The Irony Of Censoring Media: A Word on Videogame Bans

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This week, the Supreme Court struck down a proposal to ban the sale of violent videogames to minors in California. Citing first amendment rights, the justices concluded that proponents of the bill had no constitutional grounds to restrict the expression of others.

By supporting the ban of violent videogames and other controversial material, parents may be doing considerably more damage to their children than violent videogames ever could.

Adults should monitor children and make most of the decisions during their childhood but should encourage critical thinking and the exchange of ideas whenever possible.

In a world where it’s increasingly common to propose the ban or removal of material we don’t agree with, some frank discussion would do everyone some good. Well-meaning individuals want to protect the young and impressionable from the ills of society. It’s noble, but it almost certainly does more harm than good.

Life isn’t easy and demands the careful negotiation of out-sized egos, difficult personalities, and ambiguous situations. Raising children in a manner that leaves them uncomfortable with evaluating and considering ideas that clash with their own does them a great disservice.

It’s borderline immoral to for an individual or organization to dictate what other citizens can and cannot consume (who determines what constitutes “violent” anyway?).

Advocates of violent videogame bans point to research that states that children who play violent videogames are more likely to commit crimes.  There is scant evidence that violent videogames create criminals and much of that research has been disputed. It’s the job of parents and other related adults to control what their children consume, not the government.

Any links between videogames and criminal behavior are probably evidence of correlation, not causation. Odds are, if you are allowing your young kids to play MA-rated games, you are lax on other aspects of parenting. Permission to play videogames with adult content is more an indicator of the child’s environment than the cause of unwanted future behavior.

By and large, companies do not need a laundry list of regulations to do right by their customers (yes, I know there are exceptions).They avoid running afoul of the media and American citizens because of self-interest.

In a free-market society, organizations that cannot convince consumers to hand over their hard-earned money go out of business. Period.

In 1994, the multi-billion dollar videogame industry created a ratings review council to categorize games and help parents make decisions for their children. The videogame industry wasn’t forced to do it by any government edict; it was instituted to maintain good relations with their customers and assuage detractors and critics.

It’s one thing to trumpet your opinion and let others make their own decisions. Go nuts trying to sway public opinion.

The instant you try to coerce others to comply with your line of thinking, you’ve crossed the line. Imposing one’s value system on others through coercive measures is as un-american as it gets.

(As an aside, I’m a pretty good Halo player myself.)

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