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Responsibility Regarding Violence in Video Games

Responsibility Regarding Violence in Video Games

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Published by thrashinator
Responsibility Regarding Violence in Video Games
Responsibility Regarding Violence in Video Games

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Published by: thrashinator on Dec 13, 2009
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12/09/2011

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Robert MatheniaITM434, Summer 2009Module 3, Case Assignment
Responsibility Regarding Violence in Video Games
As technology progresses ever forward, the level of realism in video gamesmoves steadily upward. An entire genre of video games, the “FPS” (or “first-personshooter”), is devoted in its entirety to the purpose of three-dimensionally renderedmurder. Its simplest and purest form, the “deathmatch” (a now widely used andaccepted term describing the most common mode of play in an FPS) pits as few astwo to as many as hundreds of players against each other in a no-holds barred,graphically intense fight to the finish. Many representations of familiar implementsof destruction are used to that end – handguns, shotguns, grenades, knives – aswell as less familiar, more exotic weaponry, all to support an increasingly over-the-top, blood-spattered virtual orgy of death. Moreover the FPS, however gruesome, is just the tip of the video-violence iceberg. The entire gamut of traditionally sinfulacts, as well as any socially questionable action, has more than likely already takeninteractive video form in one way or another: just look at games such as the Grand Theft Auto series, where drug deals and prostitution not only occur regularly, butare encouraged in order to achieve more in the game. One need not look anyfurther than the Internet to find games that promote suicide, as in the case of adultswim.com’s “5 Minutes to Kill Yourself”. All this virtual violence is not justimpending or something to watch out for in the future, it is with us presently. So,
 
who is (and who should be) held accountable? Should video game developers beexpected NOT to design overly violent games, or should this responsibility be left tosome other group? There are some important ethical considerations to take into account withregard to violence in video games, mostly deontological in nature. All peopleinvolved in the issue can be divided into a few social groups, with each grouphaving certain rights regarding the topic issue, as well as certain duties. To matchthe scope of this paper, the division of social groups will be threefold: consumers,companies, and society in general.Companies exist in order to make a profit, generally by selling one or moreproducts or services. They must continually develop products for which there is ademand, or they risk failure. For the sake of this paper, it can be assumed thatthere is a strong consumer demand for graphic representations of violence – oneneed only look to the 5pm local news on any given day to verify this demand. Videogame companies thrive by selling graphic representations for entertainmentpurposes, and since there is a strong consumer demand for graphic representationsof violence, a company would be missing out on a large share of profits if it were toavoid marketing products which represent violence. The company has a particularduty to the consumer to produce products for which there is a demand, as well as ageneral duty to society to help expand the palette of choices with regard to graphicrepresentations for entertainment purposes. The company also has a certain right –that is something along the lines of the right to refuse service to any consumer forgood reason, which will be addressed below.
 
As much violence as there is in our games, they are not all legally availableto all consumers. There is a rating system for video games, much like the ratingsystem for movies, which disallows consumers in certain younger age groups topurchase certain products. All of the more offensive games that we think of whenwe think of violence in video games are generally rated “MA” (short for “matureaudience”), and no game sporting an MA rating can be legally sold to anyone undereighteen years of age. The consumer therefore has a duty to abide by these legalregulations by providing honest and accurate information when purchasing videogames. If it is found that the consumer is not fulfilling his/her duty (providing falseinformation when ordering via Internet, brandishing a fake ID, etc.), the company(or any authorized agent, such as a store clerk) can exercise its right, as mentionedabove, to refuse service to that consumer. The rating system for video games mentioned above is one manifestation of the group ‘society in general’ responding to its duty to provide checks and balancesto any emergent ecological niche. A rating system such as the one in place is agood start, but is also imperfect and subject to continuous review and retooling. The rating system itself, no matter how well-devised, cannot stop all illegaltransactions and uses of violent media; it can only serve as a guide. This is wherethe family unit (parents in particular) comes into the scene. The rating systemcreated by society can be thought of as the “legislation” regarding the issue of violence in video games; the ‘family unit’ is a subset of ‘society in general’ thatprovides executive action pertaining to the duty of society in general to providechecks and balances. Any opposition to violence in video games should be directedhere, and should NOT be directed toward the developers, because the developersare already doing a fine job of adhering to their own deontological duties.

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