Video games and free speech

Should we regulate or ban violent video games or not? This is a question still being debated. Are these games innocent recreational devices, or are they damaging to children and, if so, should they be banned just as we ban child pornography and underage drinking?

Under our present capitalist government, special interest groups, whose goal is profit regardless of the harm that might be done to others, produce and sell violent video games and claim protection under the First Amendment to do so.

Why this is wrong and such games should be banned, or at least regulated, is based on the following scientific evidence from Science Daily.

The report starts by informing us, "Scientists have known for years that playing violent video games causes players to become more aggressive." Just what we need in our violence prone, gun toting society. But ''knowing that" and "knowing why" are two different questions. The article says new findings at the University of Missouri have discovered at least one reason why these games lead to aggressive behavior: "The brains of violent video game players become less responsive to violence, and this diminished brain response predicts an increase in aggression."

Dr. Bruce Bartholow, one of the scientists conducting the study, is quoted as saying, "Many researchers have believed that becoming desensitized to violence leads to increased human aggression. Until our study, however, this causal association had never been demonstrated experimentally."

In the experiment, people played violent and nonviolent video games and then played competitive games with an opponent in which they could inflict a painful stimulus to the loser. The games were rigged so the winners would be the ones who had just played the two types of video games. The experiment showed that those who had played the violent games inflicted more painful stimuli. There was a series of tests as well, all of which reached the same conclusions about brain activity and aggression related to violent video games. 

There is always the possibility that some third unknown factor is responsible for both the desire to play violent video games and the diminished brain activity that leads to aggressive behavior. But so far all the evidence points to the violent video games as the cause of the aggressive behavior.

Dr. Bartholow pointed out that evidence shows that grade school children on average are playing video games for forty hours a week - more than any other activity. The scientists say young "children could become accustomed to violent behavior as their brains are forming." What kind of rational, decent society would allow such a thing? There is nothing in the First Amendment that protects speech that is dangerous and harmful to the public. Violent video games should be treated just as falsely shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theatre, i.e. as a clear and present danger to society.

We don't want our kids to smoke, drink, or eat too much as that would hurt their bodies. But violent and aggressive (and unemployed) young brains are just what the military recruiters are looking for, since we will need to expand the all-volunteer army in the years ahead as our commitments in the Middle East and Africa grow - or at least that's the plan, unless the peace movement can stop it.

The last word goes to Dr. Bartholow: "More than any other media, these video games encourage active participation in violence. From a psychological perspective, video games are excellent teaching tools because they reward players for engaging in certain types of behavior. Unfortunately, in many popular video games, the behavior is violence."

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  • Good

    Posted by Harry, 02/18/2014 10:53am (8 months ago)

  • Hello, I have seen video games such as the above described distraught young lives; made them very closed to society and made them snap very easily. It is very destructive and hope parents understand that buying their children these games are causing detrimental damage to their children and teenagers mental and over all health. And if you think about it "Violent Video Games" are not a freedom of speech; think about it this way, if you demonstrate violence in any form; that is a threatening demeanor. Real freedom of speech is something very different; e.g of freedom speech is "say " a father hood coalition gathered that were shouting "we demand fathers to have an equal share of justice in family courts!" Now that is freedom of speech. An article or gathering trying to state a change for the good in our society "not a threat to or society such as violence." Thank you for your attention.

    Posted by Aldo Ursino, 01/14/2013 9:22pm (2 years ago)

  • While I take offense at some more extreme examples (i.e. getting points for killing prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto), I really think we have far more serious things to worry about than violent video games. I also suspect that this article overstates the impact of such games, although I do agree that to some extent such games desensitize people to violence....

    Posted by Brad, 06/18/2011 1:44pm (3 years ago)

  • iare those the same experts that said games make you rape people? you know its funny really they say people become more agressive and yet crime is at its lowest in years.

    and good job advocating censorship. like we dont already have enough.

    Posted by wrongo, 06/16/2011 9:46pm (3 years ago)

  • The study quoted here has serious flaws that call its validity into serious question. Not the least of these is the nature of the laboratory setting it was conducted in. When people play video games in a sterile, artificial setting while being watched by men in white coats, you cannot expect them to behave the same way in the real world. Similarly, the study used weak proxies for "aggression" (which is not even the same concept as "violence"-one is bad, the other is neutral) rather than measuring aggressive behavior directly. There was no "painful stimuli" used in this study; the participants merely blasted an annoying white noise at a non-existent loser in the fake competitive game. Like almost all other studies before it, this one used measures that do not reflect any sort of real-life situation and cannot be generalized to say that someone will violently physically attack another person due to having viewed or played violent games.

    There are plenty of studies that have arrived at the opposite conclusion as the one listed here. I encourage people to check out the work of Dr. Christopher Ferguson of Texas A&M. He has debunked the games-cause-violence argument and specifically exposed the flaws in the junk science supporting the notion that these games cause harm.

    Posted by Mr. Blond, 06/16/2011 7:35pm (3 years ago)

  • First of all, violent games are no where near on the level of child pornography, and shame on you for drawing such an offensive comparison. If you can't talk about issues without FURTHER exploiting children who've already been exploited in the most horrific way possible, just don't. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, that line completely tosses all credibility I may have had for you straight out the window.

    You do a fine job of discrediting yourself without the irrelevant, false comparison between child rape and violent video games, though, because research being quoted in this article is bunk. First of all, it only proves increased aggression on a short-term basis... kind of like how competitive sports increase aggression. There is no long-term research on this issue, and despite the gaming community asking for such research to be done, the anti-gaming talking heads REFUSE TO DO IT.

    Lastly, even if these games do "harm" to children- which they don't- this law is completely irrelevant because children aren't buying M rated games. You need to only do a tiny bit of research to find the demographic information- I'm not a journalist like you are, so I'm not going to do your job for you. I'm willing to bet you know this already, but it doesn't match your agenda, so it gets left out.

    But then again, what else can we expect from a man who has the gall to use sexually exploited children in a false comparison, just to try to guilt people into seeing this issue the way he does?

    Posted by Cheryl, 06/16/2011 6:45pm (3 years ago)

  • A fine junk article by a another out-of-touch troll with an axe to grind against a new medium he knows nothing about.

    This article was written with the language comprehension of a fourth grader. It references a single poorly researched article that doesn't show any direct link between video games and violence. AGGRESSION is not violence. Bushman has been repeatedly busted in the past for using faulty research methods eschewing basic science in favor of his vendetta against video games (http://gamepolitics.com/2008/06/30/grand-theft-childhood-authors-respond-u-michigan-prof039s-criticism).

    Since I actually cite sources, here's an amicus brief signed by 83 social scientists and media researchers in favor of the video game industry. http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/AmicusSS.08-1448.pdf

    "California And Senator Yee Ignore The
    Large Body Of Empirical Evidence That
    Shows No Causal Connection, Or Even A
    Correlation, Between Violent Video
    Games And Harm To Minors."

    Next time you need filler, don't try equating video games - which Leland Yee has conceded are art - to cigarettes or tobacco. Go find another scapegoat.

    Posted by DrLogic, 06/16/2011 5:42pm (3 years ago)

  • Video games are free speech. Same with movies, books, music and other forms of speech. If the SCOTUS says California wins then violent video games would be pulled off shelves and adults would be banned from playing them as well as minors. Developers would choose not to do anything that would get the scarlet rating of 18+ and the same censorship the comic industry went through in the 1950s would happen to the video game industry of today. Also with other states allowing censorship laws for games since they are unprotected if this passes violent games could be a thing of the past. Countries would get the same censored games that we get here because making once censored version would be cheaper then doing an uncensored European version and a heavily censored US version. Here is hoping the EMA wins.

    Posted by Dan , 06/16/2011 5:32pm (3 years ago)

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