Video Game Violence Video games have been a part of American culture since the arcade boom of the late 1970's. Games were created as a form of entertainment, to relieve the stresses of everyday life. Over the years video games evolved and eventually came home in the form of Atari, Intellivision and Colecovision. Soon after, Japan followed suit and created the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and the Sega Master System which became extremely popular game systems in the United States. Since these games were readily available at home children started playing more and the arcades were become less and less populated. Today the average gamer is in his / her late teens and early twenties.
More games are being catered to this demographic population, thus games with a more mature level of content become very popular. With mature themed games come sex, violence, the use of drugs and other things of that nature. Should games with such material be allowed to be sold or should these games be banned? The first game to come under controversy was called Mortal Kombat created by Midway games. It was a very realistic fighting game using digitalized versions of real people. It contained more blood in it than any other game before it.
"Some say the game's graphic violence was gratuitous, and was only included in order to generate a public outcry and controversy that would increase publicity for the game". (Wikipedia Website) The violence this game exhibited had such a dramatic impact that the two top gaming systems at the time, the Super NES completely omitted blood from the game and the Sega Genesis started a rating system giving the game an MA-17 allowing only those who are 17 years of age or older to purchase the game. This rating system was the first of its kind in the video game world. Nintendo fans voiced their opinions about the censorship of this game: "There was a HUGE backlash from this from players, however. Nintendo was bombarded day and night with complaints about the removal of the blood and guts from the SNES version. In fact, Nintendo even printed some of the complaint letters they received in Nintendo Power magazine".
(Games graveyard Website) From the day Nintendo censored Mortal Kombat, the company became widely known as a gaming system for children, which aided in the companies low success of sales in games for their new system the Nintendo 64. Soon after the Mortal Kombat controversy Nintendo and Sega both joined the ESRB: "The ESRB rating system helps parents and other consumers choose the games that are right for their families. ESRB ratings have two parts: rating symbols that suggest what age group the game is best for, and content descriptors that indicate elements in a game that may have triggered a particular rating and / or may be of interest or concern". (ESRB website) The rating system starts with E: everyone all the way to A: adults. Games with violence usually get T: teens or an M: mature. This form of rating is the equivalent to the rating systems used for motion pictures and television.
Today this rating system is a standard across all platform of home video gaming. It is used for all video games including games for the home PC. In December 2001, Surgeon General of the United States David Satcher, M.D., Ph. D., led a study on violence in youth and determined that while the impact of video games on violent behavior has yet to be determined, findings suggest that violence in the media has a relatively small impact on violence. 'The impact of video games containing violence has recently become a focus of research because children are theoretically more susceptible to behavioral influences when they are active participants than when they are observers.
To date, violent video games have not been studied as extensively as violent television or movies. The number of studies investigating the impact of such games on youth aggression is small, there have been none on serious violence, and none has been longitudinal. ' With that said, the report noted that recent 'meta-analysis' of these studies found that 'the overall effect size for both randomized and co relational studies was small for physical aggression and moderate for aggressive thinking. ' (Gonzales) Although Dr. Satcher believes that theoretically children are more susceptible to behavioral influences when they are active participants rather that observers, it still leaves the possibility of violence due to observance of violence.
The most recent incident involving video game violence happened in the U.K. On February 27th 2004 a 14-year-old named Stefan Pakeerah was found dead in a park. Apparently he was killed by his 17-yer-old friend named Warren LeBlanc, who has been seen playing a game called Manhunt by Rockstar Games with Pakeerah. LeBlanc was apparently trying to rob his friend and proceeded to attack him with a claw hammer. "In the Pakeerah case, it was revealed that a copy of Manhunt was found in the home of the victim, not the perpetrator". (Game Informer) LeBlanc was said by friends to be 'obsessed' with the game. Manhunt is in fact an extremely violent game which allows the player to be rewarded by performing fatally violent acts upon other characters in the game, the more violent and torturous the greater the reward.
This game has since been banned in New Zealand and Australia. This may not have been an issue had the parents of the young LeBlanc had observed what their child has been playing and made the judgment call on whether or not this game was appropriate. Parents have the ability to know their children better than anyone else and should be active in their lives. They should know who their friends are, what they do everyday and what they watch and play on the TV or computer. Parents who know their children well should know the maturity level of their child and justly make a call on whether or not something is appropriate for their child. Irresponsible parents that don't make these judgment calls run the risk of having a child that is susceptible to violence and are capable of committing crimes of such magnitude as the Pakeerah murder.
I've spoken to some parents about their experiences with violent video games and they tell me that they feel that it in fact is the parent's responsibility. Some of the parents even allow their child to play violent games their child is underage for based on the maturity level of their child. I also play Halo 2 online and observed that about 20% of online players are underage and most of the underage players are very immature and should not be playing games of that nature or conversing with people of a more mature age. Video game violence has been a hot issue over in Australia.
Games like Manhunt, the Grand Theft Auto Series, both of whom are products from a company called Rockstar Games, Narc and various other violent games have been banned in Australia. A game called BMX has also been banned in Australia due to the presence of nudity in it. This is not only true of video games in Australia, movies, television and surprisingly enough greeting cards are carefully scrutinized by the Australian government. Australia has very strict rules when dealing with censorship. The media makes it sound like these games are terrible but you never here about the latest banned greeting card on the news. Using games banned in Australia as reason to ban them in countries such as the United States is wrong.
One must understand the way the Australian government works before judging a game that has been banned there. In conclusion video game violence should be aloud as long as it is being played by the right people. For example the people under the proper age group for a game or those mature enough to handle games with such violence. It is the parent's responsibility to keep these games away from their underage children. Blaming a video game for causing any kind of crime is preposterous. Parents are responsible for how their kids are raised.
If a child commits a crime based on a game, it's the parents fault for not instilling a good moral base for that child. Other countries opinion of a game should not be justification for why a game in another country should be banned. Games should not be banned based on their violent content.