In 2011, in Brown v Entertainment Merchants Association, the US Supreme Court found a Californian law to violate the First Amendment. In a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court rejected the state’s argument that violent video games qualified as obscenity. In entertainment media, items that qualify as obscenity have age access restrictions. Justice Antonin Scalia argued that there had been a long tradition of violent themes in books stating that "Grimm's Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed" (Hudson Jr, 2018). Justice Scalia's statement is vital because it re-opens the discussion on whether violent video games influence the increase in violent tendencies among children and teenagers. Since both video games and books qualify as entertainment media, it is vital to understand why society is willing to expose video games while excluding the former. The two articles present thorough understanding of the impacts of entertainment. Notably, the following articles will be vital towards the construction of an argument or theory towards understanding the paradox.
As technology continues to advance, the scientific community, the public, and the political class do not agree on the impact of violent video games on children and teenagers (Shao & Wang, 2019). Justice Scala’s ruling suggests that, by law, violent video games can be sold to children negating scientific evidence that show the association between the variables: violent video games exposure and violent tendencies behavior. According to Shao and Wang (2019), there is a significant correlation between exposure to violent video games and adolescent aggression. They found that normative beliefs about aggression affected exposure to video games and aggression among adolescents. The literature review section of Shao and Wang's work provides extensive reference material consisting of contemporary studies on the topic.
Studies that have utilized General Aggression Model (GAM) have established that the degree of exposure to violent video games leads to a direct increase in aggression. Related meta-analyses, longitudinal studies, event-related potential studies, and trials about juvenile delinquents have also established the relationship between aggressive behaviour and exposure to violent video games. Wang and Shao (2019) further list several studies which suggest that the influence of violent video games on aggressive tendencies is minor, further complicating the argument that violent video games are harmful to children. However, a bigger complication in the discussion is publication bias, limiting access to research articles with negative results.
Wang and Shao’ article is vital for the paper’s argument because it provides evidence that concludes the discussion on the impact of violent video games as a form of entertainment media. A key outcome of the study's finding was the aspect of cross-cultural consistency. Since the study assessed teenagers in China, Germany, United States, and Australia, the outcomes suggest that the impact of violent video games on adolescents' aggression is a global phenomenon. GAM results on the topic suggest video games cause children to acquire, repeat, and reinforce aggression-related knowledge structures such as attitudes, beliefs, and aggressive behavior scripts (Shao & Wang, 2019). Therefore, using these arguments, the current paper will argue against Justice Scala’s perception of the potential impact of violent video games and the dangers of associating them with children literature. The inclusive classification of books and video games as entertainment media will also scrutinize the debate. However, there is a need to determine why children are continually exposed to books with violent themes with limited constitutional restrictions: a privilege not shared by the video games industry. Article 2 in the next section explains why the effects of violent video games and violence-themed children literature are different and why Justice Scala’s sentiments could be potentially dangerous to current and future discussions on the topic.
In this article, Steven Kirsh and Paul Olczak further emphasize that there is a consistency in research findings that link excessive aggressive behavior, feelings, and thoughts with exposure to violent media in children, adolescent, and young adults. Most importantly, they point out that violent comic books are underutilized as violent content sources that could potentially influence aggressive behavior. While the discussion has remained on the impact of video games, there are scores of comic books laden with depictions of violence freely accessible to children and adolescent (Kirsh & Olczak, 2002). Comical books have frequent depictions of brutal aggression, including illustrations of sinewy amputations, vivid eviscerations, bloody decapitations, and weapons used to commit these acts. To this end, similarities exist between violent video games and violent comical books in terms of violent content because of the inherent theme of violence in entertainment media.
However, Justice Scala's ruling is potentially dangerous because of the current scientific research outcomes that have consistently shown a significant correlation between exposure to violent video games. It may lead to the ignorance of the dangers of violent children literature. In their article, Kirsh and Olczak (2002) attempt to explain why violent comic books' effect may not be as harmful as exposure to violent video games. The answer to the question lies in the differences in content delivery between comic books and video games. Reading a comic book is devoid of arousals associated with motor movement (Kirsh & Olczak, 2002). Further, comic books are less likely to leave participants more frustrated. High levels of frustration are associated with participation in competitive video gaming experiences. In essence, Kirsh and Olczak argue that comic books and video games may widely share the theme of violence. However, the theme's impact on participants' aggression depends on the mode of delivery and not necessarily the content. Article 2 is, therefore, vital for the current study because while it qualifies violent video games as obscenity, it explains why comic books are less dangerous.
By placing children literature and video games into the same category, Justice Scala advanced the current classification that defines books and video games as entertainment media. Subsequently, the court’s ruling suggests that violent video games and children literature do not impact aggressive behavior. While scientific research outcomes concur with the ruling, Kirsh & Olczak (2002) and Shao & Wang (2019) established consistency in research outcomes that support the contrary opinion. Therefore, to further understand whether comic books and video games have a similar or different impact on aggressive behavior, the paper poses the following question.
Hudson Jr, D. L. (2018). Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (2011). Retrieved from MTSU: https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1382/brown-v-entertainment-merchants-association#:~:text=In%20Brown%20v.%20Entertainment%20Merchants%20Association%2C%20564%20U.S.%20768%20(,sexual%20materials%2C%20to%20violent%20materials .
Kirsh, S. J., & Olczak, P. V. (2002). The effects of extremely violent comic books on social information processing. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 17(11), 1160-1178. https://www.geneseo.edu/~kirsh/vita/kirsh%20olczak.pdf
Shao, R., & Wang, Y. (2019). The relation of violent video games to adolescent aggression: An examination of moderated mediation effect. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 384. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00384/full
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