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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Violent Video Games: Banned or Not Restricted? (originally a Quebec College Assignment)

Violent Video Games: Banned or Not Restricted? Here's another Humanities for Science Programs assignment for me to present to you. And yes, this is from my time at Champlain College Saint-Lambert.

This time, though, it's a big 3000-word essay on violent video games, and whether or not they should be banned from the video game market. It was a project that I had trouble working on it as early as I should have because for one thing, I was pushing myself to the limit in my programming class to get 100% as my final course grade. In addition, I had to worry about other assignments during my semester, so it looked like I worked my assignment only within the last 10 days of it. But for my consistent effort, and from some advice given by my professor, I was able to earn 90% on this assignment.

Anyway, fourteen different sources have been used in this assignment, all formatted in MLA format, and parenthetical citation is included.

Alright, without further ado, enjoy reading!

Video games are one of the fundamentals in entertainment and multimedia. This doesn't eliminate the fact that violent video games do not exist. Games are rated carefully by the ESRB ("ESRB ratings"), but there is still an ethical issue surrounding violent video games. In other words, should violent video games be banned in North America?  In this essay, I'm going to discuss why I think, under my own power, violent video games in North America should not be banned. Aside from discussing what the ethical issue is all about, I'm also going to provide evidence to both sides of this ethical debate. Following on, an analysis of the opposing opinions will be discussed using three different ethical theories that are appropriate to the subject matter; they are act utilitarianism, rule utilitarianism, and deontology. Finally, I will discuss my own critical assessment on this issue, and conclude this with a conclusion.
            To start off, a violent video game is one containing dehumanizing action or some form of inappropriate content, such as profanity or gun violence. On the first week to where Grand Theft Auto IV was released, Senate Hilary Clinton and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg state that how popular the game grew produced a great concern for American society. (Blake 1) In fact, there had been theories where violent video games were associated with the massive school shootings done in the United States, with the most emphasis on the perpetrators of the Columbine High School massacre. (Ferguson 25-26) In spreading awareness of the controversy that generated beyond violent video games ever since "violence" was incorporated into them, the American Psychological Association stated, in 2005, for a "reduction of all violence in videogames and interactive media marketed to children and youth." (Peckham 5) To add to the favor of controlling the dangers of video games, several experimental studies were conducted to show a few possibilities of behaviors exhibited by players from violent video games. The studies show an increase in video game players' hostile expectations through profanity in both protagonists and antagonists, (Ivory 236) more hurtful behavior instead of helpful behavior in a group of children who played them, ("Effects of Video Games on Children" 285) as well as an increase of "state hostility, aggravation, and mean feelings" to a group of tested college students on violent video games. ("Effects of Video Games on College Students" 268) Because of the nature of incorporated violence, several states alone in the United States passed restrictions of sales of video games to minors, including California, Louisiana, and Washington. (Dunkelberger 1659) Additionally, Hilary Clinton has declared that video games shall be treated in a similar fashion "to drugs and alcohol." (Blake 10)
            On the other hand, there exist a few inconsistencies with the approach and therefore suggesting that video games should not be banned in North America. Firstly, declaring video games, including those that are violent, as conflicts for society, is "demonstrably false." (Blake 5) In point of fact, there hardly exists a link between violent video games and violent crimes. (Ferguson 34) Secondly, there has not been any study made showing a clear link between violent video games to actual crimes, and therefore the overlook on violent video games is quite ambiguous. (Peckham 4) To add, Stetson University researcher Christopher Ferguson issued a letter to the American Psychological Association to revise their 2005 statement because of lack of consistent evidence. (Peckham 6-7) His research suggested that people with an early mental health issue would reduce bullying instead of increasing it. (Peckham 7) Thirdly, video games are under  United States' First Amendment protection, (Downes 1) which, according to the Random House Dictionary published in 2013, is "[ to prohibit the US Congress] from interfering with freedom of religion, speech, assembly, or petition." ("First Amendment")  Fourth, there is an economic potential behind violent video games; in fact, in the first week alone, Grand Theft Auto IV generated over $500 million US in sales. (Blake 1) Fifth, more research on video game violence is necessary (Gordon 20), though a limited study shows that there has been no abnormalities discovered in the feelings of images between those who played violent video games and those who have not. (Gordon 14-15) Furthermore, in one study that was reported in 2012, when video gamers played violent video games cooperatively, there was more cooperation than the expectation of not cooperating. (Ewoldsen 279)
With the summary now discussed, I shall bring to you my own analysis on this ethical issue, starting with what ethical theories are to be discussed. Ethical egoism, psychological egoism, and virtue ethics, are not compatible with this issue because the ethical issue is more on the universalized body of North America and not one on one. Rawl's theory is also inconsistent because it applies only to actual societies and not in simulated societies that violent video games exhibit. Therefore, the ethical theories applied to this issue are act utilitarianism, rule utilitarianism, and deontology.
Firstly, although act utilitarianism is very limited because there are only two possible actions in this ethical issue, it is still somewhat appropriate enough to assess the ethical issue this way.  If the ban is in place, it could ruin the potential for future sales of games that, in the past, they once succeed, like what happened with Grand Theft Auto IV. (Blake 1) In addition, because of the negative anticipation that's built upon players from pre-existing violent video game media, ("Effects of Video Games on College Students" 268) those players would, predictably, react violently in order for them to play violent video games once again. On the contrary, there would be more control over what kind of media children are permitted to view; to support, Florida lawyer Jack Thompson states that, as an example, Grand Theft Auto IV is "the gravest assault upon children in [United States] since polio." (Blake 10) With the ban in place, parents will be less concerned about violent video games in their children. To assess the implications of the consequences, we need to perform a calculation on this action for utility or disutility. In calculation, the scope is entirely large because the ethical issue is universalized on the people of North America. The duration is, however, ambiguous because of unexpected future outcomes with the potential for protests later on, but it is estimated to last at least a few years. Nevertheless, the intensity of the consequences are extremely high, taking into account the involvement and the events created from players based on violent video games, and the probability is high. Some of the problems presented in this ethical approach consist of the calculation problem, the moral saints problem, and the moral permissiveness objection. Regardless if this is one action, the calculation behind can still be quite tedious because we have to take into account different abstract circumstances and therefore it's impossible to know exactly what is relevant or irrelevant to the calculation. As for the moral saints problem, we cannot associate our decision, on whether or not to ban violent video games in North America, with consequences that impose less utility than others. Finally, regardless of the position on this debate following this ethical issue, there is still room for crime because any sort of action, even dehumanizing ones, can become a moral duty for oneself in an appropriate circumstance. For example, the inappropriate and weak evidence found in the case of Eric Harris and Dylan Kleboid, where they were players of the video game Doom before their attack on Columbine. (Ferguson 26) However, the weaknesses are not enough to eliminate our decision based on act utilitarianism all together. The total of this calculation shows us that there is more disutility in its consequences than utility where the best decision in an ethical issue based on this theory is one that produces the greatest overall utility. So, regardless of its reliability because the information on this ethical issue is not surrounding an actual debate, under act utilitarianism, it is morally wrong to consider banning violent video games in North America.
Alternatively, rule utilitarianism is more flexible, on the basis that it takes into account the rules, which does include the practice to removing violent video games from North American society. We need to assess whether placing the ban for violent video games would produce more utility than otherwise, on the basis of the principle of rules. There is one problem with this approach; a moral dilemma is encountered because the ethical issue is on a large scope that affects millions of video game enthusiasts. If violent video games were to be banned in North America, it would produce less utility than disutility; the consequences involved would include those similar to what were discussed in act utilitarianism, and a violation on the freedom of speech since video games are under First Amendment protection in the United States. (Downes 1) Although most of the problems resulted from act utilitarianism would be improvised, there are still a few inconsistencies with this approach. Rule utilitarianism would not eliminate the calculation problem because the outcome of the calculation involved for banning violent video games is very large that on the basis of universalization, it should be taken into account. One possible moral dilemma generated from banning violent video games is whether or not to continue production and sales on them since it is considered 'freedom of speech'; ("First Amendment") even though the dilemma principle can be applied, it's still inconsistent in the fact that it is affected universally. Rule utilitarianism does not maximize utility in this ethical issue, and so there is an inconsistency objection. Finally, there is the collapse objection: if there is an enactment in modifying the ban on violent video games where it is not restricted for everyone, but rather, restricted to minors, (Dunkelberger 1659) then this theory becomes act utilitarianism. In addition, rule utilitarianism must be assessed in terms of utility than disutility where its principles depend on them; however, there is inadequate utility found from this approach. In sum, because more disutility is produced in following rule utilitarianism on assessing whether violent video games should be banned, rule utilitarianism results in oppressing the ban than passing it.
            To add more to the analysis, Kant's deontological theory shall be discussed. It focuses on duties that may be considered rules, but is considered distinct from any consequentialist approaches because all consequences are rejected. The rules we are to consider are those based on playing video games instead of the duty to ban violent ones. There are three moral duties that are followed when playing violent video games, which are the duty of nonmaleficience, gratitude and beneficence. For nonmaleficience, considering that video games are a source of entertainment and is done in a controlled environment, players are usually not harming or injuring others in the real world when playing a violent one. As for gratitude, considering that video games are made by a team of developers, we are actually paying their work and possibly giving them some praise for developing the game; it usually depends on several factors such as marketing. Beneficience is also possible because what if a game turns out to be mighty successful like what Grand Theft Auto IV did in its first week? (Blake 1) We're not only satisfying their contract budget, ("What Does Video Game Developer Do?"), but somehow improving and updating the quality of the companies, or developers, who were involved in the making and distribution of games. To continue, the duty to play video games is not an absolutist one nor is it based on intuitionism, but it is somewhat objectivist because we can limit how much we play those games to the sort of circumstances that surround us. In addition, playing video games is not part of Kant's description of the Good Will nor is it a categorical imperative, since, except for children, (Gordon 1) it is a safe privilege and not really a responsibility for goals. In terms of Kant's principle of universal law where we have to universalize a maxim and see if there is an inconsistency, the maxim for this duty is nothing else than just playing the game with the right setup, unless we are playing the game online with other players. It can be universalized because there are many copies of violent video games in North America alone like how popular Grand Theft Auto IV has been sold around the world. (Bennett 1-2) Because of the lack of connection between violent video games and violent crimes, (Ferguson 34) there is actually no inconsistency generated. Although we have taken a look at deontology in a great detail, there are a few problems with this approach. One problem is that the principle of autonomy cannot be applied to this privilege at all, because on the definition of the autonomy principle, playing a violent video game would be somewhat an inner compulsion, which always depends on the individual. Even then, whether it's an addiction or an interest, this duty does not respect the independence condition at all, nor both the competency condition and the authenticity condition. In addition, we have three other objections: the consequentialist's objection, the many-formulations problem, and indirect duties. Kant's theory does ignore consequences themselves, but they may become important to the morality on debating whether or not violent video games should be banned. There are also several other maxims that can be formulated because not every single individual exhibits a common behavior when playing a violent video game, especially in co-op or online play; therefore, there may be different results in how it is universalized and analyzed for inconsistencies. In addition, the duty to playing a video game is not direct to the development and publishing staff, but rather indirect where we must treat them as human beings since it is a moral duty. Overall, Kant's theory shows that there aren't more negative implications than those that are positive when considering with the duty to playing violent video games; in fact, it's inconsistent for politicians to violate the moral duty to play those games. Therefore, under Kant's theory, it is morally wrong for violent video games to be banned in North America.
            Let me share with you now my own critical assessment on this ethical issue. Under my own power, I support the option where video games should not be banned in North America. The reason being is that even though we do have at least a few studies that take into account the cognitive symptoms experienced by certain groups, (Ivory 236, "Effects of Video Games on Children" 285, "Effects of Video Games on College Students" 268) and some other evidence on video games related to violence in society, it is not enough to put on an emphasis that banning video games will promote more utility than disutility. I disagree with them in providing enough evidence to recommend the ban. In fact, recalling that more video game research needs to be done, (Gordon 20) the relative evidence provided through the recent studies are weak to show that it's best to let the government control the controversy with the proposal for banning. In addition, I agree with Bill Blake's point that seeing violent video games as social threats is false. (Blake 5) Although we do have to be aware of the cases already existed where the perpetrators were playing games before the crime, (Ferguson 25-26) we shouldn't overjudge them. Additionally, even though I did not technically read the review on First Amendment protection by Jame Dunkelberger and a corresponding article from CNET, I find it morally right to have video games placed under the United States First Amendment protection (Downes 1). The best ethical theory that supports my opinion is rule utilitarianism because it is more on the implication of practices that show how my position in objecting the ban is reliable. Even though rule utilitarianism has the inconsistency objection and the calculation problem, as well as decreasing its reliability when new video game research (Gordon 20) takes over, I still feel it is reliable enough to show that the nature of violence in those games is not enough for politicians to actually ban them. Therefore, under my own critical assessment, it is morally incompetent to promote the ban; we should not ban violent video games.
            In conclusion, I have provided an assessment as to why violent video games should not get into the hands of national governments and therefore agreeing to ban them in North America. Here, what I have discussed is an analysis of the ethical issue with three ethical concepts to the approaches; act utilitarianism discusses what happens if the ban is passed, rule utilitarianism concludes that the ban to violent video games should not be in place, and deontology reveals that by definition of duties and its principles, violent video games should not be illegalized. Finally, I have provided my own answer to this ethical issue with one of the three ethical theories discussed, plus some support. Although there can be psychological problems for those who play violent video games, it should still not be considered as a reason to ban them. Because they surround violence in a controlled fashion and not in a way where it is not a learning video game, it is more considered a freedom and right that should not be violated at all. Therefore, I consider it morally right to not ban violent video games in North America.
Word Count (with the citations): 2,908
*NOTE*: Any other sources used not in important context of the ethical issue are there to describe things that are not common knowledge.
Peckham, Matt. "Researcher Says Linking Video Games To Gun Violence Is A 'Classic Illusory Correlation'." (2013): 1. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
Blake, Bill. "Go Ahead, Steal My Car." Chronicle of Higher Education. 27 June 2008: B6+. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
Ivory, Adrienne Holz, and Christine E. Kaestle. "The Effects Of Profanity In Violent Video Games On Players' Hostile Expectations, Aggressive Thoughts And Feelings, And Other Responses." Journal Of Broadcasting & Electronic Media. 57.2 (2013): 224-241. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
Saleem, Muniba, Craig A. Anderson, and Douglas A. Gentile. "Effects Of Prosocial, Neutral, And Violent Video Games On Children's Helpful And Hurtful Behaviors." Aggressive Behavior. 38.4 (2012): 281-287. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
Gordon, Serena. "Violent Video Games may Not Desensitize Kids: Study." U.S.News & World Report. Feb 2011: 1. ProQuest. Web. 25 Nov. 2013 .
Dunkelberger, Jame. "The New Resident Evil? State Regulation Of Violent Video Games And The First Amendment." Brigham Young University Law Review. 2011.5 (2011): 1659-1693. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
Ewoldsen, David R., et al. "Effect Of Playing Violent Video Games Cooperatively Or Competitively On Subsequent Cooperative Behavior." Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking 15.5 (2012): 277-280. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
Saleem, Muniba, Craig A. Anderson, and Douglas A. Gentile. "Effects Of Prosocial, Neutral, And Violent Video Games On College Students' Affect." Aggressive Behavior 38.4 (2012): 263-271. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
"ESRB ratings." ESRB – Entertainment Software Rating Board. Web. 2 Dec. 2013 <>
Ferguson, Christopher J. "The School Shooting/Violent Video Game Link: Causal Relationship Or Moral Panic?." Journal Of Investigative Psychology & Offender Profiling. 5.1/2 (2008): 25-37. Academic Search Premier. Web. 4 Dec. 2013.
Downes, Larry. "Video games given full First Amendment protection | Internet & Media – CNET News." CNET. 27 June 2011. Web. 4 Dec. 2013. <>
"What Does a Video Game Developer Do? (with pictures)." wiseGEEK – clear answers for common questions. Web. 5 Dec. 2013. <>
Bennett, Matthew. "Grand Theft Auto IV Has Sold 25 million copies." EGMNOW. June 2013. Web. 5 Dec. 2013 <>

"First Amendment | Define First Amendment at" Web. 5 Dec. 2013. <>

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