This week, the United States Supreme Court will hear the case of The State of California vs. The Entertainment Merchants Association. The landmark case, which marks the first time the Supreme Court will hear a case regarding video games is an all out debate on whether the content of violent games is protected under first amendment rights. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you need to know:
Why Should you care?
Be they entertainment, art, or consumerism, video Games are a growing medium, if the State of California is victorious in this case, violent video games like Grand Theft Auto will be treated much like Pornography, and it will be illegal to sell them to minors.
But, kids staying away from these games is a good thing right?
Of course, but the big question here is whether the government has the right to regulate the gaming industry. As of right now, it’s technically not illegal to sell an M-Rated game to kids, just as it’s technically not illegal to let a child watch an R Rated movie. If the law passes, these games would be viewed much the same as X-rated movies with strict penalties for those letting kids play them. Is parental control and the ESRB enough to deter kids from playing these games?
Who’s proposing this bill?
Arnold Schwarzenegger, The State of California and a few other states. They’ve been trying to get this law on the books for almost a decade now, but each time the games industry has sued, and won. California Assemblyman Leeland Yee wrote a bill which would fine a retailer $1,000 for selling a violent video game to a minor, which was signed the by the Governor but promptly delayed and struck down by a lawsuit.
So, just what makes a game violent?
It’s tough to say. Most hearings, those for the law are showing pretty edited tapes of games like Grand theft Auto and Postal 2. While they’re not going after bigger games like Call of Duty, it’s really only a matter of time before they do so. The law does however clearly state what criteria it would use for determining whether a video game is viewed as violent:
A) Comes within all of the following descriptions:
(i) A reasonable person, considering the game as a whole, would
find appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors.
(ii) It is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the
community as to what is suitable for minors.
(iii) It causes the game, as a whole, to lack serious literary,
artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.
(B) Enables the player to virtually inflict serious injury upon
images of human beings or characters with substantially human
characteristics in a manner which is especially heinous, cruel, or
depraved in that it involves torture or serious physical abuse to the
Alright, what can I do?
While gamer advocacy groups like The Entertainment Consumers Association and the Entertainment Software Association have launched awareness campaigns (including one featuring a mass mailing of controllers to law makers, there’s no much you can do at this point. The hearing starts on Tuesday, November 2 at 10: 00 AM Et; which is also the Fall general elections. Stick with Blast as we’ll keep you updated throughout the day on this monumental case.