Violent Games Could Face Government Censorship

How do you feel about these people deciding the future of video games? Image courtesy of Hogue News.

Are violent video games as bad as pornography?  That is what the state of California believes.  On November 2nd, the Supreme Court heard opening oral arguments that debated whether or not video games are protected by the First Amendment.  The state believes that violent video games are a serious danger to children.  It argues that current rating systems put in place by the video game industry are not doing enough to prevent minors from gaining access to adult games.

If California is successful, then video games will be government regulated.  If a game is considered too violent or obscene, retailers would be fined up to $1,000 dollars for each copy of that game sold to a minor.  In addition, the violent game would be marked with a two-inch square label on the front of the box.  This label would be similar to the Parental Advisory stickers found on music albums.

Various cases about violent video games have been heard before.  Courts have always ruled in the favor of video games.  If California politicians change that trend, then the way games are created and sold will be altered dramatically.

Why California believes it has a case

California is arguing that some violent games can be considered obscene.  As it stands, any obscene media is not protected by the First Amendment.  Author of the law and California assemblyman Leland Yee is demanding that certain games should definitely fall into this category.

“We’re not talking about violent video games,” Yee said in an interview with MTV News.  “We’re talking about ultra-violent video games.”

The proposed bill singles out games whose violence causes them to “lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.”  These games also need to contain violence that “is especially heinous, cruel or depraved in that it involves torture or serious physical abuse to the victim.”

Yee argues that this bill is out of necessity.  “I would rather not do this. But enough is enough. Each year some of the stuff gets more and more outrageous,” Yee said.

Why the video game industry is worried

Some video game developers believe that if the bill passes, their creative voice will be silenced.  Ted Price thinks the bill could “sanitize” the industry.  Price is the founder of Insomniac Games.  Insomniac is a video game development studio that has been responsible for games like “Ratchet and Clank”, “Resistance” and “Spyro the Dragon”.

“…If the Supreme Court rules against the game industry, it could be illegal for someone under 18 to buy Resistance if the game is deemed inappropriate for minors under the new law. And as content creators, if there is a chance that our games will appear in an “Adults Only” section of game stores, we will have to restrict what we create to avoid going out of business,” Price stated via his blog.  “…In other words, this case is a very, very big deal.”

Violent games with a local twist

In a small gaming store in downtown Iowa City, it is certainly not hard to get a hold of violent games as a minor.  According to one of the store’s employees, why not sell violent games if it is not illegal to do so?  The employee wished to remain anonymous.

“We’ll sell Grand Theft Auto IV to a 4-year-old because it’s not against the law,” the employee said.  “Parents are the ones who need to be responsible for their kids, not us.”

The employee states that he often sees children come into the store alone, using their parents money to buy games.  He also claims that some parents have even come up to him that if their child wants an adult game, it would be ok to sell it to them.

“Video games don’t turn their kids into violent murderers.  Parents’ kids are probably going to be murderers for some other reason,” the employee said.  “Why don’t politicians start going after drugs and household abuse?  Those are the real things affecting kids.”

Jayson Gegner, a graduate from the University of Iowa and former online writer for BigFraggingDeal.com, is angry that the government is singling out video games.  He believes kids will find similarly harmful content in other media.

“This goes way past your local Best Buy electronics section.  Parents need to simply be aware of what their kids are doing.  This isn’t just with video games, kids can turn on the television and see something just as violent, if not worse,” Gegner said.

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