Video games and free speech

Should we regulate or ban violent video games or not? This is a question still being debated. Are these games innocent recreational devices, or are they damaging to children and, if so, should they be banned just as we ban child pornography and underage drinking?

Under our present capitalist government, special interest groups, whose goal is profit regardless of the harm that might be done to others, produce and sell violent video games and claim protection under the First Amendment to do so.

Why this is wrong and such games should be banned, or at least regulated, is based on the following scientific evidence from Science Daily.

The report starts by informing us, "Scientists have known for years that playing violent video games causes players to become more aggressive." Just what we need in our violence prone, gun toting society. But ''knowing that" and "knowing why" are two different questions. The article says new findings at the University of Missouri have discovered at least one reason why these games lead to aggressive behavior: "The brains of violent video game players become less responsive to violence, and this diminished brain response predicts an increase in aggression."

Dr. Bruce Bartholow, one of the scientists conducting the study, is quoted as saying, "Many researchers have believed that becoming desensitized to violence leads to increased human aggression. Until our study, however, this causal association had never been demonstrated experimentally."

In the experiment, people played violent and nonviolent video games and then played competitive games with an opponent in which they could inflict a painful stimulus to the loser. The games were rigged so the winners would be the ones who had just played the two types of video games. The experiment showed that those who had played the violent games inflicted more painful stimuli. There was a series of tests as well, all of which reached the same conclusions about brain activity and aggression related to violent video games. 

There is always the possibility that some third unknown factor is responsible for both the desire to play violent video games and the diminished brain activity that leads to aggressive behavior. But so far all the evidence points to the violent video games as the cause of the aggressive behavior.

Dr. Bartholow pointed out that evidence shows that grade school children on average are playing video games for forty hours a week - more than any other activity. The scientists say young "children could become accustomed to violent behavior as their brains are forming." What kind of rational, decent society would allow such a thing? There is nothing in the First Amendment that protects speech that is dangerous and harmful to the public. Violent video games should be treated just as falsely shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theatre, i.e. as a clear and present danger to society.

We don't want our kids to smoke, drink, or eat too much as that would hurt their bodies. But violent and aggressive (and unemployed) young brains are just what the military recruiters are looking for, since we will need to expand the all-volunteer army in the years ahead as our commitments in the Middle East and Africa grow - or at least that's the plan, unless the peace movement can stop it.

The last word goes to Dr. Bartholow: "More than any other media, these video games encourage active participation in violence. From a psychological perspective, video games are excellent teaching tools because they reward players for engaging in certain types of behavior. Unfortunately, in many popular video games, the behavior is violence."