Should we prohibit minors from purchasing video games that portray graphic violence? Melody Bratton Justin Kelly Devin Rice
Objectives • Definition of Graphic Violence • History of Video Games • Today’s Video Game Market • Regulatory Boards • Rates and Trends of Gaming • Adolescent Video Game Use • Effects of Video Gaming on Children • Legislative Response to Video Game Violence • Support v. Opposition for Legislation • Conclusion
What is graphic violence? The visual depiction of serious injury to living creatures, actual or virtual, including aggravated assault, decapitation, dismemberment, death, or sexual violence. Postal 2
History of Video Games 1972 First video system • Odyssey System (Magnavox) First video games • Pong • Tennis
History of Video Games (Con’t) 1976 First violent game • Death Race 2000 (Exidy) Death Race 2000 was pulled from shelves due to public outcry of the violence.
History of Video Games(Con’t) • 1983 • First sexually violent video game • Custer’s Revenge (Atari)
Today’s Gaming Market • The current market for video and computer games world wide is approximately $20.7 billion dollars. In 2007, it is estimated to grow more than $30 billion. • In the 2003, sales for video games in the U.S. generated $7 billion dollars in revenue breaking the previous record set in 2002 of $6.9 billion.
Regulatory Boards • Entertainment Software Rating Board • The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is a self-regulatory body for the interactive entertainment software industry established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). • ESRB independently applies and enforces ratings, and online privacy principles adopted by the computer and video game industry. • Since its creation, the ESRB has put ratings on video game covers. With six categories from EC (early childhood) to AO (adults over 18), the ratings are determined by consensus.
Video Game Rating System Early Everyone Teen Mature Adults Ratings Childhood Only Pending Animated Blood - Discolored and/or unrealistic depictions of blood Blood - Depictions of blood Blood and Gore - Depictions of blood or the mutilation of body parts Cartoon Violence - Violent actions involving cartoon-like situations and characters. May include violence where a character is unharmed after the action has been inflicted Fantasy Violence - Violent actions of a fantasy nature, involving human or non-human characters in situations easily distinguishable from real life Intense Violence - Graphic and realistic-looking depictions of physical conflict. May involve extreme and/or realistic blood, gore, weapons, and depictions of human injury and death Mild Violence - Mild scenes depicting characters in unsafe and/or violent situations Sexual Violence - Depictions of rape or other sexual acts Strong Lyrics - Explicit and/or frequent references to profanity, sex, violence, alcohol, or drug use in music Violence - Scenes involving aggressive conflict
Concerns about ESRB • One concern about the ESRB is that the organization is very secretive about the criteria used to rate the video games. • Critics are concerned with whether the ratings reflect accurately the amount of violence appropriate for age level given. • According to the ESRB the AO rating is used when games "include graphic depictions of sex and/or violence." • Some groups question whether some of the games rated mature should be classified as AO. • The distinction between AO games (not suitable for people under the age of 18), M games (not suitable for people under the age of 17) and T games (14 and over) are blurry and possibly allows games to creep down from a higher category to a lower one.
Advertising Review Council • In 2000, the gaming industry created the Advertising Review Council (ARC). • ARC decides the marketing standards and has the ability to enforce them via fines and withholding a rating to a particular game. • The FTC reviewed the marketing practices of the gaming industry. • Under Section 5 of the FTC Act, the government would have to prove that the game industry is deceiving the public in advertising M-rated games directed at children. • They would also have to prove that the game is in fact not appropriate. • September 2000 - The FTC found that 70% of Mature rated games target children.
Rates and Trends of Gaming • 44 of the 49 video games that sold more than half a million units were either rated E or T. • 54% of video games sold were rated E, 30.5% for T and 11.9% for M. • 14 out of the top 20 best sellers in 2003 were rated E or T while the remainder were rated for mature audiences. • The age of video game players is directly related to the system being used. • PC game players have an average age of 27-36 • Playstation and XBox game players have an average age of around 20-25. • Nintendo and its incarnations game players on average are between the ages of 15-20.
Top Ten Video Games in 2003 • PS2 - MADDEN NFL 2004 • GBA - POKEMON RUBY • GBA - POKEMON SAPPHIRE • PS2 - NEED SPEED: UNDERGROUND • GCN - ZELDA: THE WIND WAKER • PS2 - GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE CITY • GCN - MARIO KART: DOUBLE DASH • PS2 - TONY HAWK UNDERGROUND • PS2 - ENTER THE MATRIX • PS2 - MEDAL HONOR RISING
Video Game Availability for Minors • A study was conducted by the National Institute on Media and the Family using children between the ages of 7-14 to see how difficult it is for minors to purchase video games rated M. • Adolescents were successful 100% of the time in stores that didn’t have a policy but in retailers with a policy, the teens were only able to buy the games 30% of the time. • 79% of the stores surveyed report that they have a policy prohibiting the sale of M-rated games to youth under 17. • Only 55% of stores educate the public about ratings and 49% formally train their personnel in the ratings.
Adolescent Video Game Use • 87% of students play video games regularly. Games are more popular with boys (95% play) than girls (71% play). • Only 50% of parents understand the ratings according to students. • 87% of boys play M-rated games as do 46% of girls. • 78% of boys report that M-rated games are among their top five favorites, and 40% say their favorite game is rated M. • 77% of boys own M-rated games with 1 in 5 reporting that they purchased an M-rated game without their parent's knowledge. • Only one out of five students report that their parents have prevented them from purchasing a game because of its rating.
Positive Effects of Video Games on Children • Introduces children to computer technology • Gives children practice in following directions • Gives children practice in use of fine motor skills and spatial skills • Can provide interaction for child and parent • Some games have therapeutic applications for patients • Provides entertainment for children • Provides catharsis for children (?)
Negative Effects of Violent Video Games on Children • Fosters social isolation • Women often portrayed as weaker characters that are helpless sex objects or portrayed in sexually provocative manner • Plots often based upon violence and aggression • Reinforces stereotypes of ethnic and gender groups • Can confuse reality and fantasy • Lowers children’s inhibitions • Increases desensitization • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Clip
Five Effects of Violent Video Gaming found in Meta-Analytical Research • Increases Physiological Arousal • Heart rate and blood pressure • Increases Aggressive Thoughts • Hostile Attribution Bias (Kirsh, 1998) • Increases Aggressive Emotions • Students who were more “addicted” to video games were significantly more likely to be in a bad mood before, during, and after playing than were non-addicted students (Griffiths & Hunt, 1998).
Five Effects of Violent Video Gaming found in Meta-Analytical Research (con’t) • Increases Aggressive Actions • Students who played more violent video games are more likely to see the world as a hostile place, get into frequent arguments with teachers, and more likely to become involved in physical fights (Gentile, under review). • Decreases Prosocial Actions • Children who were exposed to more violent video games were more likely to be seen as aggressive by their peers and teachers and were also less likely to be helpful when needed.
Source: National Institute on Media and the Family The least hostile children who play a lot of violent video games are more likely to be involved in fights than are most hostile children who do not play violent video games.
Social Scientists Hypothesize That… We should expect video games to have an even greater impact for the following reasons: • Children are more likely to imitate the actions of a character with whom they identify. • Video games by their very nature require active participation rather than passive observation • Repetition increases learning. Video games involve a great deal of repetition. If games are violent, then the effect is a behavioral rehearsal for violent activity. • Rewards increase learning, and video games are based on a reward system.
…even if children with more problematic behavior are simply more likely to prefer violent games, playing such games is not likely to improve behavioral problems. These children may, in fact, be more vulnerable to adverse influence because of preexisting behavioral problems…recent reports linking school violence with electronic game-playing merit careful study (Funk, Buchman, & Germann, 2000)
School Shootings • 1997- Evan Ramsey from Alaska killed 2 and wounded 2 others. • He stated that “games taught him that shooting doesn’t cause death just a decrease in health.” • December 1997-Michael Cameal from Kentucky shot 9 shots hitting 8 members of a prayer group, killing 3, wounding 5. • Never held firearm in his life. • 14 years of age • April 20th 1999- Columbine High School shooting. • Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris shoot and killed 13 and injured 23 more.
Legislative Response to School Shootings • Response aimed at gaming industry • Response aimed at retail industry
Legal Response Aimed at Gaming Industry • A lawsuit was filed against Nintendo, Acclaim, Activision, and Id Software to name a few for the horrible shooting at Columbine. • Doom was specifically sited. This game was known to be extensively played by all of the shooters in the school shootings previously mentioned. • U.S district court judge Babcock dismissed the suit against the gaming companies. • Judge Babcock stated that no reasonable person could have foreseen these violent acts being created by the games that the kids played.
Legal Response Aimed at Gaming Industry (Con’t) • U.S District Judge Edward Johnstone dismissed a $33 million dollar lawsuit filed against 25 companies including Sony, Nintendo, Sega, and Atari. The suit was filed due to the killings in Kentucky. • The ruling was based on a similar case where the popular role playing game Dungeons and Dragons was found not responsible for a young mans suicide. • Judge Johnstone also stated that tragedies like this defy rationale and the court can not pretend to know the reasons why such events occur.
Legal Response Aimed at Retail Industry • In 2000, Indianapolis passed an ordinance restricting access of M rated games to minors. • The American Amusement Machine Association appealed the ordinance in 2001. • 7th Circuit Court upheld the appeal and the ordinance was struck down. • They wanted scientific certainty that these games would harm a child before the court would restrict the child’s First Amendment Rights. • In a previous case, Ginsberg v. New York (1968), the court ruled that “it is rational for the legislature to find that the minor’s exposure to obscene material maybe harmful”.
Legal Response Aimed at Retail Industry (Con’t) • In October 2000, St. Louis passed an ordinance that made video arcade owners separate “harmful to minors” games from other games. This ordinance also made it illegal to sell or rent a video game to a minor without the parents consent. • This was the first and only ordinance to be upheld by district court. It was the biggest legal defeat to the retail gaming industry. • In April of 2002, Judge Limbaugh stated that video games do not have the First Amendment protection. • He also stated that the government has a vested interest in emotional health of the nation’s children. • Judge Limbaugh also stated that “Video games have no conveyance of ideas, expression, or anything else that amounts to speech, thus, should not enjoy constitutional protection.” • Higher courts later reversed Judge Limbaugh’s decision causing the St. Louis ordinance to die.
Legal Response Aimed at Retail Industry (Con’t) • In 2003, Washington State Governor Locke signed into law, a bill that banned games that depicted “violence against law enforcement” to be sold to minors. • It was struck down in July of 2004 by U.S District Judge Lasnik. He stated the law was too narrow and it violated First Amendment Rights of the comsumer. • Similar bills have been considered in Mississippi, Georgia, Connecticut, and Oklahoma. None of which have been passed.
Legal Response Aimed atRetail Industry (Con’t) • Senator Baca from California has reintroduced his Protect Children from Video Game Sex and Violence Act. • This bill would make it a federal crime to sell or rent “adult video games” to minors. • The bill would impose up to $1,000 fine for first offense. $1,000-$5,000 2nd offense and minimum of $5,000 for each offense on top of that. • The bill was initially shot down in 2002.
Supporters of Restrictive Legislation Argue… • Government should treat violent video games like alcohol or tobacco . • Retailers don’t always enforce a voluntary rating system. • Parents do not know how violent video games are. • Growing scientific evidence links playing violent video games to violent behavior.
Opponents of Restrictive Legislation Argue… • Legislation would usurp the rights of parents. • Legislation would deny minors their First Amendment Rights. • The video game industry polices itself. • Most video games are purchased by parents or with their consent. • They question the validity of studies suggesting a link between playing violent video games to violent behavior.
Conclusion Based upon the scientific research that shows a correlation between increased aggression and playing violent video games, we contend that, in the best interest of minors, legislation should be in place that restricts the purchasing of video games portraying graphic violence to minors under the age of 17.
References • http://www.esrb.org • Vastag, B. (2004). Does video game violence sow aggression? JAMA,291, 1822-1825. • http://www.usatoday.com • www.mediafamily.org • http://culturalpolicy.uchicago.edu • http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com • http://www.house.gov • Myers, D.G. (2005). Social Psychology (8th Ed.). McGraw-Hill. • http://www.rockstargames.com • http://www.classicgaming.com • Potter, J.W. (2003). The 11 Myths of Media Violence. Sage Publications