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1 Video Game Violence -- Ethical Issues -- Kim Anttila & Thomas Larsson Mälardalen University December 12, 2003.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Video Game Violence -- Ethical Issues -- Kim Anttila & Thomas Larsson Mälardalen University December 12, 2003."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Video Game Violence -- Ethical Issues -- Kim Anttila & Thomas Larsson Mälardalen University December 12, 2003

2 2 Overview A preferred leisure activity Examples of game violence Effects on individuals and society –Research results Game industry’s standpoint Ethics principles –Human rights and codes of ethics Case studies

3 3 A preferred leisure activity In the U. S. the average 2 – 17 year old child play video games seven hours a week. In the U. S. more than 191 million entertainment software sales was reported in 2000 worth $6.5 billion. Games in general can of course be beneficial. E.g. games can teach problem solving skills, and even be used as a tool in medical rehabilitation and habilitation. We will only discuss violent video games!!! Highly violent games are frequently found among the top 10 best-selling games

4 4 Examples of game violence Highly violent titles arrived in the 1990s –E.g. Mortal Kombat (1993), Streetfighter, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom A recent example is Grand Theft Auto (GTA) III –The game glorifies violence and crime and it degrades women. Activities include running over bystanders, driving prostitutes around town, beating people up, killing people, setting bombs, bribing the police. You can have sex with a prostitute and then kill her to get extra scores. –In Washington state, a law bill has been signed to ban sales of e.g. GTA III to minors (anyone under 17). “GTA III is a game so suffused with sadism that its considerable technical attributes are lost in a nihilistic realm that thumbs its nose at any sense of propriety or responsibility” -- LA Times

5 5 Research on Game Violence The body of research on the effects of exposure to violent video game is relatively small –There seems to exist about 30 published studies. –A majority of them indicate a significant a positive correlation between violent video gaming and aggressive behavior. –Due to some methodological shortcomings, however, particularly in early studies, some people denies these results. –Therefore, more research is needed. In any case, the research literature on the effects of exposure TV violence is huge and conclusive –There is a link between early exposure to TV violence and real world acts of violence. –This research suggest that exposure to game violence results in the same consequences, or even worse consequences, because of the active learning nature of video games.

6 6 Research results indicate Short term effects –Exposure to video game violence increases aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavior. –Furthermore, violent video games tend to decrease prosocial behavior. Long term effects –Involves learning processes which develop knowledge structures, e.g., perception, interpretation, judgment and action –Subjects may be desensitized to violence, see the world as a more hostile place, and have a tendency to respond to conflict with aggression (aggressive personality) –Violent video games teach violent behavioral scripts, which may become easily accessible in real world situations.

7 7 Research facts! Exposure to violent TV causes increases in aggression and violence and the effects are not small! Regardless of whether the research method has been experimental studies, cross-correlation studies, or longitudinal studies the results are that exposure to media violence increases aggression. There is a consensus among experts: “the data point overwhelmingly to causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children” --- a joint statement by the following six professional societies American Psychology Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Psychiatric Association

8 8 Effects on society Media violence contribute to a more violent society –The skyrocketing aggravated assault rates in our societies depends on many factors –What’s the actual cost of video game violence? –Suppose game violence can be blamed for some murders. How many do you think is acceptable? Economic Impacts –Market size and value added to the economy? –What would happen to the market size without highly violent titles? (According to ESA, 16 of the top 20 best-selling games where rated E for everyone) What does the prevalent fascination of violence as entertainment say about our society?

9 9 Relevant ethical principles The right to free speech –Free speech legislations –E.g. First Amendment Child Convention –Children’s right to healthy development ACM codes of ethics for computer professionals –Contribute to society and well being –Avoid harm to others –Ensure that users and those who will be affected by a system have their needs clearly articulated during the assessment and design of requirements Ten commandments of computer ethics –Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people –Thou shalt think about the consequences of the program you write –Thou shalt use a computer in ways that show consideration and respect Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

10 10 Moral images An inscription on the UN plaza wall in New York, USA says: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares. And their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. Neither shall they learn war any more”. In the charter of UNESCO it’s stated: "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed". The philosopher Karl Popper explains that the main goal of civilization essentially consists of reducing violence and that’s also the main aim of democracy 1. ”We have further moral obligation towards our children, and that is to give them the best we can, including the best influence we can design for their happiness.” 2 1: Karl Popper and John Condry, La television: un danger pour la démocratie, Paris, Anatolia, 1994, p.33 2: Karl Popper, Lesson of this century, London, Routledge, 1997, p.36

11 11 Family's responsibility The UN “Convention on the Rights of the Child” recognizes some fundamental principles that most of the member nations has agreed up on: …that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance, Convinced that the family, as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community. Bearing in mind that, as indicated in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, "the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth".

12 12 Society's responsibility States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, States Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin; States Parties shall protect the child against all other forms of exploitation prejudicial to any aspects of the child's welfare.

13 13 Game industry’s standpoint Defends their constitutional right to free speech, in all its various forms, which includes the right to produce whatever games they like Parents have the right to make choices freely about what is best for their children No harmful effects have been proven Accepts game rating through their own organization Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)

14 14 References Craig A. Anderson and Brad J. Bushman, The effects of Media Violence on Society, Science, Vol. 295, pages , 29 March 2002.

15 15 Game Violence Case Studies Three cases concerning different stakeholders –Game industry/developers –Society –Parents Discuss each case from several ethical standpoints –Utilitarian, Kantian, Aristotelian, Rights, etc.

16 16 Al’s Choice Ever since his early childhood, Al’s dream has been to design and create video games. Now he is 29 years old and he has a wife and two children to support. Three years ago he completed his academic education with a degree of Master of Science in game development. Immediately after graduation, he started to work as a professional game developer at Utopia Fantasia Octane (UFO) Incorporation, one of the leading game companies in action games. The first and only title so far, he has had a part in developing, is a recently completed and commercially very successful first person shooter game, which includes realistic depicturing of lots of gruesome killings. Although Al would have preferred to develop games with more peaceful story lines, because of an ongoing debate over the potential harmful effects of violent game play, he didn’t object when he was assigned to this project. He reasoned that he needed the job and the experience, and that he was not responsible for choosing the violent theme of the game. A week ago, Al was promoted to the project leader for the company’s next big title called Extreme Combat --- Warfare Vietnam, a highly realistic simulation game of the much debated and criticized Vietnam War. The main character in the game is a much feared Vietnam veteran, Sergeant Try Hard, whose first mission is to lead his troops in a battle against an army of 1500 Viet Cong soldiers to the bitter end. Al is of course flattered by the promotion, but in this case, he finds the role as project leader ethically troublesome. Therefore, he approaches his superiors, revealing his moral feelings about this assignment and asks for a reassignment. His superiors, however, tell him that there is no evidence at all for any harmful effects of violent video games, and leave him with two choices. Either he must accept his assignment as a project leader or step back and continue as game developer for this new title. Of course he can also choose to leave the company. What should Al do?

17 17 Bill’s Decision Because of some recent schoolboy shootings, with absolutely horrifying and devastating consequences, the Government has requested a thorough investigation regarding the effects of exposure to violent video games on children and adolescents. The young shooters had been playing highly violent first person shooter games obsessively, prior to the massacres, according to the police reports. The aim of this investigation is to better understand the reasons behind youth violence and take preventive actions. In the investigation, input has been gathered from psychology researchers, school leaders, parents, and game industry leaders. The investigation concluded that exposure to media violence, including violent video games, increases aggressive behavior in children and adolescents and that it was far too easy for children to buy and play mature rated games. The game industry, however, referred to the free speech legislation (for example the First Amendment in the U. S. Constitution) claiming their right to produce whatever games they want. They want free hands, in the same way as the TV, film, and music industry. Bill, the leader of the nation, wants some help to discuss ethical aspects of the issue. In particular, he wants guidelines on the following actions: (1) Legislate against too much violence in video games. Future games have to pass strict censorship. (2)Establish an independent organization which rates all games according to a government- sanctified game rating system. Make sure the ratings are enforced at the retail level by criminalizing sales to minors. Also, offer all employees in game companies to attend courses in ethics to make them think more about their values and actions, and the consequences thereof. (3) The freedom of speech has to be protected. It’s one of the most fundamental rights on which our society is based. It’s the parents’ responsibility to make sure that their children are safe. Thus, no further actions are required. (4) The right to free speech has to be protected, but means must be provided to educate and inform school leaders, teachers, care takers, parents, and children about the dangers of media violence.

18 18 Mary’s Son Single parent Mary lives with her son Pete (named after a famous rock star) who is 16 years old. For several years he has been deeply engaged in computers, the Internet and video games. Recently, however, he has started to isolate himself from his friends and family. Mary suspects it might have something to do with his addiction to computers, but she thinks it’s probably a natural part of his development as an adolescent. Two days ago, however, one of his teachers called Mary to discuss Pete’s behaviour in school and his school work. His performance in school is not how it used to be, and furthermore, it turns out that Pete hasn’t attended the obligatory school activities for several days. This might have something to do with a fight he had with his math teacher last week. After the phone call, Mary went into Pete’s room at looked through the items in a box under his computer desk and found several game titles which chocked her. The covers depictured highly detailed aggravated assaults and killings. Some of them were rated Mature (not for ages under 17) and Adults only (not for ages under 18). After confronting her son with these games, he became furious and he questioned her rights to go through his belongings. He left the house, slamming the door after himself, without telling where he was going. What shall Mary do?


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