If you’re not following game politics, or just politics in general, you might not know that there’s something really important related to video games going on in California right now.
There’s more information about the case right after the cut.
The California Supreme Court is currently debating whether or not video games should be protected under the First Amendment in the American constitution. They are also debating if California’s ban on the sale or rental of violent games to minors satisfy the scrutiny test applicable to content-based restrictions on speech.
Basically it’s a battle of the games industry versus The Governator himself, as he made it law to restrict the sale and rent of violent games to minors. The industry claimed this violated the First Amendment free speech protections and has gotten two tiers of courts on its side. Once again those crying “won’t someone PLEASE, think of the children?” are crying it the loudest and won’t let up.
In the oral arguments being presented in the California Supreme Court today, the justices seemed to be on the side of the games industry.
The main argument for the side of the ban (represented by California deputy attorney general Zackery Morazzini) seemed to be that minors needed to be protected from the “deviant level of violence that is presented in a certain of [sic] category of video games.”
Among the counter arguments proposed by the Supreme Court Justices was if violent fairy tales, drinking or smoking should be banned in the name of “protecting minors”. There was also a question of what constitutes “a minor”.
Attorney Paul Smith represented the games industry, and attempted to appeal to the scientific side of the Justices, noting that research on the effects of violent games on minors were, at best, divided.
The Justices brought up that there was still a ban on sexual content, so why should extremely violent content be any different? A suggestion was posed that violent games could be legally required to be on a store’s top shelf, physically kept away from minors like, say, cigarettes.
Whatever decision the Court comes to won’t be known until June 2011, but if that decision isn’t in favor of the games industry it means that games are the only type of media content in the US that is illegal to sell to children based on the severity of violent content. This would not only affirm (to the public at least) that games have distinct effects on a young audience, and that speech in games isn’t merrited the same protection as other media.
This will, in turn, affect what amount of content developers are willing to include in their game. “Playing it safe” with violent content could be an issue.