Ars Technica’s Ben Kuchera has a piece looking at why the Supreme Court hearing on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s anti-video game law is important. According to Entertainment Software Association President and CEO Mike Gallagher, the decision concerns nothing less than “the future of media in the 21st century.”
Over 182 briefs have been filed in opposition to the law by a cross-section of media groups and organizations, including the American Booksellers Foundation. Kuchera writes:
California’s law, which makes the sale of certain violent games to children illegal, is based on the assumption that the gaming industry cannot effectively regulate itself, and that the government needs to have control over what is sold and who can buy it. Should the Supreme Court agree with that assessment, every other form of media would become open to government control.
If it becomes illegal to sell violent video games to kids, how long before there are laws regulating the sale of movies, comics…or e-books? Granted, this is kind of a slippery-slope argument, but on the other hand what makes video games so different from other media that they alone require this kind of regulation?
Gallagher compares video games to other media that have had similar scares, such as books, movies, media, and comic books. He sees a repeated pattern of adults failing to understand the attraction of youth to these newer forms of media.
Elsewhere, comic book auteur Stan Lee has written a pitch for the Video Game Voters Network lobbying group. He discusses the comic book scare of the 1950s, warning:
The more things change, as they say, the more they stay the same. Substitute video games for comic books and you’ve got a 21st century replay of the craziness of the 1950s. States have passed laws restricting the sale of video games and later this year, the Supreme Court will hear a case about one of those laws, this one passed in California. Why does this matter? Because if you restrict sales of video games, you’re chipping away at our First Amendment rights to free speech and opening the door to restrictions on books and movies.
The video game industry already has a voluntary rating system, similar to that for movies, which has garnered praise from the FCC as “one of the most robust voluntary rating systems available.” Most retail stores already refuse to sell or rent mature-rated games to teens (and in fact many retailers won’t stock “Adults Only” games at all). And as Kuchera points out, the last 8 years have brought 12 similar anti-video-game laws, every one of which has been struck down by the courts as unconstitutional.
Hopefully the Supreme Court will throw out this law, setting another solid precedent in favor of First Amendment rights.