Video games and cable news networks seem to go together about as well as orange juice and toothpaste. For some reason, both liberal and conservative media outlets have turned their eyes to video games as a modern boogeyman responsible for virtually every instance of juvenile crime in the past two decades. While the arguments surrounding violent content in games have perhaps held some water in the past, it is quickly becoming apparent that the old argument that “video games cause school shootings” is no longer valid. In the early ‘90s, politicians spoke out against the violent content in games such as “Mortal Kombat,” whose infamous “Fatality” mechanic garnered a lot of notoriety at the time. As a result, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) was formed, which developed a rating system similar to that of the MPAA that is still in use today.
Games came under attack again in 1999, when they were blamed as being one of the sources behind the Columbine High School massacre. Following the tragedy at Columbine, games were the perfect punching bag for the news media and parental watchdog groups, with dozens of sources claiming (often inaccurately) that the “Grand Theft Auto” games have been nothing but “murder simulators” for unstable teenage hooligans to plan attacks. Many of these groups have tried to enact laws designed to restrict the sale of violent games that bypass the ESRB rating system and have failed miserably.
For years, these laws had been thrown out, each time deemed unconstitutional. The laws themselves were incredibly ambiguous, and thus not at all enforceable. Yet in an unexpected move, the Supreme Court decided last fall to hear the case of a California law which proposed a different argument than the previous ones: instead of arguing that video games were obscene, they proposed that video games did harm to minors, and should thus not be considered protected under the First Amendment. The law had a very ambiguous definition of violence that, were the law to pass, would have a major effect on other forms of media.
Fortunately, on June 28th, the Supreme Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional, and that games were protected under freedom of speech just as film, music and literature.
The likes of Fox News and other outlets were less than impressed. They accused the Supreme Court of pandering to corporations in order to drive children crazy. Nevertheless, any argument that the “fair and balanced” network wants to take against the violence in video games has been more or less shot down in advance.
The idiots at Fox News are incredibly persistent. They have been scraping for any thing they can criticize about games for years. Most recently, they claimed that the Facebook game “The Sims Social” had a liberal agenda due to its gameplay mechanic that fines players for not adopting an ecological policy. Perhaps members of the game industry should take this as a sort of compliment from Fox News, as it shows that even they are finding it hard to deny that it is art.
Regardless of the news media’s opinion about video games, it is clear that games are starting to garner a new level of respect from the public as a whole.