Ethical Issues In Video Games Media Essay

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The industry of Electronic-gaming has developed into one of the most successful industries in the present technical world. According to an article issued by Entertainment Software Association (ESA, 2011), this particular industry has a huge target market of approximately USD 25 billion. The electronic-gaming industry has turned out to be one of the most successful businesses around the world. The current era is where people depend on connectivity through technology. In addition, the computer gaming industry has brought in tremendous job opportunities by providing nearly 120,000 jobs to the global business market (ESA, 2011).

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Meanwhile the disadvantages faced due to computer usage are also rising steadily not only in countries like USA but also in all the European countries where people are going through a lot of issues with regard to video-games. Researchers around the world are coming out with the bitter fact that most of the teenagers are being affected by the amount of violence involved in these video games which would cause psychological impacts and bring about addiction. The negative effects of video games are rising drastically along with the advancements of the technologies. Initially the target markets of the electronic gaming industry were youngsters, but nowadays people of all age categories seem to be addicted to video-games.

According to the statistics of ESA (2011) it was publicized that 42% of the gamers are females and 58 % of gamers comprise of male players. At the same time another research states that about 72% of household American citizens are playing computer or video games whereas the average of 29% represent people above 50 years. Thus, the aforementioned points brings in to light that the evolution of video-games resulted due to rapid technological advancements. However, it should also be noted that there are always two sides for a coin, in this case the pros and cons involved within the industry should be looked at. The issues in relation to this particular industry can be identified as health issues, legal issues, social issues, professional issues and most importantly ethical issues that are rising on a daily basis.

The major social concern associated with electronic gaming is violence and serious aggression towards the society. According to the research conducted by Jummy Et Al, (n.d) of Indiana University School of Medicine, about violent games, it was proved that playing a violent video game directly influences self-control and attention, which not only impacts the player but also indirectly affects the society as well. These kind of serious issues are attracting public awareness in an immense scale. The violence attached to the video-games has been subjected to extensive debate over the years. Jimmy et al, (n.d) also states that violent Video-games reflect a more harmful approach than violent movies and television-dramas due to the interaction between the game and the players. This social issue also opens up different perceptions where an example can be quoted as such games spread disgraceful incidents among the teenagers and children, enabling them to get used to such incidents and consider them as a normal behaviour.

According to AFP (2010) a 14 years old boy killed his father by using a sledgehammer since his father had disturbed his computer game. Consequently, it can be concluded that the teenager’s mind-set has been changed and dominated by violence and serious aggression. This violence he exposed to the society was because of the game that he used to play. David Walsh (2007) states that playing violent games directly stimulates physiological problems such as pro-social effects, concerns, etc. To rationalize more, we are living in a country where most of the people are with sentimental values, so feelings and behaviours are more important to us. By playing violent video-games, it first affects our feelings as human beings where we have to respect others as our culture is based on good feelings and good behaviours. As mentioned above, playing aggressive games will affect both the feelings and behaviours of humans and as a result, an individual would lose the value of humanity. In addition, David Walsh (2007) signifies that 63 % of the students who are playing aggressive video-games have more tendencies to be involved in physical fights or violent activities as such which enables in changing the teenager’s mind-set as per the game. Therefore as a result, playing violent video-games is a serious antagonism that would affect the society and the individual humans’ behaviour.

For an example according to Cleancutmedia (2009) biggest story of video game related to violence history was re-written due to Danil Petric who was 23 years old, who viciously shot his mother and father where mother was dead at the incident and luckily Danil’s father’s life was rescued. The reason for this unusual behaviour was that he was addicted to a violent aggressive game called ‘Halo 3’ which contained very violent pictures and videos. One day his father didn’t let him play that particular game and this was the cause of this incident. After this incident, reporters identified that he used to play that game up to 7 hours per day.

This meticulous incident proves the mentioned point above because violence and serious aggression cause many social issues since playing violent games do not only affect the individual who is playing that game, but it also affects the family that he/she belongs to and their society as well. The society can be affected due to violence and serious antagonism; therefore this point can be categorized as a social issue. Considering the above mentioned issues with the social public interests, the society is not benefited at all by playing violent video-games and they have exposed their serious aggression towards the society which have already affected the people in a harmful way and also can affect the society in future as well.

As mentioned above these social concerns brought another critical aspect in to light which is known as health issues. According to Sciencedaily (2011), it demonstrated that video-games may have substantial behavioural problems such as pro-social effects and concerns, varying psychological problems and etc. To justify within this range Mitchell (2011) also favours the earlier argument saying spending lots of time with video-games lead to situations with addiction, isolation, depression, social phobias and it would directly drag that person into various physiological issues. As Sciencedaily (2011) explains, pathological gamers usually play games approximately 31 hours per week and due to those reasons it will directly affect the human physical body as well. Latest research reveals that playing games for long hours directly affects the muscles, joints and can cause back and neck pains as well. Especially teenagers who play for at least 5 hours a day will experience the above mentioned health issues (Better Health, 2011). According to BBC News (2005) a South Korean person who almost played ‘StarCraft 3’ for more than 50 hours nonstop with very few breaks died due to a heart failure. Another real world incident took place in Northern China where a man who was addicted to playing online games was reported dead after spending lot of time for online gaming, and the doctors identified that his blood pumping was improper which caused that death (Spencer, 2007). By only considering these two incidents we cannot come to a conclusion but undeniably these incidents justifies that playing games for long hours can seriously cause damage to human physical body. According to Dillner (2011) video-games also make teenagers put on weight because they just play the video-games with full comfort and there is insufficient physical exercise. So according to her explanation it also affects the hand and fingers due to the constant contact with the keyboard or joystick.

Dr. Douglas, A. Gentile who conducted many researches based on video-games addiction and human psychology, argued that spending lot of time in playing games or anything cannot be clarified as addiction. He also states that it might be a symptom of addiction (Dr.douglashn, n.d). His research clearly agrees that addicted gamers reflect serious issues with society since they don’t like to make friends, lack of socialization and also there are possibilities of them having many health issues as well; for example sleep disturbances, headaches etc. In this modern world people are also concerned about personal health in that way spending too much time on video-games will eventually cause a darker tomorrow as health issues directly affects the society in a harmful way. Hence, the above mentioned points identify health issues to be one of the main concerns of electronic gaming.

Video games have positive and negative sides while looking into social issues. By considering the above given examples it was clearly pictured, showing how a society is affected by various violent and aggressive video-games. According to Professor Mark Griffith (n.d.) of Nottingham Trent University, video games are proved to be a distraction for those undergoing painful cancer treatments. In a study which was conducted in year 2004 by Butch Rosser, a surgeon of Laparoscopy, he studied the surgical skills of surgeons playing video games and surgeons who did not. It was astonishing to know from the results, that surgeons playing video games were faster in action and made lesser mistakes during work than those who did not play video games. Video games that include simulation of real world scenarios are becoming popular. A game called ‘America’s Army’ introduced by United States, replicates a real wartime experience which is going to help and train new recruits.

It is a known fact that violent & aggressive video games do not positively contribute to an individual or societal development. But such games could stabilize violence as a familiar and acceptable option in order to deal with conflicts. In this case there are various positive video games being introduced in order to educate youth about some of the societal issues around the world. Examples of such games would be: ‘Food Force’, ‘Darfur is Dying’, ‘UNICEF World Heroes’, ‘Peter Packet’ and etc. These types of games could serve as valuable tools in educating our youth about ways in which video-games could bring in positive societal changes by increasing the helping tendency, reducing violence and etc.

When it comes to the ethical aspect of video-games it is not straight forward as the above mentioned social issues. Addiction to these aggressive games could be classified as the most debated ethical concerns during the past decade. According to Jimmy Dan et.al (n.d), some of the Video-games such as ‘Mortal combat’, ‘Warcraft’ and ‘Grand-theft-auto’ are highly addictive. In the same report they have disclosed a real example of how addiction affects an individual’s life. These real stories justify that addiction to violent games affect negatively for a particular individual. Arguments might arise as to why people are addicted to violent video-games. According to ESA (2011)’s research, it reveals that only 3.8 % people buy video games based on strategy, fight category represent 8.4% buying behaviour, whereas 15.8% of people buy shooting based video-games. These statistics simply exhibits the buying behaviour and most importantly a considerable percentage likes to buy action or fight category based video-games rather than buying a normal game. As already mentioned game developers target the teenagers and they produce insistent games because most of the teenagers are drawn towards them. Consequently, targeting a specific age group and producing violent video games directly violates the universal ethical principles such as respect for others, honesty and fairness. To sustain and survive in the electronic-gaming market, the developers will not stop creating such aggressive video-games since it has a huge demand. But really is it wrong to create or develop violent video-games? Are playing and creating such violent video-games the only factors that affect the social responsibility of a person? These video-games provide a virtual world to do things that we cannot do in our real world. It gives an opportunity to experience these things in a virtual manner without harming anyone. But then again considering the above mentioned issues, the society is not benefited at all by playing violent games. They have exposed their serious aggression towards the society which has already affected the people in harmful ways in the past and this can affect the society in the future as well.

As mentioned previously, ethical issues can be addressed in both ways but according to the studies and incidents just because the industry targets on achieving greater profits it’s ethically wrong to encourage abnormality in people. Even to validate this action we can use deontological theory.

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The ethical concerns have brought in another very crucial aspect which forms the cheats for video-games. According to Morch (2003) cheats in most of the games happens in MMOG (Massive Multiplayer Online Games) such as ‘WarCraft III’ and ‘Air Warrior’. Cheating opens up different perceptions such as, if the players could use cheats and if the game is easier to play why do we have to play without cheating? Is it ethical to cheat the game where the other players do not use cheats in their games? Many researches were conducted to rationalize that particular argument. According to Morch (2003) it clearly says that 35% of the online games were being hacked in 1997 and undeniably now it is expected to rise more because nowadays technology is much more advanced than the good old days.

According to Aboukhadijeh (2009) hackers or cheaters are a real challenge to the game developers and these people are violating the ethical principles such as respecting others, treating others as equal, honesty and acting with integrity. Hackers or cheaters who are cheating in video-games are taking unethical advantage over the particular game, by undertaking various strategies. Importantly after cheats and bugs were released into the society the value of a particular game would gradually decrease. Besides Morch (2003) mentioned that due to modifying original game into cheatable game the value will reduce significantly. For example, after the launch of a game called ‘Battlefield’ in 1942, the game market was very high but after sometime it drastically went down due to cheats. According to Morch (2003), it mentions that usually game cheaters use two different methods to cheat in games such as cheating by conspiracy or cheating by modifying games software or data. They simply do this for different purposes where some game cheaters make fraudulent money in some game competitions. Because of these unethical practices the virtual gaming world is being destroyed constantly and also by cheating or getting unethical advantage over the game process is directly violating several ethical principles such as fairness, equality, honesty etc. In order to justify, deontological theory also says that cheating in video-games action itself is wrong. So cheating in any form of the game is clarified as an ethical issue because there is no regulation for its avoidance.

When it comes to Law and Regulations for video-games it represents many faces in today’s world. Video-games related to legal issues have many aspects and first legal concern would be selling highly adultery content games to under aged. This concern is debated all over the world but no country has been able to fulfil all the hauls in selling adultery content to under aged.

Outlaw (2008) indicates that due to technological improvements and various other facilities gaming industry have witnessed a lot of criticism on various social attributes, politics etc. Selling adultery content to under aged can affect the retailer who knowingly sells it. According to Outlaw (2008), previous law was not a successful one because the percentage for retailers for defending their side was high. In the same article it mentions that 87% of teenagers playing highly adultery contented video games. And in the particular case of “Online retailers caught selling adult games to under-age boy” (Hussain, 2013), the online sellers have sold adultery games to an under aged boy. These distributions of sexual video-games among under aged children directly violates Video Recording Act of 1984 (UK) under section 7 (classification certificates section), under section 2 both (A) and (B) and it also violates PEGI (Pan-European Game Information) rating system 2011 (UK).

Hantsweb (2012) indicates that some game companies who produces heavy sexual behaviour related content, criminal activities, horrific pictures and video clips in their video-games has to submit it to the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) and then obtain a certification before the game can be released to the market. Even in this case most of the companies undervalue this process and they simply reduce the age range instead of submitting the video for BBFC. Hence, this is another anxiety that arises in courts and opens to society, therefore not submitting the games for BBFC classification can be guilty and the company will have to pay around GBP 20,000 as penalty or they might even have to accept 6 months of imprisonment.

The above mentioned legal issues can have another perception where the games are based on extreme content of nudity and continuous disturbing sceneries in any form. In order to protect gaming industry from various bad influences and crimes, certain countries such as UK, USA and many European countries build their own voluntary regulations such as PEGI (Pan-European Game Information) etc. Nevertheless, extreme nudity within the video-games may affect the laws and regulations by creating a computer game that contains extreme nudity and violence. This may directly affect the country’s civil constitution. So if the game contains of any nudity or extreme violence, it will clearly violate Digital Economy Act 2010 (UK), Section 2 of the Video Recordings Act 1984 (UK) – Conditions relating to video games (section 2- a, b, f and h) and can be penalised accordingly. Mitchell (2010) mentions that ‘heavy rain’ game was officially banned from U.A.E due to extreme nudity and violence but initially it was approved by PEGI.

Various researchers highlighted that these games initially got the approval from PEGI but were banned in the country because that game may affect the civil regulations which are prevailing in the country. GamesLatest (2010) gives another example that ‘God of war III’ was also officially banned from Dubai due to high level of nudity and violence.

These electronic games create a huge number of negative ethical impacts as shown in the above context, but there are a comparable number of positive impacts as well. Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating is a method where positive impacts could be brought in where parents could identify which game is good and suitable for their children. It is the responsibility of the government to implement an improved rating system with greater features given to the extent of violence and aggression in the games. This scheme would educate parents and help them use the rating tool and to identify the best suitable games for their children.

Along with these social, ethical and legal issues video-games do have professional issues as well. First professional concern would be in terms of the developer’s point of view relating to the current computer rating system which is critical for identification of that particular game. As already mentioned the developers make their game for a target group of people; for example, ESA (2011) states that most teenagers’ enthusiasm is towards buying an action or fight based computer game. Therefore it sets the conditions for the developers to consider that particular segment in addressing their developing agendas. Onyett (2010), mentions that top 10 video-games contains 7 action games and among that 7 action games, five are rated as 17+. This clearly demonstrates the video-game customers’ buying behaviours. Many video-games are being miss-rated for their own benefits and some of them are miss-rated accidently as well. According to Sinclare (2006), ESRB has miss-rated the best-selling ‘Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion’ game as ‘Teen’ and then they have rerated it as ‘Mature’. The customers who would have bought the game already would have been affected by its miss-rated content. This has clearly breached BCS’s code of conducts under Public Interest – Section (A) and Under Duty to the profession – Section (A). In this case they have been only concerned about their business benefits and they have neglected the concern towards the public.

Another critical concern about professional issues is when creating video-games, do the game developers follow professional code of conducts. Vitally some video-game developers build their video-games to address various hidden things. According to Clark (2008), it is stated that in a game called “Muslim Massacre”, virtual people represented by the players in the game as soldiers and enemies were characterized as Muslims. The development of this kind of games directly affects a particular ethnic community. This clearly violates BCS’s code of conducts under public interest section A and B. Maintaining the professional code of conduct would prevent negative issues and bring in positive issues which would enhance good professional practices.

Video-games have been a great invention to virtualize the real world scenarios and it gives people an opportunity to do almost anything in these virtual environments. By referring to the issues mentioned above we may conclude that video-games do have issues related to social, ethical and professional aspects to address. In order to minimize the negative impacts caused by electronic games, parents will have to implement necessary steps before the child gaining bad experiences by playing video-games. A method of prevention by parents could be by confining their children playing aggressive video-games before they fall into the stage of addiction. Another way of handling these types of circumstance is always to convert the child’s necessity by providing an alternative game instead of violent video games. The best preventive method to create a change in the child’s mind is that the parents ability to educate their own children about video-games and essentially what so ever the game is, parents should allocate a specific time period for their children to play. This can reduce the children getting addicted to video-games. Addictive situations could also be prevented by not letting a person alone when he or she is playing a video game, as it could bring in addiction and isolation. Members of the family or parents being around would be a reminder of the real world and would prevent the player being consumed by the virtual environment. Further it is also advisable that parents have a control over the type of games that are purchased and given to the children. In addition research and case studies denote that most of the people living alone would have a higher chance of getting addicted into these video-games. Moreover medical science proves that an individual could involve in certain activities like chatting with friends instead of being alone which could reduce the addictive situation. The modern world is driven by technology and there is very less human interaction. Outdoor games and gathering among friends and family have reduced by a large scale enabling teenagers to draw a circle around them and be in isolation. Companies are driven purely by profit-making motives and there is less importance given for ethical and professional conduct. The benefit and welfare of the society at large is ignored. The electronic gaming industry at its initial stages had more strategy games that provide greater space for creativity and strategic thinking. Eventually the movie industry moved towards heightened violence and to be in line with the trend companies included more and more violence within these video games as well. Hence manufacturers of these games should take into consideration the damage that is caused to the community and develop games in a way that is less harmful to the human psychology. Regulators and professional bodies should also ensure that appropriate certification is given prior to these games being released to the market. Stringent penalties should be put in place for companies that violate these laws. Finally, the gaming industry, just as all other commercial industries, would have profitability and sustainability at its core but achieving its objectives in an ethical and professional way should be as equally important so that a better society can be nurtured.

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