UPDATE: You can read the full transcript of the case here.
Today marks an important day for the gaming industry. Just under an hour ago, the case of
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California, et al., Petitioners v. Entertainment Merchants Association began in the United States Supreme Court. I realize that many of you aren't super concerned about the daily goings-on of the Supreme Court, but in this case, you should know what's at stake. In a lot of ways, video games are being put on trial.
Basically the Supreme Court is hearing arguments as to whether a California law is unconstitutional. The law states that retailers can be fined by the government for selling violent video games to minors. Thus far, the law has been blocked by the lower courts, but the Supreme Court has the power to overrule those decisions if it determines that the law is constitutional.
But you're not a minor. Or you are a minor, but you have no problem getting friends or your parents to buy you violent games. Why should you care? After all, most video game retailers are already pretty strict about not allowing video games to be sold to minors.
Why you should care is because of the precedent that would be set should this law be passed. It's a question of the freedom of speech, which currently protects movies, music, TV shows and video games from government censorship (so long as the content is not determined obscene). The argument that the state of California is trying to make is that video games are different than those other forms of media and that they have the ability to do irreparable harm to children. Put another way, they're trying to say that video games had some direct responsibility in school tragedies like Columbine because the perpetrators played titles like "DOOM." Therefore the government should be allowed to limit what children are exposed to.
Why the double standard for video games and not other forms of media? Good question. Legislators argue that it's all about interactivity. The fact that kids are active using guns in games makes the experience more damaging than, say, watching "Die Hard." But you probably played a violent video game or two as a kid. You likely have plenty of friends who have played violent video games, too. How many of them have gone bonkers and shot up a school? What they're talking about is making freedom of speech limitations based on inconclusive science which states that violent video games are damaging.
You can start to see where a simple "Don't sell violent games to kids" law can start to spiral out of control when you consider where such legislature might lead.
The case is being heard today, but we likely won't hear the final decision for a few months. Unfortunately that means we're somewhat powerless to change the outcome, but it's still important that you know what's at stake.