Minister stays with possible ban on extremely violent games

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Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin maintains that a ban on extremely violent video games is necessary if the sale of those games to children is not reduced. He wrote this in response to parliamentary questions from GroenLinks.

At the end of June, it emerged that Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin was considering such a ban if the sale of ‘extremely violent’ video games to children was not curbed. GroenLinks member of parliament Tofik Dibi then asked parliamentary questions. He claimed that the research of a psychologist, who led Minister Hirsch Ballin in defense of a ban, showed that there is no reason whatsoever for a ban.

In his answers to the parliamentary questions, Minister Hirsch Ballin says that he is ‘familiar’ with this. When asked, he also cites a number of studies, mainly conducted in the 1990s, which would indicate that there is a link between violent games and harmful effects on the development of children. However, the only recent study that Hirsch Ballin cites, from 2010, is not a case study, but a concise, informative Overview from previous studies. What is particularly striking is that in that overview it is concluded that ‘playing violent games does not by definition cause aggressive behavior or violence, but that some of the researchers are convinced that these negative effects exist’. The compilers of the overview especially recommend to follow the age classification.

However, Minister Hirsch Ballin maintains that a ban is necessary if sales to young people are not reduced. The minister writes that he concluded covenants with representatives of the entertainment industry last year; if these do not produce results, the minister takes action. New legislation is required for this, the minister writes.

MP Dibi also asked the minister whether it would not come across as arbitrary that there will be no ban on violent films, but possibly on such games. Hirsch Ballin, however, believes that there is less support in society for a ban on violent films. Also, violent games would have more harmful consequences. The minister wrote that he had weighed up ‘between the interests of the child worthy of protection and the interests of freedom of expression’. It is not clear what the minister means by this. The Justice Department could not be reached for comment.

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