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Censorship Entertainment Games

Video Games, the First Amendment, and Obscenity 229

Posted by Soulskill
from the making-people-explode-is-fine-but-no-gettin'-loved-up dept.
An anonymous reader writes with an excerpt from an article about how obscenity laws and the first amendment relate to modern games: "This question is a tough one, for the very good reason that no video game developer or publisher has ever been prosecuted for obscenity related to video games. As we have seen, if the medium of video games are held to the same standard as literature and film then, presumably, they can also be held to be obscene. One of the reasons for the lack of obscenity prosecution against video game developers and publishers is that the courts have limited obscenity to sexual content only. In fact, the courts have gone so far as to specifically reject calls to alter the definition of 'obscenity' to include violent content in video games. The other major reason is the vast majority of video games sold in the United States have only small amounts of sexual content thanks to the Electronic Software Rating Board."
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Video Games, the First Amendment, and Obscenity

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  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:27PM (#28638057) Homepage
    So games don't have much potentially obscene content because of existing censorship and fear of further censorship if they included sexual content? Talk about a chilling effect...
    • by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:41PM (#28638265) Homepage

      The lack of sex has little to do with first amendment as its pretty much all based on the self censorship the industry is doing via the ESRB.

      A game that contains sex gets rated AO by the ESRB and AO means that it won't be allowed to make it on either Nintendo's, Sony's or Microsoft's console. There is still the PC market, but Walmart and other shops won't carry AO either. So AO pretty much results in a game that you can't sell, so everybody avoids it as good as they can, meaning no sex in games.

      • by TomHandy (578620)
        Mass Effect was rated AO?
        • by Logical Zebra (1423045) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:55PM (#28638491)

          No, it wasn't. Mass Effect was rated "M" and can be purchased just about anywhere that sells video games.

          The controversy that surrounded that game alleged that there was rape and other sexual disturbing scenes, which was completely false. There exists one (1) "bed scene" that is more tame than what you see on TV.

          • by broken_chaos (1188549) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @01:29PM (#28639005)

            There are a grand total of four possible sexual encounters. One is optional for all characters in all playthroughs (and happens or not depending on conversation responses). The last three are optional depending on which (if any) crew member you decide to romance - at most one of these will happen per playthrough. All of them are consensual and between adults.

            The first doesn't show anything even remotely considered nudity, and is mostly implied. It's with an Asari (a mono-gendered, but female-looking/acting alien race) consort. It's a 'reward' for you if you don't think her gift of advice is enough for completing her sidequests.

            The other three are very similar in style, and are between a male PC and a female human, a female PC and a male human, and a female or male PC and an Asari (female-looking/acting) scientist. They show, at most, mild nudity from the characters (showing rear nudity, with full nudity implied), and are indeed tamer than what you can see on network TV in most ways, and certainly tamer than some things you can see on cable TV. They also only occur after a fairly significant romance sideplot, advanced in conversations with the chosen NPC between missions, and only occur near the end of the game (which is, attempting 100% completion, a longer-than 20-hour game, and probably could not be completed in much less than 8 hours, even with skipping all non-plot related events or quests).

        • Mass Effect didn't have (humanlike) sex, it had a hand on a window.

      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        Sounds like the market is SCREAMING for someone to develop a good, highly sexual content video game.

        That ratings board is stil voluntary, right?

        What's to stop someone from making such a game, that will work on some or all of the platforms, and marketing and selling it independently?

        Sure, you may not get offical blessing by Sony, Nintendo or MS, and you may have to omit their trademarked names, but, surely there is no law about what you can plug into your own game unit that you own, is there? Hell sell it

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Unblessed games don't run on unhacked consoles, so you can't sell your AO game to the mass market of any kind of gamers except those on PCs, a market which has been dwindling.

        • You clearly haven't seen the DMCA.

          To be able to get the game to work on their consoles you have to get their blessing or circumvent their copy protection mechanisms.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by MORB (793798)

            And the thing is that for a disc to be recognized by a game console, it usually have to include material copyrighted by the console manufacturer, usually a picture of their logo (compared against a copy located in the firmware) and sometimes some proprietary bootstrap code, so if you're pretty much forced to have a license to be legally able to make a game running on their console.

            • by Freetardo Jones (1574733) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @01:21PM (#28638847)

              Actually the part about the proprietary bootstrap code isn't an issue as was decided in Sega v Accolade [wikipedia.org] in which Accolade reverse engineered code to load their games for the Genesis as they weren't a licensee of Sega. Basically that code wasn't covered by copyright because it was considered "non-expressive" and as such didn't get copyright protection. The issue for what the GP is talking about has to do with the cryptographic key signing that is used by the consoles. That is illegal to circumvent.

              • by MORB (793798)

                I seem to recall that in the accolade affair, they managed to circumvent the loading code so as to avoid to include any sega material whatsoever. I believe that it's actually why sega on the dreamcast later explicitely made the firmware do a bit by bit comparison of a logo picture stored in the CD's bootstrap, although there was no cryptographic key involved yet afaik.

        • by Freetardo Jones (1574733) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @01:08PM (#28638663)

          What's to stop someone from making such a game, that will work on some or all of the platforms, and marketing and selling it independently?

          The fact that it won't play on the vast amount of consoles that aren't unhacked?

          Sure, you may not get offical blessing by Sony, Nintendo or MS, and you may have to omit their trademarked names, but, surely there is no law about what you can plug into your own game unit that you own, is there?

          Are you completely unaware of the DMCA?

          If the companies start bitching, just throw out the 1st amendment rights and the fair use doctrine.

          And you'd lose on the grounds that circumventing copy protections in such a manner as you described is clearly against the law.

          • by cayenne8 (626475)
            "And you'd lose on the grounds that circumventing copy protections in such a manner as you described is clearly against the law."

            Doesn't DMCA have provisions for compatibility/interactivity issues? What about monopoly issues, they the company alone decides who can sell games for their systems? That kind of thing wouldn't work for computers would it?

            • Doesn't DMCA have provisions for compatibility/interactivity issues?

              Sure, but none of them would allow what you are talking about.

              What about monopoly issues, they the company alone decides who can sell games for their systems?

              Pretty much would fail. No company is obligated to let anyone and everyone develop for their system. Especially if they aren't a licensee.

              That kind of thing wouldn't work for computers would it?

              Really? Seems to work plenty fine for Apple.

        • by MsGeek (162936) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @02:24PM (#28639889) Homepage Journal

          The Japanese seem to have no trouble delivering on this...

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eroge [wikipedia.org]

      • by daem0n1x (748565) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:59PM (#28638541)

        You Americans need to relax a little bit concerning sex. I think violence is a lot worse than sex.

        It's OK for kids to see people being machinegunned into pieces, blood and flesh everywhere, but a boobie is simply too outrageous. WTF!?!

        Here in Europe, most movies have nudity in them but in a Hollywood movie, if you see some boobs for a fraction of a second, it's outrageous. The leg-crossing of Sharon Stone in Fatal Instinct was deemed as the sexiest thing on cinema, but truly, it's pretty standard in European movies. Of course, in American movies and series, violence is rampant, even in family-rated stuff.

        On American TV, I've seen boobs blurred out in movies, music videos, etc. I've even seen something incredible, Naomi Watts was masturbating in Mulholland Drive, but she was only filmed from the waist up, so you could only see her arm going up and down, suggesting what she was doing. They fucking blurred her arm! How stupid is this?

        • Dude, WE KNOW.

          We're waiting on the AARP crowd to die off so we can take control. There's a shit-ton of baby boomers out there, they're active and they vote.

          Once they're all dead, we'll "relax" more as a country.

          But yeah, I agree, I'd rather see a delicious breast than some dude get blown to pieces by a gun in a movie.

          Don't kid yourself though, Europe is just as screwed up as the US is, just in slightly different ways.

          • by digitig (1056110) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @01:23PM (#28638895)

            Dude, WE KNOW.

            We're waiting on the AARP crowd to die off so we can take control. There's a shit-ton of baby boomers out there, they're active and they vote.

            Once they're all dead, we'll "relax" more as a country.

            I bet you don't. You'll be their age then, and I bet you'll be pretty much the same. Remember that those baby boomers were the "free love" and "turn on, tune in, drop out" generation!

            • by brkello (642429)
              Umm, do we have the same problems with rock music being characterized as devil music? No, I am sure there will be something stupid my generation doesn't like or "get", but we hopefully won't care so much about nudity. I am starting to show my age, though, as I can't believe Twitter is so popular.
              • by digitig (1056110)

                Umm, do we have the same problems with rock music being characterized as devil music?

                I think you'll find that was rather earlier than the baby-boomer generation.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by The Moof (859402)
              Their age? Not quite. A few friends from high school have political careers now, and they're not as open to these type things as you'd think. On a personal level, yea, they're cool with sex and violence, but politicians are trying to please everyone. While I may have more liberal views on sex and violence, I'm sure there's plenty of people out there who disagree with me. And it's not like a politician is going to look good saying something about "it's just sex.." The opposition will warp, twiste, and ma
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Maxo-Texas (864189)

              Actually, the problem generation is 65+.

              Until two years ago, we had to wear dress shirts at work (in 95 degree weather at lunch) because of some ancient guy. The second he retired, polo shirts were finally allowed.

              Sexual and racial attitudes have a very sharp line generationally currently at about the top of the baby boomer age.

              Violence is a different thing-- since we grew up with it- it's cool at all age levels.

              But, considering it- you do have a point, there was a ton of nudity in the 70's in films (inclu

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by rantingkitten (938138)
              Maybe, but standards do relax as the generations progress. Rock music used to be evil. Elvis wiggling his hips while dancing was deemed too suggestive to show on television.

              The boomers may have had their hippies for a brief period, but I think in reality most of them grew up with Ward and June Cleaver as role models for what's "normal" and "acceptable". By contrast, my generation grew up with Peg and Al Bundy.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by mcgrew (92797)

            We're waiting on the AARP crowd to die off so we can take control.

            Are you fucking kidding? Thats what we said when we were your age, and look at any of the movies that came out in the 70s and 80s when I was still young. Ever seen Fritz the Cat? How about Total Recall? I loved the mutant with three boobies. Terminator with Sarah fucking Kyle?

            What movies have your generation produced like that? NONE. Jesus, you young punks even made HHGTG a G movie, WTF? You think boomers are on the ESRB? Quit blaming us geez

            • What movies have your generation produced like that? NONE.

              Watchmen had a faithful reproduction of the amount of sex from the book. I seem to recall there were a run of movies like Zack and Mimi and others which were even more raunchy than Total Recall. To be more to the point though, I don't think censorship is necessarily the problem here. I think that the problem is that there is very little content being produced with anyone over the age of 20 in mind. Back in the old days, kids had cartoons and they had disney movies. Now that people realized that kids are the only demographic worth catering to, that's all that's made. Don't hate the baby boomers. Don't hate the "pepsi generation". Hate all those overbearing marketing assholes who decided to prey on children with their inability to differentiate content from advertisement. Now that this is the standard operating procedure for anyone looking to make a buck, that's all you'll see anymore. Me personally, I just solve the problem by downloading kids movies, splicing in individual frames of sex scenes, and then posting them back out there for download.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Eli Gottlieb (917758)

              Us young folks ain't censoring your generation. This isn't a generation thing. This is a regional thing. The United States is split into two (really three, but we're simplifying) cultures heavily based on region: the really-laid-back West Coast urban culture, the businesslike but still liberal East Coast urban culture, and the rural, moralistic culture of the Midwest and South. Unfortunately, somehow people from that last group seem to come to disproportionate prominence in the entertainment industry's

          • by sorak (246725)

            By then their AARP crowd will be dead and they'll be more "relaxed". I need to watch more British movies...

        • by Toonol (1057698) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @02:10PM (#28639667)
          I agree that we are too concerned about nudity. It's bizarre that the 70's were more open and accepting of nudity in film, for instance, that the 2000's are.

          However, you can't directly compare it to violence. Explicit sex is media is frowned upon for entirely different reasons than violence. I'm not worried about my son, my daughter, or 99.9% of anybody else's kids wanting to go out and commit murder because they see it in a game. However, sex is a temptation. The kids would be weird if they DIDN'T want to go out and have sex... or lock themselves up in their bedroom and watch sex all day.

          Yeah, I think it's too restrictive. I don't see anything wrong with a child seeing a breast. But in fairness, the current stigma is not because sex is considered WORSE than violence. It's considered more SEDUCTIVE than violence.
          • by instagib (879544) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:04PM (#28640533)
            If anything, the strategy of hiding sex in the US media during the last 2 decades did backfire: teenage pregancy rates [wikipedia.org] are the highest among the "developed" countries. Spain for example is second lowest, I lived there during my teens, and the TV program there was very, let's say, educating (after 10pm).
            I guess that openess and explanation works better than obfuscation, as always.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            Yeah well unfortunately you just made sex more appealing and made it so kid's are less likely to wait and be sensible because it's taboo which means it must be the best thing ever.

            Kid's need to be exposed to sex and along with the good, show them the bad, like how sex will never last as long as a woman's ability to nag and spend money like it grows on trees.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by PaganRitual (551879)

            This is marked as interesting, but isn't this the exact line of thinking that we endlessly mock? Violence doesn't bother you because, well, no one is going to kill anyone hurr, that never happens.But OMG KIDS MIGHT WANT TO HAVE SEX THIS IS TERRIBLE WE HAVE TO STOP THEM SEEING THIS.

            It's still about control then, surely. Sex is considered more 'seductive' than violence because it's not overtly illegal. Yet. You can't go out and hit/shoot/kill someone because that's against the law, so sure, let people watch p

      • The lack of sex has little to do with first amendment as its pretty much all based on the self censorship the industry is doing via the ESRB.

        That's only self censorship in the same sense that employer-mandated drug tests are "optional -- as long as you don't mind losing your job". Game developers censor themselves because if they didn't, their publishing opportunities would be zero thanks to console vendors and the ESRB.

      • by sckeener (137243)

        mean while...we get the "ESRB-Experience may change during online play"

        That I think is the loop hole that gaming companies want. The gaming company can't create it but I've run into enough players online that want to flaunt AO material.

        I think that is great, but most gaming companies still crack down on AO fan material creation. If memory serves there was a AO guild that's stated purpose was to flaunt AO subject matter in WoW. Blizzard shut it down.

        Personally I think gaming companies would be better s

      • by mcgrew (92797)

        That's true, and they're shooting themselves in the feet by doing it. This is a chance for a new undertaking that could eat Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft's lunch, by making a console that AO games would run on.

        Computer games ain't only for kids any more, and actually never were. There's no valid reason why you can't have sex in a video game.

        Look at the disaster Die Hard IV: Revenge of the nerds was. They made it so nothing would have to be cut for it to play on TV so as to get the "younger audience", and it

        • by jbolden (176878)

          What evidence do you have for this untapped demand for AO games? There are AO games, porn games and Henai games which have sex and they don't sell in any kind of high numbers. Games with lots of sex seem at this point to be a niche product. What evidence do you have that there is some untapped market. As for profanity I believe M games can have profanity.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by aj50 (789101)

        Alternatively they could cut it out for the American market and sell it as it was created in Europe, where many popular games are given the highest 18+ rating and are still sold in shops.

      • by LoRdTAW (99712)

        AO? Anal Orifice?

    • by causality (777677) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:42PM (#28638287)
      It does amaze me that we live in a society where realistically depicted violence, and in the case of some news stories, actual violence, is considered acceptable. Meanwhile, a single breast being exposed during a Superbowl half-time show resulted in outrage and a strong desire to "crack down" on obscenity. The message there is that violence is normal and acceptable while sexuality is obscene and must be censored.

      You are quite right about a chilling effect. That tells me we are doing things the hard way. Rather than censorship, I'd much rather we teach people that fictional depictions like video games can be appreciated for what they are without also being idolized and emulated. Any adult who can't understand what that means is not really an adult but an overgrown child. So I assume this must be about children. If parents are worried about their children being exposed to the more severe video games or movies or any other media, I fully support their right to act as the "benevolent dictators" that they are and control what their children have access to. However, I expect them to actually be parents instead of relying on institutional censorship to carry out their responsibility for them.
      • It boils down to this: Crusades = ok, premarital sex = da debbil.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Rycross (836649)

        I think this is mostly because most parents feel that their kids having sex is more likely than them becomming violent killers.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sorak (246725)

          I think this is mostly because most parents feel that their kids having sex is more likely than them becomming violent killers.

          And they also seem to believe that the two are morally comparable.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Rycross (836649)

            I wouldn't say that. Its an application of expected value.

            M = Lets call this immorality, with higher, positive numbers being more immoral.
            P = Probability

            M-total = P-sex * M-sex + P-violence * M-violence

            In a lot of parents' eyes, you'd probably end up with 0 > P-violence, so you end up with P-violence * M-violence P-sex * M-sex, simply because sex is far more likely.

            Along other lines, you have issues like teen pregnancy, which is far more likely to negatively impact a kids' life than violence.

            Now, I don

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jason Levine (196982)

        It's not even "a single breast being exposed during a Superbowl half-time show" but a single nipple. You can show much of the breast on TV and in print without being called porn. Just look at all of the bikini shots that show nearly the entire top of the model. But show one female nipple and you're in "won't someone think of the children" territory. I still haven't quite figured out how that small patch of skin on a female qualifies as obscene while the same patch of skin on a male is mundane. I keep e

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I'm kind of failing to see what the loss to humanity is if some commercial sex games aren't made.

      I can definitely see that a game with strong sexuality can have artistic merit, that's not what this is about. On the other hand, I think most games like that would never, ever be made by anything other than an individual or small group that would make it regardless of whether it would be commercially viable.

      • by causality (777677) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @01:14PM (#28638745)

        I'm kind of failing to see what the loss to humanity is if some commercial sex games aren't made.

        I can definitely see that a game with strong sexuality can have artistic merit, that's not what this is about. On the other hand, I think most games like that would never, ever be made by anything other than an individual or small group that would make it regardless of whether it would be commercially viable.

        What humanity could stand to lose is the "we know what's best for you" mentality. Humanity could stand to lose that, the same way that a cancer patient could stand to lose a tumor.

    • by ForexCoder (1208982) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:44PM (#28638315)
      Sexual content in a movie that would earn an R rating by the MPAA, earns an A (adults only) rating in game. See, for example, the Hot Coffee [wikipedia.org] version of GTA.

      This applies to retailers as well, the same retailer will accept the content in a movie but not in a game. It's not just chilling, it's deadly to a game.
    • I've always thought it was odd that its fine to go on a digital death spree, but if there is so much as a pixilated nipple people go ape shit. What does that say about us? Bunch of sexually repressed violent &^*&^ers
  • Obscene (Score:4, Informative)

    by arizwebfoot (1228544) * on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:31PM (#28638119)

    I can't remember off the top of my head what the case cite is, but the SCOTUS decided that each local has the choice of deciding for its self what is obscene and what is not.

    For example, what might be obscene in Kentucky may be par for the course in California and so on.

    • Re:Obscene (Score:5, Informative)

      by compro01 (777531) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:38PM (#28638223)

      That would be Miller v. California and is know as the Miller test. For something to be considered obscene, it needs to meet 3 criteria.

      1. The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.
      2. the work depicts/describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law.
      3. the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

      • Re:Obscene (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday July 09, 2009 @01:11PM (#28638703) Homepage

        2. the work depicts/describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law.

        I've always found it kind of amusing that it's basically all about sex and pooping. Of all the forms of speech that can be censored due to being offensive, of all the activities which we can't tolerate because they're too objectionable, we've picked out sex and pooping.

      • by sckeener (137243)

        That would be Miller v. California and is know as the Miller test. For something to be considered obscene, it needs to meet 3 criteria.

        1. The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest. 2. the work depicts/describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law. 3. the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

        and now the Miller Test meets the Internet where my contemporary community standard is compared to San Francisco, Little Rock, New York, Houston, etc....

        pretty impossible to meet any contemporary community standard now a days...unless one is aggregating the standard of the entire United States. I'm sure Hawaii will compare nicely to Dallas.

        On a side note...there is only one county in Texas that restricts being topless, Brazoria, and it is a semi-recent change (about 4 years ago.) I was always proud of T

      • by QCompson (675963)
        And it's important to note that in order to be found obscene, the work must meet all three prongs of the test, and the last prong is not a local community standard, but that of a reasonable person in the United States as a whole.

        In that respect, the OP is not entirely correct that obscenity is just a local standard.
  • Declaration of Independence. Three inalienable rights. It shocks the hell out of me that people don't understand everyone's entitled to these. If what I'm doing doesn't deprive other people of these three rights, I should be able to do it. Yes, that's a libertarian viewpoint but it's in the Declaration of Independence. If I want to play Left 4 Dead in my home, what do you care? It's not depriving you of any of these three things and I enjoy it. Should I start saying that you sitting at home all night reading The Holy Bible is bothering me? Because it's about the same damn thing with Lazarus and the whipping and the lashing and the begetting and the Mary Magdalene and the apocalypse ... See how stupid this argument is? It's a waste of time. It has been this way with books and movies and it will be that way with video games. Get over it and move on to target things worth your time censoring and prosecuting like child pornography.
  • "Obscenity"? (Score:5, Informative)

    by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:33PM (#28638149)

    Do keep in mind that the legal definition is really, past all the smoke and mirrors, whatever the judge personally finds distasteful. Deciding what the population doesn't need or want to view for them has no place in a free society.

    Then of course, we're not a free society.

    The law often makes up legal principles (usually giving them Latin names to try to make them seem magical and justified) to override other legal principles. Obscenity is a great way to override freedom of speech by taking speech, labeling it "obscenity," and then claiming that it's "not really speech." A problem with the constitution colliding with the rights of minors and school? No problem! "En loco parentis," is right up your alley (whether you agree with the concept or not). The "community standards" excuse is, even if it is applied as per the name, is a violation of individual rights which the legal system has been more than happy to sacrifice in the name of a sort of vicious populism. Why community standards in obscenity, and not political opinion? Obscenity, political opinion, all of it is simply how one takes it. Personally, I find Nazis more distasteful than goatse, but we're not at silencing them (yet...).

    This also extends into the domain of politics, where wars become "police action."

    Don't think freedom means a damn thing if the government gets to play with the meaning of words, or if whatever is popular reigns over individual rights.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by GPLDAN (732269)
      "Do keep in mind that the legal definition is really, past all the smoke and mirrors, whatever the judge personally finds distasteful."

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_know_it_when_I_see_it [wikipedia.org]
    • by causality (777677)

      The law often makes up legal principles (usually giving them Latin names to try to make them seem magical and justified) to override other legal principles. Obscenity is a great way to override freedom of speech by taking speech, labeling it "obscenity," and then claiming that it's "not really speech."

      I have often said that the actual principles of freedom and why those principles are correct is quite easy to understand. All of the mystique and the complication and the increasingly "priesthood" status of

    • by umeboshi (196301)

      Do keep in mind that the legal definition is really, past all the smoke and mirrors, whatever the jury finds distasteful.

      There, fixed that for you.

      This is not something that should be left in the hands of the judge.

      Don't think freedom means a damn thing if the government gets to play with the meaning of words, or if whatever is popular reigns over individual rights.

      They do this all the time by trying to separate the synonymous meanings of "arrest" and "detain" to sidestep the laws they've sworn to abide by.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:33PM (#28638151) Homepage

    "I do have a cause though. It is obscenity. I'm for it. Unfortunately the civil liberties types who are fighting this issue have to fight it owing to the nature of the laws as a matter of freedom of speech and stifling of free expression and so on but we know what's really involved: dirty books are fun. That's all there is to it. But you can't get up in a court and say that I suppose. It's simply a matter of freedom of pleasure, a right which is not guaranteed by the Constitution unfortunately."

    (at which point he launched into this jaunty tune: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pva35TFiBfI [youtube.com])

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:35PM (#28638177) Homepage

    Many countries, even in the English-speaking world, still have official censorship bodies which won't let you publish content without state approval. That's general content, not particular content niches like pornography. Games have been effectively banned in Europe or Australia from being sold for being too violent or "mature." By comparison, the United States has no effective apparatus of censorship. The most that can happen is that a prosecutor brings you up on charges of violating local obscenities laws, but then the prosecutor has to show that your sexual content is gratuitous and has no independent (artistic, literary, etc.) merit. If you had a map where a character walks through a realistic strip club, and gets into a shoot out, that content is likely to be protected under the same precedents that protect R-rated movies with similar content.

    Now, if you create a sex simulator, even one like Hot Coffee, well, you're up shit creek. That aside, our system is significantly freer and more in line with "let adults be adults and let parents be responsible" than the majority of the industrial world on content in general.

  • Anyone know of any court cases involving Japanese sex games?
    I know they get pretty obscene..

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by eldavojohn (898314) *

      Anyone know of any court cases involving Japanese sex games? I know they get pretty obscene..

      There's been a lot of talk [current.com] and grandstanding for banning games like "RapeLay" [slate.com] but I don't think there's been a court case or decree. It's pretty difficult to get a hold of through a major outlet though. And I think Japan's version of the ESRB is passing new standards [slashdot.org] preventing the publishing of games like this. No court cases on US soil regarding this title to my knowledge. From what I've read, it seems to be the most explosively controversial title out there right now.

    • by tonywong (96839)

      http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/05/manga-porn/

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by s73v3r (963317)
      Not entirely on topic, but there was that court case in Iowa regarding Japanese sex comics. I can't imagine a zealous prosecutor being too hesitant to make the jump from comics to video games should it serve his interests.
    • Obscenity is so relative as to make its use in your sentence useless.

  • Demand is low (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jeffliott (1558799)

    Until the demand for content that is considered obscene (in current culture) allows for mass profits, the big developers will never take it on.

    • So what you're basically saying is that the big developers will never produce anything that would be deemed obscene.

      If developers produce it, that means there is a large market for it. If there is a large market for it, that market doesn't view the material as obscene. Actually, when you think about it, it seems kind of ridiculous that there was such an uproar about the GTA games. They were some of the highest selling games ever made, obviously a large portion of the population didn't find them obscene.

  • by Zerth (26112) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:42PM (#28638293)

    And not just because Jack Thompson keeps failing on the civil side.

    Getting video game violence declared obscene is well prevented by the movie/tv industries' efforts in the motion-picture realm. They've been working for decades to keep visual depictions of violence in the "OK for young children" realm. You can punch somebody on television and it'll be ok for anyone over the age of 8. Add some blood and it pops you up into the low teens, on par with a bit of side-boob.

    The interactive aspect is too narrow a distinction for the rest of the entertainment industry to risk getting drawn in and censored, so it'll never happen until somebody comes up with a .9 r^2 correlation [wikipedia.org] between violent games and homosexuality.

  • When people decide to get violence removed/banned/controlled in video games, get ready for millions of gamers to call for the same treatment of books, film, TV, and the most violent of all, the news.

    Be a parent, not a fascist. Freedom is hard if you cant govern yourself, but at least you have options.

  • TOS clauses of most ISPs rules out the distribution of genuinely obscene content. It is censorship, and in fact, many governments actually do censor this stuff as well.

    I mean, if you go by the old rules of what is obscene, sex and violence, obviously, that's not too bad these days and won't get you into trouble. But if you put together a cartoon swastika game for children that features a character running around tossing minorities into concentration camps where you can dehumanize, torture and exterminate

  • The other major reason is the vast majority of video games sold in the United States have only small amounts of sexual content because of the Electronic Software Rating Board.

    ftfy

  • Tonight's Penn and Teller Episode is supposed to tackle video game violence [gamepolitics.com] tonight if you're interested. Apparently Jack Thompson is supposed to make an appearance. I cannot wait for them to talk to that crackpot.
  • It's pretty crazy that sexual things are frowned upon but violent murder and acts of aggression are typically seen as ok in movies and video games. Just goes to say what type of country we are when we can't handle things like a woman's breast being shown during the half time show of a sport that revolves around people trying to beat each other up. I'm not against violent movies or games though, I just find it funny that it's okay for impressionable teens to sit around killing each other, but if there's a se
  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:07PM (#28640595) Homepage

    The problem is that sex in games usually doesn't provide good gameplay. If you just want to watch porn, that's easily available. Besides, simulated porn doesn't look that good.

    That said, the big flap about the "hot coffee" scene in GTA was sort of silly. The GTA world ought to have sex in it. In fact, it's inconsistent that a game with strippers and hookers doesn't have sex in it. There's so much unrealized potential there, for seduction, power games, devious girlfriends - all the basic male/female drama elements.

    The key is integrating sex into gameplay without having the sex dominate the game. That's a design challenge. It's not impossible. Second Life has sex, but it's not primarily a sex-oriented MMORPG. What we need are R-rated video games, dramas where sex plays a role in the plot. That could be fun.

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