Schwarzenegger vs. Video Games: No more games!

Hasta la vista, video games!

In 2005 the state of California enacted a law banning violent video game sales to minors. The law is now in front of the Supreme Court, an epic battle between the Entertainment Industry and the State of California.  The law, itself bans the sale of violent video games to anyone under 18.  Violent video games are defined by this law as any video game where harm is towards a human.  Many popular games would be outside of the ban (Gears of War and Halo to name a few).  It also doesn’t ban parents from buying M rated titles for their children.   The law is seen as affront to the right of Freedom of Speech for the entertainment industry (and the government telling parents what to do).  The fallout from enacting the law may not stop at video games, but spill over into movies, tv shows, books, and even music.

A Grimm Argument

Scalia: Some of the Grimm’s fairy tales are quite grim, to tell you the truth.

Morazzini: Agreed, Your Honor. But the level of violence –

Scalia: Are they okay? Are you going to ban them, too?

Morazinni: Not at all, Your Honor.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: What’s the difference? mean, if you are supposing a category of violent materials dangerous to children, then how do you cut it off at video games? What about films? What about comic books? Grimm’s fairy tales?

Why are video games special? Or does your principle extend to all deviant, violent material in whatever form?

Justice Scalia makes an excellent point.  What makes video games so different from books or movies?  I feel that the argument that in video games you are “part” of the act isn’t a valid one.  Why?  Because any person with a shred of imagination puts themselves into books and movies.  It’s the whole concept of “losing yourself in a good book” and the reason that the movie industry makes movies as realistic as they can.  The freedom of speech guarantees the right of authors, movie writers, producers, and even video game developers to make their products the way they want.  That is where the argument lies.  Is this government overstepping their boundaries, leading us on downward spiral of censorship?

Game Over?

Nine justices have until the end of June 2011 to decided this issue.  Like the court, I’m split.  On one hand, I think stores should take some responsibility, even with movies.  Studies have shown that movies, tv shows, and video games could increase violent behavior, while others have shown that there is no effect. The games are labeled mature, the video game makers and retailers know the level of violence.  Children can’t buy nudie magazines, alcohol, or cigarettes.  If there is a possibility that games/movies/tv is causing an increase of violence or an insensitivity towards it (which, in my opinion, is worse), shouldn’t the government be worried?

At the same time, I’m worried about the future repercussions.  Where will this banning stop?  It could easily roll over into banning the games/movies/books from being made.   Then it would be stomping all over the first amendment right of free speech. The idea offends me as a person, a librarian, and a gamer.

The main culprit in this issue are parents.  Sadly, laws have never made better parents.  You’d still find parents buying M rated titles for their children whether this law was enacted or not.  This isn’t the developers or the stores fault.  And if I were a parent, I would NOT want the government telling me what I can and cannot buy.

In reality, the law is futile.  It won’t stop people from buying the games, as the average age of a gamer is between 32-35.  It won’t stop parents from buying the games.  It won’t stop stores from stocking them (as they are big sellers).  Finally, it won’t stop people from making them.  So California… save yourself some money and back off from a losing battle.

BTW Arnold… this could lead to a ban of a lot of the movies you made.  Didn’t think of that did you?

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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~ by reluctant_gamer on November 4, 2010.

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