Video Game Violence

This lesson introduces a law that temporarily prevented those under 18 from renting or buying video games containing violent or sexual content. We will discuss whether or not video games increase violence.

Pre-Reading Questions

  1. Do you ever play video games? If so, how often do you play?
  2. Do you have children? Do they play video games, and if so, how often do they play?
  3. What do you think the average amount of time school age children in America play video games every day is?
  4. Do you think the most popular video games contain violence?
  5. Is there a law in your country (city, state, province, etc.) restricting the sale or rental of violent video games?
  6. Who do you think might support this kind of law and who do you think might oppose it?

Vocabulary Preview

  • rate: estimate the value, classify
  • mature: fully grown or developed, adult
  • illegal: against the law
  • researcher: someone who studies and looks for answers
  • aggressive: violent, full of anger
  • image: picture
  • fine: sum of money paid as a penalty or punishment
  • label: put a name or description on something
  • explicit: clearly and fully shown or expressed
  • antisocial: not social, spends most time alone
  • bill: a proposal for a new law
  • reject: be against, not support
  • proof: facts that reveal the truth
  • ignorance: not knowing

Practice these new vocabulary words here: Video Game Violence

Video Game Violence

  1. Many school-age children in the United States play video games for close to an hour a day. Almost 90% of the most popular video games contain violence, and much of it is extremely violent. In the US, the video game industry rates games that contain violence or sexual images as “M” for mature audiences. Researchers have discovered, though, that children as young as seven years old have played these games.
  2. In July 2005, the state of Illinois passed a law that made it illegal to sell or rent a video game containing violence or sexual images to anyone under 18 years of age. Those who broke the law would face a year in prison or a $5,000 fine. The video game industry was told to label these games as “violent” or “sexually explicit.” In 2006, this state law was thrown out.
  3. For several years, lawmakers in the US tried to get video game labeling acts passed. They wanted violent video games to have a warning like cigarettes. The warning would say, “WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior.” Many parents and researchers support these efforts. They argue that children who play violent video games may act more violently in real life.
  4. Many bills related to video game violence have been rejected by American courts on the basis of free speech. Those who sell or rent video games fight the bills and win. They think that parents, not video stores, should be responsible for what their children are doing or seeing. In addition, no scientific study in the US has proven that video games lead to aggressive behavior.
  5. Despite the lack of proof, many people blame gun violence in America on the video game industry. They think that violent gaming causes antisocial behavior that may lead to mass shootings. In 2012, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, a US senator said that video games are a bigger problem than guns. The National Rifle Association (NRA) agreed. President Obama argued that there was no proof to this; however, he asked Congress to approve funding to conduct further studies. The president stated, “Congress should fund research on the effects violent video games have on young minds. We don’t benefit from ignorance.”

Post Reading Questions

  1. Children’s TV programs, comic books, and movies often contain violence. Do you think that violent video games have any different impact on children than these other forms of entertainment?
  2. Do you think that a future study will prove that video game violence leads to aggression and antisocial behavior?
  3. Do you think that the video game industry has any interest in protecting children from the harmful effects of watching violent or adult sexual images?
  4. Do you think most parents carefully monitor the TV programs their children watch and video games they play?
  5. Most countries have classifications for movies such as Family Entertainment, General Admission, Parental Guidance, Restricted Adult, etc. Do you think that video games should have a similar type of classification system? Why or why not?

Additional Resources