September 26, 2007 —
Not long ago, video games were considered a harmless distraction for young people. Teenagers and children may have wasted their time in front of their televisions, pressing buttons and staring at the tube, but few believed they were doing anything more than killing brain cells and spending too much time inside on summer days, In recent years, however, adults have increasingly become the most prevalent video gamers with industry magazines, web sites, and even tournaments rapidly spreading. With this transformation have come more violent video games, a rating system, and the possibility of federal regulation. Politicians such as Hillary Clinton have spoken out again the violence, but many believe that video games are simply artistic expression (protected by freedmon of speech), entertainment, and even educational. Nonetheless, one company stands out as a purveyor of violent video game content.
Rockstar, the maker of the notorious game Grand Theft Auto, came under fire in 2006 due a game called Bully. Even before the game was released, activists attacked the game for glorifying or trivializing school bullying. The game was given a rating of “T” (suitable over age of 13) by the Entertainment Software Rating Board and received positive reviews. Subsequent attempts to ban the game in Florida prior to its release failed when the judge ruled the game was not a public nuisance. The company also received criticism for Manhunt 2, a game so violent that the Entertainment Software Ratings Board gave it an Adults Only rating. That game was also at the center of a court case that ruled that a law that banned selling games to minors was unconstitutional. Rockstar seems to be at the center of the video game controversy. As a result, parents and activists have called for boycotts of either specific games or the company as a whole.
Rockstar has publicly supported calls to protect children from violent games without restricting adults from purchasing and playing its games. The company has reacted to pressure and made its games less violent in order to receive acceptable ratings, but many people believe the company does the bare minimum to protect children from the violent images. The crux of the issue remains the violence of the games and scientists are still trying to examine the impact of video games on participants. In addition, the reaction to Rockstar means that pre-release fervor is often overwrought. For instance, Bully actually received some praise after its release since the protagonists is often depicted as defending the weak and fighting with school bullies. Boycotting Rockstar is a difficult proposition, but for parents concerned about the impact that video games will have on their children, it is advisable to avoid Grand Theft Auto, Bully, Manhunt 2, and other similar games.