Should Violent Video Game Sales to Minors be Restricted?

For my entertainment law class, my professor had us research violent video games and the effects these could have on children. I analyzed the case Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants Association and looked at whether the government should regulate the sale of violent video games to minors. In the media today, video games often seem to become the scapegoat for violence when there is very little evidence about whether these games actually cause violent behavior. I found this to be a really interesting paper, so I thought I would summarize some of my findings for Her Campus readers!

First, in order for the government to regulate free speech, it must show a compelling interest and its means must be related to achieving this interest as well as narrowly tailored. If the government claims protecting minors is its compelling interest, it must show extremely convincing evidence. Most of the studies about violent video games indicate correlation between playing violent video games and short-lived aggressive thoughts and behavior. Typically, this aggressiveness lasted only a few minutes after playing, and there is no evidence as to whether the "aggressiveness" was violent or simply competitive. Some studies even indicated that playing violent video games could be therapeutic in a way and decrease depression or hostile thoughts. In short, most studies are conflicting and inconclusive and can not be considered "compelling."

Even if the evidence were compelling, the California Act in question in the case Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants Association did not really help to achieve the goal of protecting children. The voluntary rating system already in place helped inform consumers about the maturity level of violent video games. Parents who carefully control what media their children consume would not benefit from such a law because they already so attentively monitor what their kids do. Parents who do not care are likely to simply buy the violent video games for their children if such a law was in place.

What I found most interesting was that looking at the actual content of violent video games tends to disgust and horrify us so much that we assume they need to be regulated. In fact, we must look to the actual effects these games have, and until we have more conclusive studies about harm to minors or society in general, violent video game sales should not be further regulated. Continuing studies are essential, however, especially as virtual reality technology improves to the point where games are so interactive that children may be training their brains to commit violent acts.

For more information, see Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants Association, 564 U.S. 768 (2011)

https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/08-1448.ZS.html