Media Coalition takes on the Governor Schwarzenegger for violent video game legislation

The video game industry takes consistent hits on its violent and sexually explicit releases, primarily in California. Governor Schwarzenegger appealed a decision that blocked legislation from 2005 that restricted sales of mature video games to minors.  This week, Media Coalition filed amicus curiae (friend of the court) in order to be a part of case and oppose the legislation.

Media Coalition consists of video game groups as well as the Association for American Booksellers, The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America (yes, they do good things once in a while), The Entertainment Consumers Association and others.  According to the group, they are an “association that defends the First Amendment right to produce and sell books, movies, magazines, recordings, DVDs, video tapes and video games”, and the publics’ rights to access them.

The group claims that the legislation to prohibit the sales of mature video games is unconstitutional.  If the Governor’s appeal succeeds, it will give shape to the First Amendment by allowing certain forms of censorship, whether it’s for the better or worse.

The law also states that mature rated games that are sold or imported in California should be labeled as such largely on the cover.  The Coalition claims that this is “compelled speech” and as a requirement, it is too general.

Violence in video games has been a tireless issue, with constant criticisms over Grand Theft Auto, and other violent or sexually explicit games.  School shootings and violence amongst the youth has been blamed on video games.  A consistent theme in these cases seems to be proper labeling so parents know what they are purchasing for their children.

The problem: are First Amendment rights being snuffed by this video game legislation? The sales of mature video games are not being completely prohibited. They can still be sold but not to minors. 

The other question that must also be posed is it up to the states to decide what video games children should play.  Critics, such as Jack Thompson, say yes, even though the courts aren't exactly on his side.  But since there has been no clear evidence showing that video games have a deep impact on children’s behavior, the idea that carving the First Amendment to how the states see fit is asinine. So it really comes down to whether states should have the ability to do this.

It’s an ironic situation; the man whose acting career was built on violence and mature content is now fighting against just that.  Either way, it looks like with Media Coalitions involvement in the case, the Terminator is going to have to put up a good fight.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein
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