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Experts and gamers stand together against Schwarzenegger law

Mon 20 Sep 2010 3:23pm GMT / 11:23am EDT / 8:23am PDT
Politics

Chamber of Commerce, MPAA, scientists and consumer groups battle "chilling" violent games bill

A large number of US organisations and professionals have asked the US Supreme Court to not acquiesce to calls for violent videogame legislation.

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) have both rounded up groups of experts to file amicus briefs demanding the court upholds its prior rulings against California's latest game-rating bill.

The crux of their defence is that Governor Schwarzengger's proposed ban on the sale or rental of violent games to minors contravenes the US Constitution's First Amendment.

The ESA has recruited 182 supporters to its cause, comprising medical professionals, legal experts, scientists and 'First Amendment Experts.'

The US Chamber of Commerce also lent its weight to the cause, claiming existing rating systems were adequate. "California's law fails strict scrutiny," it said in a statement, "because a ban on the sale or rental of violent video games to minors is not the least restrictive alternative to protecting them from age-inappropriate media content.

"Industry self-regulation is a highly effective and less restrictive alternative."

The Motion Picture Association Of America joined the calls to resist the bill. "If this Court were to hold that California's statute is valid, it would have a dramatic chilling effect on the motion picture industry," it claimed.

"State and local governments could attempt to impose similar restrictions on depictions of violence in other media, including motion pictures."

The National Association Of Broadcasters claimed that Schwarzenegger v. Electronic Merchants Associaton "runs roughshod over the First Amendment rights of content producers, retailers, and consumers."

Non-profit gamers' group the ECA filed its own court document, supported by Competitive Enterprise Institute, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Public Knowledge and Students for Free Culture.

"Video games are an expressive medium that should be protected by the First Amendment," said Jennifer Mercurio, Vice President and General Counsel of the ECA.

"There is nothing exceptional about video games' interactivity that should preclude the Court finding that they are protected artistic expressions."

The case's first hearing is November 2, with the prosecution arguing that games should not be entitled to the same free speech rules as movies, television and books.

Twice previously, US courts have ruled games should enjoy the same protection, but California and other supporting states have fought for the opposite upwards of a dozen times to date.

7 Comments

Shawn Gordon
Freelance writer

5 0 0.0
The problem I see here is that opponents seem to overlook that U.S. First Amendment rights are not absolute; one may not falsely shout fire in a crowded theater. In that, if the public feels violence in video games are a problem, then it's a problem; perception is context (as much as I really hate this fact at times). If the existing methods of regulation were sufficient, then there would not be innumerable lawsuits against retail corporations resulting in ever increasing changes to company policy regarding sales of products to minors.

Should parents be more involved? Yes, I believe they should, but to rely upon a business whose sole purpose is to generate profit, for 'guidance' is equally silly. As EA's Jeff Green pointed out months ago, "...no one (well no one with half a brain and any standard of decency or responsibility) wants to actually sell excessively violent videogames to children."

As a personal opinion, Green may be correct and the people running these retails establishments have an upright code of ethics, but professionally, ethics are are only as good as the results. If a company will benefit from diverging from ethics and also not be in violation of the law, they will pursue the path to higher profits. So many examples of this can be readily found I don't feel compelled to produce any (ok fine, BP & RJ Reynolds). Other supporting factors to my theory are that publishers, the people serving as the go-between to retailers and developers are against the bill. What about developers? Retailers and publishers are claiming the developers would have to rethink their content, right? So if that is the case, where is the developer noise on the issue - or - are publishers being cryptic in that they'll force developers to once more jump through hoops unnecessarily.

In my opinion, most of this is not about ethics or rights, but about money and who best to pawn the blame to. It's sickening that an industry who purports to be 'regular people' continue to divest themselves from any real ethics and commonsense. Why should the consumer (who by the way, has the real power whether they realize or not) be asked to be reactionary instead of proactive on the issue? I cannot think of a single instance where reactionary legislation served the public in a constructive fashion, and this is being presented in such a way that we, the consumer, should be reactionary and wait until there's a clear issue (implying there's not) rather than take action before it becomes an issue (again implying there's not).

Posted:3 years ago

#1

Private
Industry

1,176 182 0.2
Sounds like a perfectly reasonable law to make it illegal for kids to buy games that are rated above their age. Kids are not allowed to buy alcohol, tobacco or porn so it sounds ok that no 14 year should be legally allowed to walk into a shop and buy Dead Space or any other game that is rated 18+.

The US should reevaluate some of the laws and maybe rephrase some like the first amendment that was created 1790. There are just things outdated that make not that much sense now 200 years later.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Private on 20th September 2010 8:39pm

Posted:3 years ago

#2

Rick Ellis
Tech Director

15 0 0.0
I find it rather amusing that the bill against violence in games is being pushed by Arnold.

Posted:3 years ago

#3

Alfonso Sexto
Lead Tester

786 595 0.8
Indeed, Rick Ellis; a anti-fictional violence movement made by a guy that made his career and fame with a ton of fictional violent movies.

Even the court could laugh at him for that.

Posted:3 years ago

#4
"a ban on the sale or rental of violent video games to minors"

Maybe I have my parent head on and not my game-dev head on when reading this. Why would this be a bad thing? Perhaps it's in the subtle wording of the law proposed that isn't reported above. On the bald facts reported I can't see the point of the great objections to this.

Posted:3 years ago

#5
the only thing i can see (and being British i don't really know the American system) but it sounds like that if a game is rated 15 for some violence, the California law could say "oh no that's too violent and put it on the ban list, meaning 15-17 years old couldn't buy it. even though the country wide game rating system said 15 (or US equivalent)

Posted:3 years ago

#6

Terence Gage
Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
I think Kyle's along the right lines; plus I believe that many major US high street retailers refuse to stock games if they're rated Adults Only (AO), or that they legally can't stock them?

As Werner commented, I don't think it's unreasonable to restrict the sale of games with adult content (which tends to be violence and gore) to ensure minors cannot directly purchase said games, but if it restricts the sales avenues publishers can use then it seems a bit unfair.

Maybe the whole system needs a change, whereby either the rules and/or perception of AO are relaxed, or there's another increment between Mature and Adults Only. For instance - assuming box art images on Amazon.com can be trusted - it looks like games like Dead Space, Far Cry 2, Fallout 3 and God of War 3 all have an M rating, which is the same as Halo: Reach and Demon's Souls. Does that seem vaguely ridiculous to anyone else...?!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Terence Gage on 21st September 2010 11:15am

Posted:3 years ago

#7

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