Fact and Fiction in the Debate Over Video Game Regulation

30 Pages Posted: 14 May 2007

Date Written: March 20, 2006


Recent federal, state and local proposals to regulate electronic game content are driven by myths that should not serve as the basis for government intervention. Six myths commonly used in support of government regulation of game content are addressed as follows:

Contrary to current misconceptions about voluntary ratings enforcement, the industry's self-imposed ratings system is the most sophisticated, descriptive, and effective ratings system ever devised by any major media sector in America.

Additionally the vast majority of video games sold each year do not contain intense violence or sexual themes, despite what can be perceived otherwise.

The expectation that proposals to restrict the sale of violent video games will be deemed constitutional in the courts is misguided as well, given that state and local laws attempting to regulate video games were struck down as unconstitutional in the past, citing First Amendment concerns, vague legislative language, and lack of scientific evidence of a link between aggressive behavior and video games.

And despite the myth that federal regulation will build on the industry's ratings system, in reality congressional intervention could cause game developers to abandon the industry's voluntary ratings system because of fear of legal liability.

Also opposite what industry critics may have us believe, there is no direct correlation between exposure to violent video games and decline in social and cultural indicators. Moreover, almost every social/cultural indicator of importance, such as juvenile violent crime, has been improving in recent years and decades even as media exposure and video game use among youth has increased.

Finally in contrast to the notion that video games have no social or educational value, video games might have some beneficial effects, especially that of a cathartic nature, that critics often overlook.

Keywords: video games, video game regulation, game violence, indecency, FEPA, FTC, game ratings, consumer protection, Electronic Software Association, ESA, video game content, sexual content, violent content, ESRB, Ratings board, parental controls, ARC, Grand Theft Auto, violent video games, media violence,

JEL Classification: D18, L82, L83, L5, L50, L59, O38

Suggested Citation

Thierer, Adam D., Fact and Fiction in the Debate Over Video Game Regulation (March 20, 2006). Progress & Freedom Foundation Progress on Point Paper No. 13.7, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=985585 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.985585

Adam D. Thierer (Contact Author)

R Street Institute ( email )

1050 17th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20036
United States

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