Nov 152010
 
Authors: Jason Krell

It has always been the responsibility of adults to shield children from that which might not be appropriate for them, but in the age of accessible technology it has become increasingly difficult. So then, what happens when one of the most popular forms of technology among children –– video games –– raises questions about violence? You get a case in the U.S. Supreme Court.

More specifically, you get Entertainment Merchants Association v. Schwarzenegger. The case deals with whether it should be illegal to sell violent video games to children, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. It highlights First Amendment rights and how to determine what makes a video game “unacceptably” violent.

The hearing took place on Nov. 2, with Supreme Court justices grilling both California Deputy Attorney General Zackery Morazzini, the attorney arguing against video games, and Paul Smith, who is representing the video game industry’s perspective.

The issue with making it illegal to sell video games to children seems hardly debatable. But the reality is that such a ruling would impinge on developers’ First Amendment rights, forcing them to self-censor and speculate whether their games might provoke a federal case.

From the looks of everything, it seems pretty clear as to what the big deal is: California is concerned for the psyches of children –­– a completely noble and understandable aim –– and worries that playing violent video games will lead them down some twisted path of degeneracy.

The video game industry, on the other hand, insists that video games are no more damaging than any other form of violent media and that they deserve full protection under the First Amendment, just like any other art form. This battle has been raging for over a decade, but there has remained one thing stopping states like California from attacking video games.

Plain and simple, lawyers who don’t play video games are trying to talk about them. And not just talk but make hugely important decisions about their future. Either way, it’s clear in the transcript of the hearing that not only does Morazzini have limited understanding of the real level of violence in video games, but the justices are also not experts.

That’s to be expected to some degree, but when your argument is based off of a hypothetical game in which you can torture babies and “Postal 2,” a 1997 game that was truly horrid, you don’t have much. To be frank, while you can do some pretty twisted things in a small handful of games, it doesn’t come close to infanticide.

Additionally, “Postal 2,” which seems to be the only name California ever uses in its cases against video games, is nothing like any game made today. Since video games have become a respected medium of art and entertainment, people have formed standards.

Developers, by and large, aren’t just in it for the shock value anymore.

The Supreme Court now has the power to change video games forever with one ruling.

Here’s hoping they see that video games should be protected by the First Amendment.

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 Posted by at 4:02 pm

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