Opposing Viewpoints: Should government restrict video game sales?

The Supreme Court recently struck down on free speech grounds a California law that would have prohibited the sale of extremely violent video game to minors. Here are two writers’ stances.

Emily Sidnam and Elisa Walker

Get the government out of it

By Elisa Walker

I remember when Mortal Kombat was the most violent video game back in the day. With some gushing of blood and sweet fighting sequences, it was very popular with the youth but unacceptable to a lot of parents — mine included. I remember I wasn’t even allowed to play James Bond 007 on N64, but was permitted to play mild military games.

Nowadays, kids are playing games such as Bully, where the main character’s job is to beat people up and misbehave around school; Grand Theft Auto, where the player can run over pedestrians, beat up prostitutes and work for a drug lord; and 24, where the player tries to save the day by stopping the terrorists. At least the latter has a purpose to protect innocent lives.

But games have gotten more and more violent as time has gone on. Research is inconclusive about whether or not violent video games have an impact on people and society, but the state legislature has already tried to step in. California tried to pass a law prohibiting the selling of violent video games to minors, but it was struck down by the 9th Circuit and is now up for appeal next year in the Supreme Court. I suppose those for the restriction of violent video games think that violent games are as detrimental to minors as smoking and drinking and should have similar age restrictions.

It seems that people are forgetting about a very important group of people: the parents. We wouldn’t need big government to step in if parents would suck it up and start raising their kids. The family is the building block of society; when it crumbles, so does society. Society is being threatened by violent people. Maybe if those violent people had parents to say “no” to them, we might not be having this argument. And although there are many parents who are failing to raise their kids, they should not expect the government to step in.

I don’t think the government should be butting in until substantial research has come out proving the adverse effects of violent video games.

We must protect children from making bad choices

By Emily Sidnam

Last month, an article was published on Poynter Online that stated the U.S. Supreme Court is investigating whether states should be able to regulate the rental and sale of “violent” video games. This investigation is in response to a California law that was recently struck down in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If the law had been passed, it would have made the warning labels on video games more severe and instituted a $1,000 fine for retailers who sold the games to minors.

I find no problem with states instituting laws to regulate the sales of violent video games.

I remember walking into my cousin’s room during a family vacation and finding my 11-year-old brother grasping a game controller in his hands, eyes glued to the TV. He was playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, gallivanting around with naked women and mugging innocent pedestrians as curse words spewed out from bad rap music. Kids often make poor choices; so do teens, for that matter. More restrictions on what minors can rent or buy would be a good thing, especially since “violent” or M-rated video-games often throw in sexual themes and bad language with the bloodshed.

Research has shown that violent video games could be linked to aggressive and anti-social behavior. I do think there is legitimacy to the concept of garbage in, garbage out. When children practice behaviors of “you hurt me, I hurt you” or “I take what I want” with no serious consequences, it could form habits of thinking that may come out in everyday interactions.

Playing violent games is also believed to desensitize children to violence. I have seen kids who are allowed to watch violent movies or play graphic video games laugh at things that should horrify them. Watching gruesome deaths should not be light-hearted entertainment.

In Philippians 4:8, Paul urges Christians to think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy. I doubt that Grand Theft Auto and other M-rated or violent games qualify. As Christians, we should protect the minds of youths by promoting restrictions of games that fall far short of “lovely” or “pure.”

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