant Legal Principles and Rules of Law In June 2011, the Supreme Court struck down a California law that banned the sale of violent games to children unconstitutional on First amendment grounds.
The law, which imposed a fine of $1 ,OOO to businesses that sold or rented violent games to minors (under 1 8 years of age), was seen as a violation of free speech rights. The law defined violent games as those in which ‘ ‘the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being” in a way hat was “patently offensive,” appealed to minors’ “deviant or morbid interests” and lacked “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value” (Liptak, 2011). In a ruling of 7-to-2, Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, No. 8-1448, the court ruled that video games deserve the same constitutional freedom and protection that books and movies receive. Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking on behalf of the majority wrote that “like the protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas ” and even social messages through many familiar literary devices (such as haracters, dialogue, plot and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world),” that are therefore protected by the First Amendment (Barnes, 2011).
Justice Samuel Alito Jr. and Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the majority but dissented on the reasoning as they argued that “California’s law is not framed with the precision that the Constitution demands” (Barnes, 2011 In other words, the letter of the law is too vague. Justice Clarence Thomas and Stephen G. greyer, who voted for the ban and agreed with the California law, filed eparate dissents.
Justice Thomas argued that freedom of speech as originally understood, does not include a right to speak to minors without going through the minors’ parents or guardians,” while Justice Breyer wrote, “l would find sufficient grounds in these studies and expert opinions for this court to defer to an elected legislature’s conclusion that the video games in question are particularly likely to harm children. ” Although the majority voted against the California law, it is clearly obvious that they differ widely as to why.
This shows the ongoing issues with truly understanding free speech and o what extend protection is guaranteed. In fact, if the California law was not so vague, there is a possibility that the ruling would have been closer. C. Application of Law to Topic and Legal Analysis discuss games and criminal involvement correlation -political implication for not stopping the playing of these games which are vices to society… are these children growing up to be future criminal. Discuss societal cost. ”discuss warning labels D.
Legal Conclusion Based on the Supreme Court ruling on the banning of violent video games in which the majority voted against the ban set in place by California, it ppears that the courts are very much limited in restricting both the production and sale of violent games. The First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution protects the right of citizens in deciding to play these games. Since it is very unlikely that such an overall national ban will take place, it becomes the responsibility of parents to ensure that their children do not have access to these games.
As it is not illegal to neither produce nor play violent games, we must examine whether there exists an ethical or moral responsibility on the parts of video games developers to halt such productions. Utilitarian Eth ical Analysis Utilitarianism is a theory in which it is decreed by the greatest happiness principle. As stated by Cavico and Mutjaba, “It seeks to maximize benefits to the maximum number of people. If an action produces the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people, it is considered to be a good and moral action” (Cavico and Mutjaba, 2009).
It is a theory deemed to create the either the greatest balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness of the greatest number. The act that is being assessed is the production and distribution of violent video games to children. There have been a number of disputes over the sales of violent video games to underage minors. For minors to be allowed to purchase these video games questions many to if they do indeed influence the younger generation to become more aggressive and violent.
In a recent decision by the Supreme Court, that by the protection of Freedom of Speech, video game companies will be able to continue to produce and sell violent video games as they see fit. This portion will examine using the numerical model of Utilitarian Theory to substantiate whether this action is ethical. There will be a list as followed, which will detail he “Stakeholders,” who are indirectly or directly affected by this analysis. Parents Parents of the children are directly and indirectly affected by this act. They are indirectly affected due to it is the gaming company that produced the violent video games.
Minors are not the only people who gain pleasure in playing violent video games, parents and adults alike also purchase these games. By way of being directly affected would be through the gaming companys approval to sell these video games to minors. These children are the solitary responsibility of the parents. So any action that the minor creates, the arents would be held liable for. Though, we can assume that parents would likely be unhappy if their children were given the opportunity to purchase these violent video games without their consent.
The grade determinant would call for a -4 due to the parents who also enjoy playing violent video games. Minors Minors are directly affected by this act. Although there is no clear evidence that state whether or not violent video games aid in a positive or negative way to a child, it can still be deemed as unsuitable for a certain age. There is no scientific evidence that can prove whether violent video games may cause iolent tendencies, the outcome is uncertain, especially while every minor is different.
Though, children who were never exposed to the violent video games would not have to worry about the negative impact it could have on them. The grade determinant will be a -5. Gaming Platform Creators The gaming platform creators are most directly affected by this act. If the government issued a ban on violent video games, the platform creators would lose substantial profits in that market. Violent video games are what fuel the gaming community. The grade determinant will be a +5, because it is a positive outcome if minors are buying their games.
Shareholders Shareholders are being directly affected, due to the investment they make to produce and distribute these games to the masses. They will be gaining a profit for the sales of these violent video games. A loss would only affect the shareholders if a ban were to arise. The grade determinant will be a +5. Schools Schools would be indirectly affected by this act. Schools do not have a preference if the games are being made, as long as it does not affect the student’s behavior while on school property.
School safety is the number one priority and if students were being influenced negatively, due to the video ames, it would endanger the other student’s. The grade determinant will be a -3. Movie Production Companies Movie Production Companies are affected by this act in a positive manner. Even if the violent gaming industries takes a downward fall, they should not be affected. The movie industry produces numerous amounts ofviolent movies every year. If such a ban were to take place, there profits would only hurt a little.
They would have to find new ways to accommodate such a ban to keep the movie industry entertained while following the new restrictions. The grade determinant will be a +3. Religious Groups Religious groups are negatively affected by this act. Some would say that the violent gaming industry goes against their religious practices and the message derived from the Holy book. They would believe that by playing these video games, one would stray from the holy path and practice what the games would be teaching them instead of what the Holy book prescribed. The grade determinant will be a -5.
Police/Law The police/law would be affected by this act indirectly. Though these games have not been proven to alter the minds of minors, if they were to commit crimes due to the video game, it would then involve a higher authority. These ames could influence a minor’s performance in the society today. The grade determinant will be a -3. Numerical Scale: Parents: -4 Minors: -5 Gaming Platform Creators: +5 Shareholders: +5 School: -3 Movie Production Companies: +3 Religious Groups: -5 police/Law: -3 Total: -7 Based on the Utilitarian Analysis it has been concluded that Utilitarian’s would perceive this as an unethical act.
Though it has been calculated that there would consequentially be more pain than pleasure, it will therefore not be producing the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. Under the Utilitarian’s, this act would not be condoned. Kantian Ethics There are numerous people whom ethically object to playing violent video games, as they think that there is a strong association between violence and the gamers that play these video games. The structure use of Kantian ethics argue that playing violent video games is not immoral.
Immanuel Kant described that morality rests in a chaste, distinctive reason and not perception, integrity, law, or utility (Cavico, 2005). There are three applications of the Categorical Imperatives as a recognized test that will demonstrate that playing violent video games is ethical and how these amers are rational and respectable human beings. The first Categorical Imperative test is the Universal Law, which states, “A morally good person is one who acts only on maxims that a rational person consistently could will to become without any contradiction or negation” (Cavico, 2005).
This justifies that under the Kantian ethics, causing harm to another person would thus violate the first test of Universal Law. When relating the Universal test to violent video games, one must recognize when you harming a virtual opponent you in actuality are not causing any physical damage or direct harm o that gamer. The gamer, even a minor, will be able to distinguish the variance between what is real and what is in fact virtual. The second Categorical Imperative test States that there must be respect for balanced beings as ends in themselves (Cavico, 2005).
In a video game, there is a competition between good and bad gaming players. There are gamers who in the end are humble and those who are bitter and angry. The humble player, also known as a “good sport,” will admit defeat and move on with the virtual game. The bad players, also known as a “bad sport,” will come up with some xcuse as to why they lost and will never admit to a fair defeat. It has been said that, “one who gloats over a victory or uses it against the opponent is behaving poorly.