The New Yorker asks, “How evil should a video game allow you to be?”

Yesterday, the online version of The New Yorker published a thought-provoking essay by Simon Parker titled “How evil should a video game allow you to be?” Here are two excerpts:

2011 Supreme Court ruling recognized that video games, like other forms of art and entertainment, are protected by the First Amendment as a form of speech. “For better or worse,” Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the decision, “our society has long regarded many depictions of killing and maiming as suitable features of popular entertainment.” * * *

Last month, a user on a Grand Theft Auto V forum asked whether players would be able to rape women in the game. In the post, which was widely shared on social media, he wrote, “I want to have the opportunity to kidnap a woman, hostage her, put her in my basement and rape her everyday, listen to her crying, watching her tears.” This is alarming but, in a game that prides itself on player-led freedom and opportunity within virtual, victimless but violent worlds, is it unreasonable? * * *

What do you think? Does or should the right of free speech extend to expressions of sexual and physical violence and other crimes?

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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6 Responses to The New Yorker asks, “How evil should a video game allow you to be?”

  1. Pingback: The Art of Video Games | Media In Focus

  2. Our society has become numb to most violence through the media. However, sexual violence against women is a separate issue. Just as violence of any kind against young children. I believe most American’s keep those areas separate from other violent acts. I hope that our society will never become numb to such heinous acts as those.

  3. enrique says:

    Your observation is correct, but as a matter of logic, if it’s “ok” (within the scope of the First Amendment) to portray and glorify physical violence (murder & mayhem), then why isn’t it “ok” in the domain of sexual violence? I agree that depictions of sexual violence are bad, but how do we justify drawing a line between some forms of violence and not others? That is a real difficult question, for which I do not know the answer

  4. Eva Graham says:

    It’s hard for most of us to swallow the pill of reality- if you will- that there are some out there that possess a dark side to them to this magnitude; whereby they fantasize of rape and torture. But lest, here we can not turn anywhere, but to the truth. The court faces a daunting task of having to draw that line in what is acceptable, and what is not under our First Amendment. On one side, we need to see that games of this nature, or diaries perhaps, can form an outlet that may actually help to prevent this type of person from materializing this fantasy, and harming someone.
    On the other side, I can not help but put out there the fact that this right to free speech is limited already. And although an argument can be made the game could be an outlet, the game-along with the given protection by the Court- may also be construed as a form of acceptance. What message is this sending? Is this really good public policy? We should look more closely at what is being protected, and what is not, under our right to free speech.

  5. Allison Evans says:

    I have a hard time finding a good argument for separating this game from porography. While it is understandable that adult rated material has restricted rights; I don’t think you can say this game or similar games should have less rights. If you are allowing one to be legal, which involves real people, how can you draw a line that making this game illegal? I don’t believe you can. I believe there is a social issue at play here not a legal one. That fact that there is a market for virtual torture of women is appalling. The only way to resolve the unsettleing feeling that comes with the “freedoms” of this game is to address the blatant issues society has surrounding this issue. While equality has made tremendous strides of improvement, it’s clear there is still some way to go.

  6. Amanda Buschbom says:

    While I personally find this digusting. I do think that if the First Amendment allows for murder and mayhem, unfortunatly why is sexual violence different? But if they let it go that far does that also mean that they can allow child abuse or sexual violence against kids in the game or will that then become child porn? Why would that be considered the line, but murdering or raping women in a game isnt? It could be argued that allowing people to commit crimes like sexual assault would allow for the people to get it out on a game and not in real life. But the counter argument issue could be what if this game gives them the idea, the practice, and finally becomes not enough and they perform the act in real life and then claims-why is it ok on the game but not now?

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