Freedom of Speech
The main ethical issue involved with violence in video games is freedom of speech. If the government were to restrict the intensity of violence in video games, then they would be violating freedom of speech. It is unethical to outlaw video game violence or to hold developers of these games responsible for violent acts committed by their customers. However, video game violence should be carefully monitored and represented by an effective rating system, which should be enforced by harsh penalties against the retailers. For example, Goverener Schwarzenegger is implementing a law stating that retailers would be fined $1000 for selling games with a "Mature" rating to underage kids ( link ). However, we must not censor at the developer level, since this would curtail the creative limits to which our video game developers can explore.
The grey area of computer game violence is the rating system. It seems that retailers are often more interested in profit rather than the wishes of parents( link ). Therefore, it lies within the responsibility of the parents to encourage and instill good behavior and decision in their children. The grey area in video games lies in the rating system and how that system is enforced. Up until recently( link ), there have been ratings for games, but the enforcement of such laws simply did not exist. Since these ratings were simply recommendations for parents, a 10 year old could easily walk into any retailer and purchase a game with a "Mature" rating.
Effectiveness Of ESRB Rating System
Often is the case ( link ) that parents and guardians are unaware of the extent of violence within the games and/or the meaning of the ESRB rating system. We should find it unethical to withold vital information about a game's violent content. Addtionally, it is unethical to have a superficial rating system which merely serves as an ambiguous reminder. "To withhold information from someone who is trying to make a decision is to undermine that person's rational abilities," ( link ). Therefore, it should be the responsibility of the government to enforce an improved rating system with greater detail given to the extent of violence and sex in the game. This initiative would educate parents and help them use the rating tool with a keener sense of its meaning.
A Different Point Of View
Lets take the utilitarianstic point of view, wherein the ethical option is the one that creates the most happiness for the most people. Although video games are by no means a requirement of happiness, it should be noted that video games are a common leisure activity for people around the world. Therefore, the civil suits against video game developers and laws against violence in games is unethical because it decreases the amount of games that can be made and thus the overall happiness level of those who play games.
Although it can be argued that regardless of a rating system, there will be parents who will let their kids play games regardless of rating. To argue this point, we should do a cost and benefits analysis. The benefits outweigh the costs as parents who use an improved rating system will have an increased understanding of the game content, which will ultimately allow them to make better decisions for their children. Additionally, the game industry may gain some goodwill from parent's groups who have been known to criticize the game industry ( link ).
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