For many years, legislators from different states have presented bills that were aimed at implementing laws banning violent games. However, in all instances, the bills were rejected on the basis of their violation of the First Amendment. Research has established a link between violent video games and aggression in young people. Recent high school shootings have been cited as examples of the detrimental effects of children’s exposure to violent video games. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the freedom of individuals to express themselves freely through their right to free speech.
In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that any such law was unconstitutional and a restriction on individuals’ freedom of expression and free speech. Opponents of restrictions argue that such laws impede freedom of expression that should be enjoyed by children. On the contrary, proponents argue that the same laws that restrict minors’ access to sexual content should be applied because violent video games are harmful to children. Violent games should have First Amendment protection because they are an art form that communicates ideas and social messages and that promotes mental health.
The strongest argument presented by proponents of First Amendment protection is the literary, artistic, political, and social impact of certain violent materials. For instance, violent content from the Vietnam War played a significant role in changing how the public perceived the war. In that regard, it is unjustified to ban violent video games without considering the scientific evidence that shows their benefits to players. Books, movies, and plays are protected by the amendment, even though some of them contain violent materials (Gunter 54). Video games represent a creative, emotional, and intellectual channel that people use to exercise their freedom of expression.
They are comparable in essence to books, plays, television shows, and movies. Protected literature such as Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Disney’s Cinderella and Snow White, Homer’s The Odyssey, and Dante’s Inferno contains violent material similar to that found in video games (Gunter 56). The content of the aforementioned literature is accessible to children, despite vehement calls for government prohibitions. Therefore, implementing a law to ban the sale of violent video games to minors is mistaken and unprecedented. Parents should take the responsibility of monitoring their children in order to ensure that they are not overexposed to obscene and violent content in video games.
Implementing a ban will downplay the numerous benefits of video games on players. Violent video games use literary tools such as plots, characters, and challenges to communicate messages and ideas that could have social benefits. In that regard, the determination of the intrinsic value of violent video games should be the responsibility of individuals and not politicians or states. Children and adolescents should enjoy the right to express themselves through playing the video games of their choice without legal restrictions.
The second argument is based on the benefits of video games as derived from scientific studies. According to research studies, violent video games promote mental health and cognition in children because they offer a safe outlet for aggression and other negative emotions (Kuhn et al. 1221). In that regard, video games should be considered as a sport that helps people function better mentally. In addition, some studies have shown that violent video games improve visual-spatial coordination, enhances reactive decision-making capabilities, and improves peripheral attention (Kuhn et al 1222).
Violent video games have negative effects too. However, the aforementioned benefits outweigh their disadvantages, and therefore, should be protected by the First Amendment. Developers in the game industry have developed internal ratings and an enforcement system that regulate the development and sale of video games. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has five ratings: early childhood, everyone, teens, mature, and adults only (Gunter 65).
The rating system as well as parental oversight and guidance suffice to protect children and young people from the detrimental effects of violent video games. New technological innovations should not be resisted by finding recourse in-laws that violate the constitutional rights of individuals. Similar attempts were made during the rise in popularity of mainstream media, including comic books and movies. However, the courts ruled against them and upheld the First Amendment principle.
The major argument against the First Amendment protection of violent video games is their connection to increased aggression in players. Some studies have shown that prolonged exposure to violent video games is associated with violent tendencies in children. A study conducted by Shao and Wang (2019) showed a relationship between violent video games and adolescent aggression. The results of the experiment validated earlier studies that cited exposure to violent video games as a major cause of hostility in young people (Shao and Wang 6).
These studies have been criticized because they only show a correlation and do not provide evidence that violent video games increase aggression in children. The related evidence suggests that the aggression could be a result of other factors than video games. A 2019 study conducted by Kuhn et al. showed that playing violent video games does not increase aggression. The participants played Grand Theft Auto V (violent) and The Sims 3 (non-violent) every day for a period of two months (Kuhn et al 1224).
The findings showed no evidence of increased aggression and impulsivity as well as reduced pro-social behavior among players. Media content such as explicit sexual content is not protected by the First Amendment because of its negative effects, especially on children. Opponents argue that violent video games should also be excluded from the Amendment’s protection because they contain obscene content.
Researchers have stated that violent video games are a primary cause of aggression in children and adolescents. The rising popularity of different types of games with violent content is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed in a timely manner. The topic has been researched widely in the scientific field. Video games should be protected by the First Amendment because they promote mental health and provide a channel for self-expression. Research has established that violent video games promote mental health and cognition in children and they are an effective channel for people to express their creativity. Players can release their aggression through these games.
Opponents argue that violent video games increase aggression among players and should therefore be banned. The correlation established through studies does not present evidence of how the games cause aggression as there are numerous factors that could be the main contributing factors. Books, films, and television shows have First Amendment protection. Therefore, violent games should receive protection too, because they are a means of spreading ideas and messages that could have positive social outcomes.
Gunter, Barrie. Does Playing Video Games Make Players More Violent? Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
Kuhn, Simone et al. “Does Playing Violent Video Games Cause Aggression: A Longitudinal Intervention Study.” Molecular Psychiatry, vol. 24, no. 1, 2019, pp. 1220-1234.
Shao, Rong, and Wang, Yunqiang. “The Relation of Violent Video Games to Adolescent Aggression: An Examination of Moderated Mediation Effect.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 10, no. 1, 2019, pp. 1-9.