Recently, Katie Couric tackled the subject of video game violence in one of her Follow Up Friday segments. It was a fairly one-sided report adamant on perpetuating video games as a major factor in violent tragedies like school shootings. Games were subtly scapegoated through the usage of people like Daniel Petric in its ad hominem, and ultimately the report set its sights on public sympathy as a means of conveying its message. Whether you play video games or not, Katie’s attempt to impart to you that video games even indirectly cause school shootings is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. It’s a censorship bar over art and a challenge to our free speech.
Doesn’t it sound familiar? Our government’s battle with obscenity and its definition has been chronicled through cases like the infamous Roth v. United States and later United States of America v. Extreme Associates, both cases that have attempted to employ a national standard for determining things that are unprotected by our freedom of speech (more specifically pornography). But how far does this battle go? Video game hate has almost become a ritual over the last few years. Every so often a depressed, socially outcast kid gets it in his head to take revenge on his bullies or alleviate his anger with a gun and the video game industry becomes a punching bag. When do we stop turning our attention to entertainment and start putting ourselves under the microscope?
The root of the argument is a statement we’ve all heard in one form or another: Video games are causing the American youth to carry out violent acts against the public. Even Psychology Today reported that video games increase aggression significantly after observing 136 articles that reported 381 effects with 130,000 people from around the world. But for every Dylan Klebold or Seung-Hui Cho out there, how many more “gamers” from a multi-billion dollar industry are out and about satisfying their aggression through gun violence? What about StopBullying.org’s finding that 12 out of 15 school shooters in the 90’s were the byproduct of bullying? What about British psychiatrist Dr. David Healy’s finding that 90% of school shootings have been linked to some form of psychiatric medication? The beginning of Katie Couric’s segment could’ve just as easily name dropped TJ Solomon, Jason Hoffman, Elizabeth Bush, and yes – even Dylan Klebold’s friend Eric Harris as teens under the influence of psych medication.
After the Newtown tragedy, President Obama announced that he was formally requesting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) look into the effects of video game violence in February. When April came, Senator Dianne Feinstein warned that Congress might begin voting on video game regulation. The CDC funded three previous research studies in the past: All of them were pertinent to media violence as a whole rather than specifically focusing on video games, which included music and television. Furthermore, one of the studies funded by the CDC (conducted by Dr. Michele Ybarra) concluded that the reduction of youth exposure to media violence was a key factor in preventing it — a parental responsibility that’s further enforced by things like ESRB ratings, which seem to have so far been ignored.
Once again, the fate of our freedom of speech is caught in the crossfire between conflicting ideologies and an indecisive government. If we allow the regulation of video game content, how many other forms of similar media will get the same treatment? Should parenting failures really dictate the treatment of our inalienable rights? For every senator’s pen stroke on this matter, the interest of our American freedom suffers the consequences. Video games have just as much of a right to depict violence as a history book or any other written text. A parent’s failure to control their child and properly raise them shouldn’t be the reason that our entertainment industry falls under heavy government censorship. Only through persistence and individual input can we hope to overcome these constant threats to our freedom.