Popular Discourses

As we have seen in other cases of media self-regulation, the debates that occur outside of the courtroom of often just as important, if not more so, than the ones that happen inside of it. Furthermore, as an issue is debated and interpreted through the media, the political complexity of an issue moves far beyond the confines or the opinions of the court.

When we refer to “popular discourses,” we are referring to the ways in which those outside of the legal and industrial contexts understand and discuss all of the issues surrounding video games, censorship and violence. This section, in other words, asks: How do journalists, bloggers, activists, parents or gamers speak about and make sense of the Supreme Court case, and how do they use media to make sure their opinions are heard?

The goal of this section is to explore the ways different groups or individuals frame, interpret or perceive the issues surrounding video games violence and censorship. While the video game industry and the courts understand these issues in terms of First Amendment rights, other groups, including the news media, don’t see free speech as the main issue at stake. Some groups, for example, see the case as being about parental rights while others argue that it is about youth rights. Still, others argue that the debate is really about whether or not video games can be seen as art. By providing a number of articles and videos from a variety of perspectives and sources, we hope to illustrate how a single issue can mean different things to different people as well as the strategies different groups use to convince others to share their opinions.

While browsing the materials in this section, it might be useful to consider the following questions:

  • What audience is the article/video/website/activist group targeting? What strategies do they use to appeal specifically to that audience?
  • In the case of the mainstream or gaming press, does the author exhibit any bias? Does the author try to report objectively, or is he/she presenting an opinion or argument? How can you tell?
  • What elements of the issue are highlighted and which are treated as less important? Why?
  • What is the tone of the discussion? Is humor used to help make a point?
  • How do different groups/individuals establish authority? Do they speak with experts or cite scholarly studies?
  • What evidence is provided and, just as importantly, what is left out or ignored? Why?
  • How are images used? What do they add to the discussion? How do they help put forth certain arguments?
  • Is the media outlet/group owned or funded by a larger corporation?
  • Is the media outlet or group closely affiliated with a specific political viewpoint?

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