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Experts and gamers stand together against Schwarzenegger law

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.

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Alec Meer

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A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.
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