On Valentine’s Day of this year, celebration turned into tragedy at Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School when former student Nikolas Cruz entered the building armed with an AR-15, killing seventeen students. This mass shooting shook the affluent, supposedly safe community of Parkland, Florida to its core, and prompted a nationwide resurgence in the movement for gun control, with events such as the “March for Our Lives” calling for further restrictions (or outright ban) on the sale of assault rifles (cite source here??). Simultaneously, others have proposed alternate solutions to the hot-button issue of gun violence, pointing to the mental health issues seen in several mass shooters. More specifically, what causes these psychiatric illnesses. Shortly after the Parkland shooting, President Trump suggested that violence in video games and movies (should I include?) are contributing to mental problems, potentially warping the minds of America’s youth. He has since invited several major gaming CEO’s and media watchdogs to a meeting to discuss the issue (1). As such, the debate on video game violence, an ongoing dispute, has come back into the forefront. Me, being both a lifelong gamer and a passionate opponent of censorship, am somewhat concerned as to what this means for the future; will strict legislation on video games be passed? I sure hope not. I do not believe that the government should pass any laws either censoring, or further restricting the sales of, video games.
Objectionable content in video games have been the subject of public controversy, with one of the first major flashpoints being in 1993, with the release of the popular fighting game, Mortal Kombat, onto home consoles. As visual effects in games became more lifelike around this time, Mortal Kombat stuck out as being particularly photorealistic for its era. Most notably, it was infamous for its unprecedented depiction of graphic violence, allowing the player to perform actions such as brutally yanking an opponent’s spine from their body. This caught the attention of U.S. Senator, Joe Lieberman, who began to advocate for the censorship of such material. After a Senate hearing with key industry figures failed to make progress, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board was voluntarily created, which allowed games to be released uncensored, but with a content advisory label stamped onto packaging (2).
Strangely, according to Pew, violent crime has significantly dropped overall in the United States since 1993. At the time in which Mortal Kombat came under scrutiny, approximately 741.1 in 100,000 residents were reported to be victims of violence. By 2016, this number fell to 386.3 (3). Although this is a very broad statistic, and correlation does not necessarily lead to causation, the fact that violent crime has been nearly halved during a time in which video games have become increasingly commonplace, certainly undermines the naysayers’ argument that violent crime has increased because of them. Unfortunately, facts do not always dictate public perception, as evidenced by 2016’s data reporting that “57% of registered voters said crime in the U.S. had gotten worse since 2008, even though BJS and FBI data show that violent and property crime rates declined by double-digit percentages during that span” (3). I believe that the public’s misconceptions on crime can likely be attributed to their constant, all-day-every-day feed of breaking news, which tends to highlight negative headlines the most; look at how often the perpetrator of the Parkland shooting is mentioned! On that note, the fact that there is constant coverage of the same shooters over and over again artificially inflates how many of those types of people exist much higher than it is in reality. If that is not enough to convince one that this issue is overblown, psychologist Patrick Markey’s finding that approximately eighty percent of mass shooters were not even reported to be gamers should certainly help (4). Compared to the millions (FIND SPECIFIC NUMBERS!) of people who play video games, only a minuscule amount of them become such crazed killers; is it really fair to censor or restrict the sale of games if it will essentially punish the exponentially larger majority for the actions of an incredibly small minority?
In terms of whether or not violent video games can influence a young child or adolescent to become destructive in the real world, I believe there are two variables at play: the parents’ role in teaching their child not to repeat everything they see, as well as the child’s natural emotional maturity level (possibly look up EQ statistics to verify variations in maturity?). Clearly, it is a parent’s responsibility to help his or her child distinguish right from wrong, and reality from make-believe. In turn, parents and guardians should know their children well enough as individuals to understand what things they can and cannot handle. In my opinion, this is why the ESRB rating system is so important; if parents took the extra five seconds to look at the content stamps on the back of a game’s case, they will be able to rather easily identify what they think is and is not suitable for their child. While it is true that some retailers do not allow a person under 17 to purchase M-rated games without an adult present, and it should be their choice to enforce that policy, above anything else, including the government or a retailer, a parent should decide what is right for their child.
- Restate thesis
- Summarize paragraphs so far
- Emphasize my proposed solution
- End on a thought-provoking note.