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Local parents, gamers, argue both sides of ban on violent video games

July 26th, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

By Todd Hamann

LOGAN—Reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent repeal of a California law to ban violent video games is widening the rift between parent groups trying to protect their children and the “gaming’”community.

In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court overturned the California law, citing free speech. “No doubt a state possesses legitimate power to protect children from harm,” wrote Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in the majority opinion, “But that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed.”

Scalia then went on to cite the fairy tales that many children worldwide have been raised on. For instance, Hansel and Gretel kill the witch by cooking her in an oven. “Grimm’s Fairy Tales are grim indeed,” he pointed out.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff agrees. In an interview with the Deseret News, he applauded the government’s refusal to police home entertainment. “The government isn’t always able to step in and take over the role as parent,” he said, saying that parents are the key to regulating what the children are exposed to in their homes.

In Logan, local reaction of the gaming community echoes the attorney general’s statement. “It’s about time they got something right,” Westen Jensen, a Cache Valley native and father of four said in a recent interview. “Just because I play Halo doesn’t mean that I’m going to shoot up the next building I see. It’s a game, that’s it. If they censor that then they should be censoring what’s on prime time television.”

On the other side of this coin, those who supported the law are outraged by the decision that will allow children to purchase any video game without a parent’s consent. Facebook and Twitter were abuzz.

“Children under the age of 18 years old should not be allowed to buy violent video games, end of discussion,” Sasha Nichole posted on her Facebook profile. “Everyone feels that American children are getting worse by the generation but no one wants to be accountable for their efforts in making them what they are becoming.”

Both sides of the issue lay claim to published scientific research as the bedrock of their arguments. Christopher Ferguson, Ph.D., at Texas A & M International University published a study that sides with the gamers’ argument. The result of his study indicates that depressive indicators far outweigh any behavioral changes attributed to playing video games. (See Texas A&M International University: Violent Video Games and Aggression.)

On the other hand, concerned parents groups and many educators side with a study published by Bruce Bartholow, Ph.D., at the University of Missouri. His study correlates playing violent video games with desensitization toward violence, prompting aggressive behavior for up to 24 hours after playing violent video games. (See University of Missouri Study on Violent Video Games)

Local parents agree. “Parenting is the key,” said Ashley Hawkes of North Logan. “We can’t let [our oldest son] play shooter games anymore. He got too wound up and would act out. If kids are allowed to walk into a store and buy these games then parents have got to stay on top of it.”

The video game industry holds to ratings much like movies. These ratings are issued by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), a self-regulating non-profit organization established in 1994. It assigns game ratings, enforces industry-adopted advertising standards, and enforces online privacy expectations in games. The ESRB uses a standard rating system when reviewing video games. The ratings are explained on the ESRB website.


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