Posted on 12 July 2011.
A recent Supreme Court case challenged the state of California’s ban on the sale of violent video games to children. I personally can not think of a more straight forward no brainer. Yes, banning the sale of violent video games, the kinds that include hardcore violence and even rape, should obviously not be sold to children, similarly to the way pornography, alcohol and tobacco are not sold to children.
I can’t get my head around the Supreme Court Decision and the way they defended the decision. Antonin Scalia likened the violence in the video games to the violence in fables that previous generations of children had read to them. And all I can say is is WHAT???
Let’s talk specifics here. One game, examined by the court, involves having the players accumulate points for raping a mother and her daughters. Apparently, according to the distinguished judges, parents have a right to expose their children to these “ideas”. Yes you read that right — they consider that the themes of rape and murder in these video games to be ideas to which a parent may want to expose his child.
Now this raises two alarms for me. First of all, the law simply prevented stores from selling these games to minors. So in essence, a parent could still buy the game for their children if they were set on exposing them to the ideas contained in the games. So what was the real motivation of appealing the law? Second, if our Supreme Court categorizes rape as an idea to which a parent can expose their child, then where does the line get drawn? It seems to me that it opens up the possibility for protecting the right of adults to expose children to pornography as well. I mean, is there a difference between rape and porn in a video game? Is it really only a parent’s decision to decide what is appropriate or not for their child? Or does society need to play some role in setting reasonable norms?
When the judges talk about parents, we all automatically imagine good, caring, responsible people who want to protect their right to raise their children as they see fit. Unfortunately, that’s not realistic. Depraved people have children. Children have children. People who are working too hard to even know what their children are doing during the day, have children.
The American legal system is sending a frightening message. That anything that some sick , depraved mind may come up with can be offered to the public. That we all have the right to sell that material and to buy that material. And that we simply have to cross our fingers that our own children don’t have to go to school with the kids who play those games, watch those movies, visit those website and are constantly exposed to those “ideas”. And as they become adults, we just have to hope that our adult children don’t fall victim to those who were unfortunate enough to not have anyone looking out for their emotional and sexual health in the digital age.
Call me naive, but why the game manufacturers would take the trouble to contest the law, is beyond my comprehension. Most decent people draw the line somewhere when it comes to profits. Do the game manufacturers really believe, that it’s acceptable for children to be exposed to extreme violence? And not only exposed, like they could be when watching the news — but as an interactive experience intended to be repeated over and over.
As games become increasingly sophisticated, we are not far away from more advanced technology being used to create even more realistic experiences. Just imagine what we are in for.