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Censorship The Courts United States Games

Supreme Court Hears Violent Video Game Case Tomorrow 342

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-bet-scalia-plays-quake dept.
SkinnyGuy writes that with the Supreme Court set to hear arguments tomorrow for California's controversial law aimed at keeping violent games away from minors, support for gamers and the games industry is coming from all corners. Writing for PCMag, Lance Ulanoff says the decision should rest in parents' hands: "If I have real concerns, it's up to me to argue it out with my son and take away the games or not buy them for him when he asks." Game developer Daniel Greenberg wants to know "how government bureaucrats are supposed to divine the artistic value that a video game has for a 17-year-old," adding that he's "disheartened and a little perplexed to see [his] art and passion lumped in with cigarettes and booze." The expectation within the legal community is that the statute should be found unconstitutional, and the Atlantic's Garrett Epps points out the irony of Gov. Schwarzenegger's involvement with the legislation.
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Supreme Court Hears Violent Video Game Case Tomorrow

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 01, 2010 @06:33PM (#34095808)

    One has the force of law if this passes, the other does not?

    Maybe you weren't aware the movie rating system is 100% voluntary, just like the ESRB rating system is currently. The ESRB system also sees more success than the movie/music versions, and improved about 50% in the last year in compliance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 01, 2010 @06:37PM (#34095840)

    Don't shop at Wal-Mart

  • by Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Monday November 01, 2010 @06:46PM (#34095936)
    When I was in your 14 to 25 age group, (Admittedly a long time ago.) violent video games probably saved a few lives.
    Without the release of playing a game and blowing a few things up after school I have little doubt I would have snapped and tried to go on a killing rampage.
  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday November 01, 2010 @06:54PM (#34096016)
    It shouldn't matter what the game is like. Free speech is free speech. I don't know where people got the illusion that the only thing free speech should be for is saying how great the government is and how great things are now.

    Free speech, so long as it doesn't interfere with anyone else and their property rights should be 100% legal.
  • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Monday November 01, 2010 @06:58PM (#34096062) Journal

    All I know is that if I didn't have an outlet for my anger at home, I would have let it out at school. Does that mean I would have brought a gun in and shot someone? Likely not, but I probably would have shouted and hit a bully or two, which means I'd get detention, which means I'd become a problem kid, and a decade down the road I could have shot someone.

    I wouldn't be surprised if this is the case for many other people here. It's not that a video game would normally make me a violent person, and it's not like I'm a violent person who needs to have some kind of murder take place just to satiate me. It's that they are a regular outlet to let off some steam, whereas without video games it tends to build up, which will only blow at the wrong times at the wrong person and get you in trouble which is where all the bad influences are anyways. Seriously, taking all your "trouble" kids, having them stick around after class, in the same room... it's a silly idea. That means when they go home from school, the only other people to talk to are other trouble kids. Does someone who yells at a teacher need to be sitting around the kid who got caught smoking?

  • Re:Parenting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday November 01, 2010 @06:58PM (#34096068)
    Yes, that is the thing, governments should stay out of morality, its best for everyone. First off, think about your own morals, the Christian right really needs to look at trends in Europe and stand up against government regulation of morality, because, perhaps in 20 years they might not be the majority and another (anti)religious group will take their place.

    Free speech should be free speech. So long as it doesn't interfere with your rights and your property rights it should be perfectly allowed no matter what it is.
  • by BaronHethorSamedi (970820) <thebaronsamedi@gmail.com> on Monday November 01, 2010 @07:02PM (#34096118)
    It is legal to sell R rated movies to minors, or to allow minors to see such films in theaters. Some theaters may have internal rules disallowing it, but private policies like this have never had the force of law.

    That's the difference with the video game legislation at issue. The ESRB was originally intended to be a private ratings group like the MPAA--just an organization to give suggestions on content to conscientious parents. It was never intended to be a government watchdog. Now California wants games and ESRB ratings treated differently--more like the restrictions in place on providing pornography to minors. It'll be an interesting case--several courts have found that games count as speech, though the issue hasn't reached the Supreme Court until now.

    As a side note, I don't find it at all ironic that an icon of the film industry wants games treated differently from film. Hollywood can't be too fond of the gaming industry competing for youth entertainment dollars, and you can bet the film studio lobbyists have the governor's ear on this issue. It makes perfect economic sense; from the MPAA perspective, if Timmy can't buy Halo, he can still go see Hostel.
  • Beer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fermion (181285) on Monday November 01, 2010 @07:05PM (#34096148) Homepage Journal
    In civilized conservative parts of the US, children can drink alcohol with parents perimision. This reflects the norm in the civilized world. Of course well meaning liberals and fake conservatives wants the big government that results from controlling every minutia of the citizenry. What we can read, what we eat, what we can drink.

    This does not mean there are not consequences. I don't believe in requiring helmets, but I would hate to be in the insurance pool with a person who rides a motorcycle and does not wear a helment. Such a person is stealing from me. Likewise, if a parent is not serving a child appropriate amounts of alcohol, that parent is libel for the resulting damage. This consequence based model makes much more sense than the big government telling us what games we can play in our own houses.

    So I would say if someone is offended by beer and cigs, then it is perfectly acceptable for other people to be offended by video games with gratuitous violence. If however we realize that everyone is going be be offended by something, and will tend to group all those things under one umbrella, then we can reach a point where we are confortable letting other people doing things that we find offended without getting offended by that fact that other think differently that we do.

    The damage, of course, comes when one person thinks what they do is protected speech, maybe even art, and what other people do is simply random acts of terrorism.

  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@nOSPam.lynx.bc.ca> on Monday November 01, 2010 @07:08PM (#34096170) Journal

    A parent who is capable of confiscating a game that he doesn't want his kids playing should be just as capable of going out and buying a game for his kid that the kid can't buy for himself, right?

    Not every parent wants to run their household like a freakin' gestapo camp (forgive me Godwin)... if the retailers face fines for not checking ID before selling a game with a mature or adult rating, there's at least a minimal level of assurance for parents who have problems with these sorts of things that the number of times they are going to have to bring down the banhammer on their kids' activities for stuff like this is few and far enough between that it doesn't end up creating more household conflict than what could easily already exist just because teenagers think that their parents can't possibly understand them. Meanwhile, parents who don't have a problem with this sort of thing should be perfectly free to go out and buy their kids these sorts of games as they wish. I have no problem with legislation in this department, and I would suggest that parents who might think I want to be a lazy parent simply because I don't want to fight with my kids may be guilty of being lazy themselves... for reasons I cannot even begin to imagine.

    Of course, if video console makers actually made halfway decent parental controls that allowed things like blacklisting and whitelisting, in addition to using the general guideline of the video game rating, and said parental controls were not easily bypassed by any remotely bright kid who bothered to google how to get around them, I probably wouldn't care one way or the other. If he wants to waste his money on stuff he can't play under my roof, that's his own problem.

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday November 01, 2010 @07:24PM (#34096348)
    It is completely legal for any child of any age to go out and buy the movie "Silence of the Lambs" and watch Hannibal lector cut the face off of someone and use it as a mask. For some reason Music and Video games are considered to have more influence with children. It's a silly distinction.
    3 Million children are treated for sports related injuries every year:
    http://www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site1112/mainpageS1112P0.html

    If you want to protect your children, lets start with the place they are most likely to be hurt. School sports programs.
  • Re:May not matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Monday November 01, 2010 @07:39PM (#34096468) Journal

    The SC justices are pretty good at being able to understand the details of a case and apply the law to it in a theoretical way, even if they themselves have no experience.

    Didn't we just have a story last week [slashdot.org] that showed how false that is? If they can't accurately predict the consequences of their decisions on the field of politics, which they should be experts at, how can you expect them to make good judgments about anything?

    I fully expect the Supreme Court to declare software as mechanical, not speech, which would allow it to be banned just like realistic toy guns. Obviously the wrong decision, but you can't count on the Supreme Court to make the obviously right ruling. Remember, these are the best lawyers in the country. They can find a way to twist the law (and reality) to fit their argument, instead of the other way around.

  • by Shakrai (717556) * on Monday November 01, 2010 @07:44PM (#34096506) Journal

    Neither. Kids buying 'R' rated movies are a problem for parents, not Washington and/or Sacramento.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday November 01, 2010 @07:57PM (#34096608) Journal

    My opinion is irrelevant.

    I can not lay my hand on any part of the constitution which gives the US Government power to overrule the First Amendment. Can you? On the contrary the constitution reserves that power to the 50 Member States, whenever they meet in convention to amend/modify the supreme law. So whatever the US Court decides is irrelevant. Free Speech may not be curtailed for adults.

  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Monday November 01, 2010 @08:19PM (#34096750)

    "I don't think it will, but some people do think this."

    Where is their evidence of this? Oh, wait, they have none! They want to ban something that many, many people enjoy when they don't even have any evidence. Funny, that. The law shouldn't be made up of worthless opinions, but facts.

    The only people truly detached from reality are those that believe that people can't differentiate between reality and a video game (something anyone is able to do). As such, it doesn't need to be in the hands of parents, as this article suggests. It should be in the hands of the player. If video games don't do any harm, then why does it suggest that it be in the hands of the parent? What is the point of that beyond indoctrination and control? Nothing. If they would refuse to buy violent video games for their child yet would still buy games that aren't labeled as violent and still acknowledge that video games don't cause violence, they're idiots.

  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Monday November 01, 2010 @08:59PM (#34097058)

    "Kids buying 'R' rated movies are a problem for parents"

    Since movies or games don't cause violence, it's a problem for no one. No need for parents to censor harmless things.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 01, 2010 @09:15PM (#34097146)

    The net effect is this means there is tremendous incentive for companies to sneak in as much as possible into an R or M rated title. Meaning those two ratings end up being distorted to including far more than they really should. Eventually, the R and M ratings will become equivalent to the NC-17 and AO ratings.
    The irony of course is by refusing to carry NC-17/AO titles, the big retailers are being family unfriendly, not family friendly.

  • Re:Parenting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday November 01, 2010 @09:31PM (#34097228) Journal

    Yes, that is the thing, governments should stay out of morality, its best for everyone. First off, think about your own morals, the Christian right really needs to look at trends in Europe and stand up against government regulation of morality, because, perhaps in 20 years they might not be the majority and another (anti)religious group will take their place.

    As I've seen it written: Separation Of Church And State is meant to protect the Church from the State

  • Re:May not matter (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday November 01, 2010 @11:49PM (#34097882)

    Didn't we just have a story last week [slashdot.org] that showed how false that is? If they can't accurately predict the consequences of their decisions on the field of politics, which they should be experts at, how can you expect them to make good judgments about anything?

    I fully expect the Supreme Court to declare software as mechanical, not speech, which would allow it to be banned just like realistic toy guns. Obviously the wrong decision, but you can't count on the Supreme Court to make the obviously right ruling. Remember, these are the best lawyers in the country. They can find a way to twist the law (and reality) to fit their argument, instead of the other way around.

    It's interesting that you think that corporations do not have a Right to Free Speech when it comes to politics, but that corporations DO have a Right to Free Speech when it comes to publishing games/movies/whatever.

    Which is it? If they shouldn't have Free Speech Rights in one realm, they shouldn't have them in another.

    Contrariwise, if they SHOULD have Free Speech Rights in one realm, then it follows that they SHOULD have it in any other...

    Or are you kidding yourself that when we're talking about making video games we're not talking about corporations?

  • by Miseph (979059) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @12:55AM (#34098188) Journal

    "I suppose there could be another group who do think that morality and practicality are one and the same"

    Utilitarians and objectivists could both, to some extent, be viewed as holding that opinion. Neither is a small group.

  • by camg188 (932324) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @08:34AM (#34099594)
    You must not be a parent. It's a parent's responsibility to censor everything that they see fit to censor. In this situation, whether you, or me, or the government agrees or not, it's the parents who decide what is harmless.
  • Re:Parenting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @08:48AM (#34099680)

    Yes, that is the thing, governments should stay out of morality, its best for everyone.

    So, you are saying that murder should not be illegal? Theft? All laws are about morals, it is just a question of which morals are important enough to be enforced by law.

  • by Pezbian (1641885) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @09:10AM (#34099840)

    Or SCROTUM: Supreme Crusading Retards Of The Unintelligent Masses

  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:01AM (#34100284)

    "You must not be a parent."

    If you think indoctrination and censorship is good parenting, then you're not a very good parent.

    "It's a parent's responsibility to censor everything that they see fit to censor."

    No, their responsibility is to educate their child on how to stay out of physical harm and how to be a free thinker, not an indoctrinated drone.

    "it's the parents who decide what is harmless."

    No, facts decide what is harmless. The parents can't alter reality. What we don't need is pointless censorship and indoctrination.

  • Re:Parenting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jroysdon (201893) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:06AM (#34100338) Homepage

    The point of the first poster is that the phrase "Separation of Church and State" by Thomas Jefferson had nothing to do with keeping the church out of the state until 1947 when the Supreme Court re-interpreted the meaning of it. The phrase and concept previous to this meant that the state could not tell the church what to do or believe, nor that there was any established state denomination. The whole concept came about as the state in many causes would outlaw a specific denomination and only allow worship in a specific, state sanctioned, denomination.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_church_and_state_in_the_United_States#Jefferson.2C_Madison.2C_and_the_.22wall_of_separation.22 [wikipedia.org]

    To understand why this was so important you have to look back before the Constitution to the Colonies, most of which had an established state religion, and in some cases, the Dutch colony of New Netherland (New York) had even outlawed anything other than the Dutch Reformed Church and imprisoned people (Quakers).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_church_and_state_in_the_United_States#Colonial_support_for_separation [wikipedia.org]

    This is so clearly seen in the fact that there is a Chaplin for both the Senate and the Congress, even to this day.
    http://www.senate.gov/reference/office/chaplain.htm [senate.gov]
    http://chaplain.house.gov/ [house.gov]

    The Senate Chaplin page sums it up:
    "Throughout the years, the United States Senate has honored the historic separation of Church and State, but not the separation of God and State."

  • Re:Parenting (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @02:08PM (#34103566)

    WRONG WRONG WRONG. The "laws come from morals" argument is where we get so much of this crap from the conservatives. Laws are not based on morals, they are based around protecting an individual's rights from being infringed by another. It is not illegal to murder someone because murder immoral, it is illegal because killing someone takes away their right to live. Stealing is illegal because it takes away a person's right to be secure in their possetions. If we suddenly found that 99% of the citizens in the US were fundamentalist christians, it would still be wrong to pass a law requiring people to pray to God every day. It may be that majority believes daily prayer to be morally correct, but making someone pray does not prevent another citizen's rights being infringed.

    What is moral or immoral varies depending on the person, but the definition of where my rights end and yours begin should be a solid point that does not waiver. In this way, it is never a question of whose morals to enforce or which are "important enough to enforce".

My problem lies in reconciling my gross habits with my net income. -- Errol Flynn Any man who has $10,000 left when he dies is a failure. -- Errol Flynn

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