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The Courts United States Games Your Rights Online

Video Game Free Speech Ruling Aftermath 258

On Monday we discussed the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that a California law banning the sale or rental of violent video games to minors was in violation of the First Amendment's free speech protection. By now, both sides of the debate have had a chance to respond to the Court's ruling. Congressman Joe Baca and CA State Senator Leland Yee pledged to continue the fight for stricter controls on the distribution of violent games, while others cried, "think of the children." Game industry groups were unsurprisingly pleased with the decision, but warned that this won't be the end of it, and asked lawmakers to stop wasting time with such legislation in the future. An article at the NY Times points out how the ruling highlights the lack of clear evidence supporting either side of the debate, and Time notes the Supreme Court's double standard, asking, "Why does the court treat violent images and sexual images so differently?" Finally, an editorial at Gamasutra reminds us that even though most game developers are breathing a sigh of relief, many would like to see the industry shift toward something more creative and meaningful than violence.
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Video Game Free Speech Ruling Aftermath

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  • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @06:46AM (#36609008) Homepage

    The thing newspapers keep missing is that there is already a voluntary rating system out there, which all game retailers adhere to. Console makers have already banned Adults Only games from their consoles, and violent M games are kept away from kids by retailers already. By most tests, the system is more effective than the Movie rating system at keeping kids away from M (R) rated content.

    So really, the court didn't rule that you can't have a ban. The court ruled that to overcome the first amendment challenge, California had to prove significant interest in a government-enforced ban above and beyond the already in-place industry ban. Since the California law was only going to add legal confusion to an already working voluntary system, the supremes ruled against them.

  • Double Standard? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @07:01AM (#36609076) Journal

    "Why does the court treat violent images and sexual images so differently?"

    To call it the 'court's' double standard seems rather unfair. The justices specifically noted that it was rather odd how American tastes in media, past and present, were highly permissive of violence, even for fairly young children; but much less permissive of sexual material. However, in keeping with their job description, they couldn't really do much about that. 'Miller-test obscenity', while pretty unsatisfactory in a number of respects, is one of the few ways to successfully exempt something from First Amendment protections. For reasons having to do with American culture in the past, continuing into the present, that one doesn't mention violence.

    Perhaps more importantly, the court argued that the law was attempting to enforce an (unconstitutional) double standard by imposing special restrictions on violent media that happened to be video games, restrictions that were not imposed on violence in other media: had the law flipped out at violence per se, as people often do about sexual content, regardless of medium(except for stuff old enough to have a gloss of cultural respectability, which is why 120 Days of Sodom is on the shelves and Playboy behind the counter, wrapped in plastic...), it would have at least had a shot at getting some Miller-esque test carved out for it. Since it specifically targeted video games, it was quite arguably an attempt to legally silence one specific class of speakers, rather than a specific perfidious topic(which might not have necessarily succeeded; but would have had a better chance...)

    The court, for the most part, was just repeating back to us an observation on our own standards.

  • Re:Wasting time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @07:10AM (#36609110)

    Ah, BTW, in regards to

    "Why does the court treat violent images and sexual images so differently?"

    a possible answer is: violence tends to lower the demographic pressure, sex to increase it. With limited Earth resources, this is still "think of the children" but on a longer run.

    Clearly you've never read the bible. Endless killing of people of other religions is "OK" even encouraged by God. On the other hand, extreme societal control of what goes on in "private" bedrooms is mandatory.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @07:15AM (#36609140) Journal
    Aside from the question of how effective the law (almost certainly wouldn't) have been in terms of changing minors' access to the games it applied to(see the complete absence of minors with access to cigarettes, under-21s with access to booze, and people generally with access to schedule 1 drugs...) there seem to be two 'schools' of result, depending on how researchers approach the question:

    In individual-scale studies, people often demonstrate that subjects primed with violent video games are somewhat more likely to act-out violent behaviors, answer ambiguous prompts with the more, rather than less, violent possibility, etc.

    In population-scale statistical work, of the 'epidemiological' style, the results usually seem to be that video games, presumably by providing an extremely easy and attractive(and generally quite cheap, too) timesink for the idle and troublesome youngish males who handle most of society's grunt-level violence, appear to reduce the levels of violence sufficiently intense to show up in crime statistics.
  • Re:Wasting time (Score:1, Insightful)

    by mcvos ( 645701 ) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @07:48AM (#36609300)

    Clearly you've never read the bible. Endless killing of people of other religions is "OK" even encouraged by God. On the other hand, extreme societal control of what goes on in "private" bedrooms is mandatory.

    Considering you've been modded Insightful instead of Funny, I feel the need to point that this is not actually in the bible.

  • Re:Wasting time (Score:1, Insightful)

    by mcvos ( 645701 ) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @07:55AM (#36609350)

    You haven't read the New Testament, have you? Nothing in the Old Testament is mandatory anymore.

    But even in the OT, there was no such thing as extreme societal control.

  • Unconstitutional (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bengie ( 1121981 ) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @07:57AM (#36609360)

    If something is found unconstitutional and people keep attempting to push the exact same laws over and over, they should be personally fined for the amount of the cost to the system if again found unconstitutional.

  • Re:Wasting time (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @08:32AM (#36609598)

    Pick and choose... pick and choose. Toss away what you don't agree with, keep what you do.

    Either follow it ALL, or don't follow it. Poser.

  • Re:Wasting time (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @08:46AM (#36609700)

    You haven't debated with a fundamentalist, have you? Which parts of either Testament are valid is entirely up to whoever you are talking to, and dependent on what point they are attempting to make.

  • by Ash Vince ( 602485 ) * on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @09:04AM (#36609886) Journal

    I would actually have liked to see certain computer games restricted to adult sale only. The average gamer is apparently now 37 years old so why should companies not be able to produce games that are aimed exclusively at adults? If a parent wants to show let their kid play Doom or whatever then let them but force the parent to make the choice by purchasing it for them.

    By allowing certain games to be restricted to adults we may get more games that were produced exclusively for adults. Some of them might be quite good. Currently if a game goes too far in this direction then it risks the distributor refusing to distribute it for fear of the moaning minnies demonstrating outside their shops or whatever.

    Here in the UK we have a ratings system for both movies and video games. This results in many films and games being rated as unfit for children and not for sale to them. They are still available in shops on the high street and supermarkets, its just that the retailer has to look at the person buying it and make a judgement about their age. If they are unsure they ask for ID and refuse sale if they don't see any. Many countries use a similar system for alcohol, guns and many other things.

    While this is by no means perfect it does have advantages. The main one is that if something unwholesome is sold to a minor, then the producer's hands are clean. They just point to the retailer who is clearly in the wrong since all adult only material has to be labelled with the appropriate age in big letters on the cover / box / whatever.

    I can't help but feel that the current system helps the fundamentalists who feel that this content should be unavailable to everyone since they can use the think of the children excuse directly against the producers of content. If a decent, legally enforceable age restriction system was in place then they would have to concentrate on people letting minors access the material rather than using the same argument to try and attack everyone having access to it. They would certainly find other avenues to attack the people producing stuff they disliked, but by allowing the producers to say clearly that kids should not have access to this as well then it would make it harder to ban it outright.

  • by chemicaldave ( 1776600 ) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @09:24AM (#36610078)

    On the other side of the coin does the same hold true for people petitioning the courts to overturn laws they view as unconstitutional? Should we have started giving fines to women's suffrage activists? Civil rights activists?

    Fines are not the answer. The correct answer is to just not re-elect those people.

  • Re:Wasting time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by westcoast philly ( 991705 ) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @10:08AM (#36610482)

    The Bible isn't just a single body of work, it's a collection of stories and anecdotes spread out across thousands of years, before being written down by many diferent people, supposedly detailing God's word, etc. and then translated by an english king, in order to slip in his own desired revisions.

    There. Fixed that for you.

    Context can only twist the meaning so much. When the bible says that we should stone a woman to death because she was raped, I think the message is pretty clear. How does the context change that? Two men or women in love with each other, are also to be stoned to death? Not the caring, compassionate God that I personally want to blindly obey without questioning. In fact, that's the reason that fundamentalists of ANY religion scare the shit out of me. Love your fellow man, sure, just don't read the bible verbosely.

    That being said, the church has absolutely NO place in politics, and never should. Ban the games or not, religion should have no bearing on the decision.

  • Re:Wasting time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shadowfaxcrx ( 1736978 ) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @10:36AM (#36610826)

    No. That still counts. And gays are still evil and must be persecuted. But it's OK to shave (contrary to Leviticus 19.27). And to wear blended fabrics.

    See, Jesus really said that only the parts of the bible that are convenient to our goals of oppressing people who are not like us are valid. I know that's not actually in the bible, but it's true. Honest. The rest of the bible can be disposed of, which is good because bacon tastes good.

  • Re:Wasting time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @10:52AM (#36611034) Journal

    Oh please! While you will ALWAYS have a few racist asshats I bet you'll find the majority are just like me and don't give a damn what color he is, we care that he is a lying asshole and a shitty president! Just about every. single. promise. he made on the trail he pulled a 180 on when he walked through the door. get us out of the two wars? nope in fact he started a third! get us out of Gitmo? nope. Warrantless wiretapping? All for it now. The Bush era abuse of authority? Now he says that the office of the president has the right to assassinate Americans on American soil [] and that this "right" can't even be revoked by congress! hell even Nixon didn't have the balls to pull that shit!

    As for TFA it reminds me of a saying I heard years ago (I think it was old Joe Bob Briggs) that went "In America you can't show a tit unless it has a knife in it". For some reason we here in the states have never had a problem with mass slaughter but heaven forbid little Billy knows where his penis goes. Personally I wasn't hung up about any subject when it came to my boys but that was because I actually talked to them and encouraged them to ask questions. Both boys played violent video games if they wanted but after showing how games were actually constructed I wasn't worried about them mistaking reality for GTA. Of course this had the humorous side effect of my oldest having strange "cursing" when playing, such as "You call this level design? I've seen mods with better layouts! And who wrote the AI scripts? Barney? This is awful!"

    Sadly picking up my boys from their friends houses on occasion I saw why America is fucked. I saw homes where not a single book resided and where the kids were NEVER read to (while others read kid stories or worse nothing at all my boys got "best Sci Fi of 1975" just like I got when I was a kid) and where the ONLY interaction they got was a few words before the parents went to their idiot box and the kid sat down in front of his. But no matter how many stupid laws you pass (and I agree with SCOTUS you can't have movie access be voluntary and games not, that is discrimination based on format) you ultimately can't have the government raise the kids. Sooner or later the people in the home, that is the PARENTS actually have to get off their collective asses and interact with the child.

    Maybe that whole "have to have a license to have a kid" thing isn't such a bad idea. What I saw from watching my boys grow up is there are a hell of a lot of folks out there that are simply letting the boxes raise their kids and don't know shit about their kids, what they are doing, what they are playing/watching, etc. Be it the decline of the west, the fact that so many are single parent households now, that everyone is too tired from working shitty jobs, whatever, there just seems to be a lot of folks out there expecting the government to do their job because they refuse to. But you can't babyproof the planet and you can't send social workers to teach little Billy in his home what is what because the parents are too busy watching their reality TV.

IN MY OPINION anyone interested in improving himself should not rule out becoming pure energy. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.