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The Ever Growing Sensation
Since the early 1990’s, video game technology has grown to immense popularity. It has evolved into a leading source of revenue in the world market, and provides a new method of interactivity in the world. Opposing groups, such as concerned parents and radical politicians, believe that this steady development of video games causes degradation in children’s social activity and steady faltering of their grades. They also claim that there is no powerful regulation on video games to prevent the games from reaching the hands of children, and that the video game companies refuse to acknowledge their complaints. While it is true that studies show an over-exposure to video games can cause a decrease in outward social activity; these parents and politicians must realize that regulation laws moved through legislature a few years ago. They also fail to acknowledge the benefits video games can bring to people who play them. This raises a question that parents should acknowledge; are we, as parents, as much to blame for the issues developing because of an over-exposure to video games.
Video games have become a heavy source of conflict between companies and parents. Parents, concerned for the well-being of their children, argue that video games spawn larger amounts of violent and antisocial behavior from their children. This is understandable, for studies have shown that video games invoke a decrease in brain activity in the frontal lobe of the brain which controls behavioral stability (Pienbrook). This issue can only be acknowledged, children who actively play video games have a larger risk of becoming more violent than those who do not play video games. Pienbrook’s observation would only strengthen that argument because if the behavioral part of the brain were to be dulled and weakened while playing video games, that person playing the game would only lower their sense of mercy and compassion. This loss of mercy or compassion creates sociopaths who are usually the direct perpetrators of school shootings or other violent events. Knowing this, parents can only be against the use of violent video games which experienced immense popularity in the mid-1990’s to present day.
In this cartoon, drawn by a videogames censorship supporter, we can see that the artist is clearly trying to exemplify the virtues of non-violent communication (Fig. 1). The artist uses a common bias in video games in which the gamer usually plays as a heroic protagonist that saves the world. He uses this bias to display what video games should really attempt to exemplify in society, not what the more violent ones attempt to create, supposedly. He also displays the behaviorism of a gamer and those watching the video games. The gamer’s eyes transfix upon the screen and he refuses to acknowledge the world around him while he plays his game. Those around him experience rowdy behavior and root for the gamer in an animalistic manner. People normally would not act this way if they were simply playing outside or reading a book. This displays the degraded behavior of children as they play video games and allows the illustrator to argue that video games cause children to become less social and more animalistic. This animalism would not allow the children to become functional members of society and would possibly weaken the next generation.
The outcry of parents has caused politicians to attempt to regulate the video game industry themselves. The state legislature of California in 2005 attempted to impose a law upon the selling of video games to minors (“YEE URGES…”). This attempt to make the selling of games to minors illegal was eventually brought before the Supreme Court which deemed any laws against video games an unconstitutional act. This enraged politicians and caused a demand on better regulation from the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB). The propagandists claim that the ESRB consists of a dysfunctional board with a faulty rating system in which games that should be rated M for Mature are instead rated T for Teen. This would allow companies to sell these games without as many complaints from parents, thus creating larger amounts of profit from the games (Haninger). This supposed evidence of corruption in the ESRB caused parents to become even more outraged because rated-M games usually contain the most graphic content of all video games. The ESRB rating these games as Teen would trick parents into thinking the game will not contain material as graphic or disturbing for children and cause them to purchase the video games more with more enthusiasm and optimism for their children’s well-being. This would allow companies to turn more of a profit from the unsuspecting parents and the parents would be none the wiser about which games better suit their children’s health.
These outraged parents have every right to fear for their children’s well-being, but they seem to not acknowledge all the good things video games bring to those who play them. Supposed researchers, such as Stephen Barr, argue that “soldiers trained to kill in combat use the same brutalization and desensitization techniques now used to entertain children”. Though his argument about the violent content seems sound his argument contains a booby trap to trick un-informed parents. Barr suppresses evidence of the good aspects of video games, making video games appear to only have negative effects. If this fallacy were to be recognized, as pointed out right now, it would open the subject to more debate and wreck the credibility of Barr as a researcher, A researcher should uphold an unbiased and neutral position in whatever they study in order to get closer to the truth. Barr fails to acknowledge that many leading video games such as WarioWare teach children to enhance their reflexes as they play the video games (Falstein). Video games require a good balance of reflexes and reflection so children can play them to their full extent. By enhancing children’s reflexes, they would be more capable of improving their problem solving skills and thus becoming more capable members of society. This creates a contradiction to the biased belief parents seem to have against video games. This biased belief is closely similar to the beliefs of Burr. Without acknowledging this contradiction, Barr ruins his image as an accredited researcher because this portrays his biased opinion towards video games. Some of today’s educational after-school programs use video games as a means of teaching younger children basic elementary subjects such as Math and English. Brain-training with video games is a program that teaches children fundamental subjects in an after school program that allows children to better their “attention skills, visualization, sequential processing, the ability to see patterns and to understand relationships, and other basic mental processes.” (Boehmer) Instead of complaining about the video games, and arguing that they are subsequently bad for children; parents should take advantage of video game technology as a means bettering their children’s abilities. Video game technology is rapidly extending beyond any other form of programming we have today. This would allow for the development of more educational programs for the video games. Through this video games can instead of blight upon the next generation, they can improve the skills of the next generation beyond that of its predecessors.
Parents heavily defend that they themselves do not play video games. However, evidence suggested that the stereotype “parents only buy video games for their children” holds immense amounts of bias. Parents have been bamboozled into believing that the gaming generation solely comprises of children and adolescents. The cause of this trickery stems from parent’s tendency to rely on unreliable sources. Such sources include blogs and forum arguments which are riddled with fallacious content. Forums such as “Above Top Secret” become riddled with corrupted posters who base their beliefs upon their own ethic, rather than properly doing the research. This large amount of bias forces all the arguments on the forum to become overloaded with fallacies such as ad hominem and circular reasoning which make the argument seem childish and un-usable in another argument to justify a claim. As we can see here in Figure 2, people of all ages and gender play video games. In fact, studies show that the vast majority of gamers are between the ages of 18 to 34. Wary parents should take this into account when they are making the decision of buying their games for their children. A more diverse gaming community promotes a healthier gaming experience. It would allow the child or adolescent to be able to relate to others who share their hobby. In doing so, the adolescent’s parents would not have to worry as much about the risk of the child becoming a so-called sociopath or anti-social reject they fear so much. This hopefully will encourage parents to realize that their concerns are over the top, and that they should delve into researching about the video game community itself.
Though the tabloid complaints about the ineffective ratings system of ESRB does bring up a reason for concern, other sources glorify the ESRB ratings system as the best way to protect children from the graphic material of more mature rated video games. The ESRB ratings system earns wide reverence as the "the most sophisticated, descriptive, and effective ratings system devised by any major media sector in America" (Danforth). Danforth argues for the ESRB ratings system because it allows parents to not only view the content of a game by simply turning the cartridge or box to the back but also promotes parent education of video games. She believes that parent education would allow parents to better regulate what their children play thus not needing the government to intervene on the issue. Video games that bare a rated-M label must be purchased by someone the age of 17 or older in most states. Cash registers now, when scanning video games that are rated-M, require identification for those who wish to purchase a rated-M video game (“TECHNOLOGY”). This represents the successes that video game regulation has already achieved, so any issues that parents have about rated-M games should simply try to buy one and watch as the clerk requires an identity and age. Returning to the subject of the children, if parents just purchase the video games without checking what the video games content entails then the only ones liable to their children’s exposure is themselves. Some parents argue that some clerks sell the games to minors anyways despite what the law states; however, this act originated from the corruption of the distributors, not the developers. Due to this, the creators of these violent video games cannot be held accountable for this form of corruption and parents would need to take their complaints to the distribution companies.
The mature content in video games has caused much controversy in the society of the West. Access to these games has created a riot from the parents of those children who have “charged [games] with the corruption of our youth (a role once ascribed to Socrates)” (Chaplain, and Ruby 1). Chaplain and Ruby in their novel Smartbomb, acknowledge the complaints of parents but refute its importance through the cunning use of satire. They use satire in their parenthetical addendum, in which they portray parent’s complaints as a common thing that many popular figures or idols obtain, like Socrates. This raises the question of should we think of these complaints any differently? Will the next popular thing just be cast the burden of this same criticism against its own will? Chaplain and Ruby include one important quote in which they state “Show me the games of your children, and I’ll show you the next hundred years” (Chaplain, and Ruby 2). Though it may sound far-fetched, Chaplain and Ruby argue the sheer fact that parents need to regulate their own children’s games if they wish for their children to become the productive members of society they envision them to be. Chaplain and Ruby state this to force parents to reflect upon themselves, and make them realize the foolishness they are holding onto.
To un-informed parents, video games are blight upon society. Though the corruption that may be possible in the ESRB or the brain changing effects that children may experience bring up some concern from both older gamers and biased politicians, the irresolute conflict that this evidence has brought up has left open the question: what do video games do that are good for society? Parents, you are strongly encouraged, by gamers, to educate yourselves in the structure of video game society and see that it is not some posse of social rejects. It is a multi-national community that welcomes new prospects looking to join it. So parents, though your concerns are noted, it can only be your responsibility to regulate what your children play. You are encouraged, by gamers, to play the games with your kids, see what it is like from their perspective. You are encouraged, by gamers, to work to educate other parents about video games. You are encouraged, by gamers, to listen to the gaming world itself, not some tabloids who are obsessed with creating drama in the world. It is up to you, not gamers, not the government, nor your next door neighbor, to protect your children from the mature content of this ever-growing sensation.
Boehmer, Curtis. "Brain training with video games." Learning & Leading with Technology
38.5 (2011): 28+. General OneFile. Web. 19 Feb. 2011.
Barr, Stephen. "Video Games Cause Aggressive Behavior in Children." At Issue: Violent
Children. Ed. Bryan J. Grapes. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2000. Opposing
Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. AUSTIN HIGH SCHOOL- Sugarland FBISD. Web.
24 Feb. 2011
Chaplain, Heather, and Aaron Ruby. Smartbomb: The Quest for Art, Entertainment, and Big
Bucks in the Video Game Revolution. 1st Ed. New York, New York: Algonquin Books
of Chapel Hill, 2005. 1-4. Print.
Danforth, Liz. "The Great (M-Rated) Debate." Library Journal 135.17 (2010): 56. General
OneFile. Web. 22 Feb. 2011.
Falstein, Noah. "Reflexes and reflection." Game Developer 14.6 (2007): 29. General OneFile.
Web. 20 Feb. 2011.
Haninger, Kevin, and Kimberly M. Thompson. "Content and ratings of teen-rated video games."
JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association 291.7 (2004): 856+. General
OneFile. Web. 20 Feb. 2011.
Piepenbrink, Linda. "Violent Video Games Teach Anti-Social Behavior." At Issue: Video
Games. Ed. David M. Haugen. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2008. Opposing
Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. AUSTIN HIGH SCHOOL- Sugarland FBISD.
Web. 19 Feb. 2011
"Video games by Gender/Demo." ADWEEK 50.9 (2009): AM16. General OneFile. Web. 22
"Video Game Cartoon." ("The hot video game where you're a peacemaker who disarms everyone
in sight and sells them on the virtues of nonviolent communication." Cartoon by Jason
Love. www.Cartoonstock.com. ).Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. AUSTIN
HIGH SCHOOL- Sugarland FBISD.Web. 19 Feb. 2011
William Sears. "Violent Video Games Are Harmful to Young People." At Issue: Is Media
Violence a Problem?. Ed. Stefan Kiesbye. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2010. SRCX. Gale.
AUSTIN HIGH SCHOOL- Sugarland FBISD. Web. 19 Feb. 2011
“YEE URGES PARENTS TO AVOID VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES WHEN HOLIDAY
SHOPPING FOR KIDS TUESDAY, CALIFORNIA'S VIOLENT VIDEO GAME LAW
PENDING BEFORE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES.” States News
Service 23 Nov. 2010. General OneFile. Web. 19 Feb. 2011.