While a few of the proposed laws court cases have address dealt with sexually explicit video games, the vast majority of them focused on violent video games. Lawmakers feared that violent games would have a negative impact on children who played them.
This fear has appeared many times throughout history as new media forms are introduced. For instance, the Payne Fund Studies, a series of studies conducted by the Motion Picture Research Council in the early 1930s, focused on the rising medium of cinema and the ways in which it might be influencing child audiences. Although the methodology of the studies has since been strongly critiqued by social science researchers, the research was noteworthy for being among the first large scale studies into media effects on audiences and did seem to reveal negative effects that films had on children, such as lower academic performance in children who attended movies more often.
The Payne Fund Studies have been cited as a driving force behind the Motion Picture Production Code, or “Hays Code”, a system of self-censorship employed by the film industry from 1930 to 1968. The Hays Code laid out specific criteria for material that was acceptable or unacceptable to include in movies. For instance, sex outside of marriage could not be portrayed as right or acceptable.
Subsequent studies have focused on the effects of television, radio and other media. Recently, fears about video games, particularly violent video games, have been the subject of much debate. Lawmakes have frequently drawn on social science research in this area to support their calls for greater regulation, and field experts have presented evidence in many of the court cases that have occurred. Overall, however, theorists have not been able to draw final conclusions about the effects of violence games, dividing themselves into two camps. These two sides are presented on this section’s subtabs, with links below.