Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Video Games vs. the (Possibly Insane) State of California

This post is going to be brief, as I've been down with something that's either the flu or strep throat for the last few days, but I felt I had to say something with regard to the current case before the Supreme Court: the state of California's move to push a ban on the sale of violent video games to minors.

To start, this is California, right? The state that was actually voting to legalize marijuana? The state whose governor was the poster boy for violent and occasionally graphically explicit movies like Terminator and Total Recall? Arnold, I'm quite upset by this. I'm aware that your state is hurting for money, but this is a ridiculous way to get it. Trying to push the Supreme Court to violate the First Amendment is not going to help.

Having read the full transcript of the trial, I must say I was surprised by two things initially: the intelligence and informed nature of the Court themselves, and the complete incompetence by lawyers on both sides. Honestly, I could have come up with more convincing cases than theirs! The case mentions minors specifically, and contends that minors should be protected from violent or sexual speech.

I have a question: how does the First Amendment, which regulates written or articulated speech, prevent minors from accessing pornographic material, but not romance novels? I bought them all the time when I was as young as 13 and never got so much as a glance from book vendors. So how, now, can we argue that the First Amendment is supposed to deal with narrative, and then argue that the same should be used on non-narrative materials such as images or videos but not on books?

Another point - the lawyer makes the intimation that only games whose plot is non-existent or trivial should be considered, or that (because he doubled-back on himself to a point) the commission regulating the censorship could choose to consider games where they disliked or disregarded the plot. Justice Kagan asked him whether Mortal Kombat would be considered. He admitted to knowing absolutely nothing about the game. He seemed to be basing his entire argument on the game Postal 2, which, while certainly gratuitously violent, does in fact have a plot, and claims to be a satire of that which it represents.

When we start saying that we're going to limit manufacturers to producing only content that satisfies a random set of standards set by people who aren't even involved in the industry, we're breaking the rules the Constitution set down. Our laws weren't meant to be arbitrary, or subject to change because someone needs money for their state, or because someone else is offended by content which, 9 times out of 10, is being regulated by the parents' and the video games' own rating industry.

I'll start believing this country is staying true to itself when they start preventing parents from having guns in homes with children in them, not when they start regulating video games. No one ever killed anyone else with a game.

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