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Video Game Violence

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Has America Seen Enough? A Stronger Rating System is a Must

Many of today's youth are easily influenced by their environment. Their environment can include their family, friends, school, and even media (television, music, video games). With technology rapidly advancing, video games are having an even greater impact on youth. In the last few years, there has been a steady increase in the amount of violence contained in all media, especially video games. According to Alison Motluk, "more than 90 per cent of American children play video games every day, and half of the top sellers contain extreme violence" (10). Playing these violent video games is having a direct effect on aggression levels as seen in the recent rise of school violence. Many times the individuals involved have stated that they got their ideas from playing violent video games. Obviously, with youth violence on the rise, changes need to be made in order to help control this situation. A stricter rating system needs to be applied to video games, and more importantly the new rating system should be heavily enforced wherever video games are sold so that maturity levels are met before being allowed to purchase a video game.

Computer and video games have been rated using a rating scale since 1994. Video games are rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). The ESRB uses rating symbols on the front of each game to show the current rating of the game. The ratings currently used are early childhood (EC), everyone (E), everyone 10 and older (E10+), teen (T), mature (M), and adults only (AO). These ratings are to reflect the maturity level needed to play and understand the game. The combination of industry and public pressures to use ratings has encouraged the makers of media products to use the ratings to label their products. In recent years, however, the economic stakes seem to have changed. The competition for the public's eye and wallet has sharpened considerably. The economic temptations to down rate a product to capture a larger audience have increased, and, at the same time, each passing season encourages producers to outdo the previous season in edgy material--with more violence, more sexual situations, and more adult language. The time has come for ratings to move beyond the voluntary arena. An external rating board with authority to assign and/or approve ratings grows increasingly necessary each year (Walsh and Gentile 1302). This would take the responsibility off the gaming industry and put it on individuals who would be trained to perform the task of rating video games.

Prior to a game being released to the public, game publishers must submit responses to a written ESRB questionnaire specifying exactly what pertinent content will be in the game. Along with the written submission materials, publishers must provide a videotape or DVD which captures all pertinent content, including the most extreme instances, across all relevant categories including but not limited to violence, language, sex, controlled substances and gambling. Pertinent content that is not playable, but will exist in the game code on the final game disc, must also be disclosed. Upon reviewing the video or DVD, the raters use their own judgment to recommend appropriate rating categories for the specific scenes and depictions reviewed and the game overall .

For the last few years, the ESRB continues to be in the middle of controversy. Many people feel that the current ratings system can not be trusted because it is being run by the game industry itself. A way to enforce a stricter ratings system would be to have a group of people not affiliated with the gaming industry take over the responsibilities of rating video games. That group could include but would not have to be limited to some gaming and academic experts, media critics, and child psychologists. This would give all parties concerned with game ratings a say in the final rating. Perhaps a long term solution to help solve this ratings issue would be to develop and implement a universal ratings system to be used with all media, not just video games. This proposed solution could take many months or years to implement, so in the mean time parents should continue to educate themselves on the current ratings system. Parents should realize that a rating is not a seal of approval, and that they should continue to monitor their children's use of media products, even if the rating suggests that the products are age-appropriate (Walsh and Gentile 1302).

More importantly, this new rating system should be heavily enforced wherever video games are being sold. It is not very difficult for anyone, even young children, to access games with violent content. Countless retailers routinely rent and sell adult-rated games to minors. In an informal survey performed by an Ottawa newspaper in 2000, two fourteen-year-old boys were able to rent violent Mature-rated (for persons ages 17 and older) games from every video



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