Video game hysteria: the sequel

"Over the past several years, politicians have tried to target video games for violence and possible sexual content. However, they have often failed, with the courts deeming it unconstitutional to regulate video games, which are a form of free speech. So, those who play video games mostly dismiss these possible threats. Yet, California has built a case against video games and the Supreme Court recently decided to hear it.

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"There is a lot at stake in this trial. It goes beyond just video game regulation. The outcome of this trial will not only impact the potential for video games, but it has the potential to impact books, movies, television and many others too.

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"In the past, those who have tried to regulate video games have been defeated by the "Miller Test," a three-pronged obscenity analysis. If they don’t pass the test, they are considered "obscene" and can be regulated by the state. In order to fail the Miller Test, a work must be found to appeal to the "prurient interest"(an unhealthy interest in sex), depict or describe sexual conduct in an offensive way, and have no literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

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"Video games pass the test with flying colors. Though some maybe have prurient interest and sexual content (often those rated Adults Only, AO, and are not sold in retail stores.), to say that games lack any literary, artistic, political or scientific value would be incorrect. Video games are more than just entertainment; they have become a new medium for human expression, creativity and story-telling. This is all because of the concept of interactivity: interacting with environments and characters and playing a role in the story. Games have become their own art form. Some good examples of this are "Bioshock," "Shadow of the Colossus," "Okami," and "Silent Hill 2."

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"However, California has put together something else for this trial: the idea that video games are doing harm to children. Studies on the matter are strong enough for the Supreme Court to hear the cases and it’s hard to disprove. But the minors do have the right to choose the games they want to play and we all know they will play them no matter what. This argument against games implies that anyone under 18 years old isn’t smart enough to make a decision on preference.

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"If California wins the case the effect could be devastating. The regulation of games does not just mean that games are restricted to the sale of minors. It could also mean that video games will not be protected by the First Amendment and the sale of video games could be controlled by the states. Eventually governments might ban violent games no matter what artistic value it may have.

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"It’s a slippery slope from one medium to another. Games can be just as violent as movies, television and books. If a state government can regulate video games, what would be stopping them from doing the same thing to other artistic media?

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"However, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the Entertainment Merchants Associations (EMA) and the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) are all working against California in this trial. Their defense is that video games are protected under the First Amendment. Not only is there free speech in creating them, but also in buying them. Lower courts have said as much in the past by dismissing the cases against video games and holding that video game regulation would be considered unconstitutional. And the ESA believes that the Supreme Court will do the same.

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"The Supreme Court trial begins in October and the ESA has some pretty powerful allies in this case, just one of them being the online community. If you want for your voice to be heard, then join the fight and show your support. Then hopefully, we can prevent the harsh regulation and let games flourish as an art form.