Does the industry need to start self-policing?
The video games industry has been self-policing for many years. The video game industry’s ESRB industry ratings system has been shown to have the highest level of compliance at keeping games made for adults out of the hands of children, as confirmed through rigorous, continual undercover shopper tests run by the US Federal Trade Commission. The vast majority of parents are aware of the ESRB rating system and regularly use it. We give parents the tools they need and we are always listening to parents and looking for ways to do a better job of it.
Are games fine the way they are?
There is always more that the video game industry can do to keep games made for adults out of the hands of children. The industry is constantly seeking better ways to reach parents about how to evaluate games for children, with public service announcements, advertising, displays in stores that sell games, and improved enforcement of ratings at checkout. However, it is important to note that violent video gameplay does not make people violent. In 2011, the US Supreme Court examined the research and concluded that imaginary violence does not cause real violence, saying “Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively.”
Have games gone overboard?
Games are a form of protected speech like books, music, and movies. Game developers have a right to explore themes and ideas just like creators in other media. We take this right seriously, and we understand that rights come with responsibilities. For more than 15 years, the International Game Developers Association’s Violence and Social Issue Committee has held annual meetings with key members of the game development community to discuss not only how we defend our work from censorship, but how to elevate video game content with richer themes and incorporate pro-social values.
Game developers tend to be very thoughtful people with a surprisingly wide range of interests, and unique ideas who hold a great concern for their players. Many game developers care deeply about the effects of their games on fans and on society and they often want their art to reflect that concern, even when it requires extra effort with no guarantee that the extra work will sell even one more copy. In recent years, many extremely popular video games have proven this by exceeding conventional game design and harnessing the power of interactivity to immerse players in a thoughtful meditation on the use, misuse, and consequences of violence. Look at games like Bioshock, Fable 2 and Fallout 3, where players must make choices about the kinds of actions they will engage in and the consequences therein, for good or ill. Newer games with violent content have been designed with extra gameplay modes and options so players can opt to win without their character killing any character in the game. Other game designers are working on games for conflict-resolution, anti-bullying, and other pro-social themes, even though these kinds of games have no proven market and there is no evidence they will be able to make money from them.
It is also important to note that even violent video games can have beneficial effect. Research from Texas A&M associate professor of psychology and communication Christopher Ferguson has shown that “violent and non-violent games tend to relax people over time, not anger them.”
More from this issue:
- A Brief History of your IGDA Anti-Censorship and Social Issues Committee, Daniel Greenberg
- A History of Control in Japanese Game Industry: Kenji Ono
- IndieSpective: Games and Guns, Robert Madsen
- Game Design Aspect of the Month: Ambiguous Morality, Kohlberg, and The Witcher: Mark Chen
- Student Beat: The Media Scapegoat, Luke Dicken
- IGDA Release: Statement on Senator Grassley: IGDA Anti-Censorship and Social Issues Committee
- IGDA Release: Response to Mike Bowersock: IGDA Anti-Censorship and Social Issues Committee
- Planes, Games and Facebook Appeals: How Love and Appreciation Sent an IGDA Director to the Other Side of the Planet: Drew Taylor