Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Musing - Going to Court

So it looks like the case in California is officially going to the Supreme Court on November 2nd.

You might remember my rambling about this issue back in April. While it was initially rejected, it has returned to the court and will be reviewed. In essence, the law would fine retailers that sold M rated video games to minors. The law was refuted by the ESA as a violation of the First Amendment as it singled out specific titles and curbed freedom of creativity. A local court, in California, sided with the ESA and the California legislature has been attempting to overturn the ruling. Now, it's the Supreme Court's turn and the ECA (Entertainment Consumers Association) has stepped in. They will be submitting a brief on behalf of consumers and a petition under belief that the law is vaguely worded and a threat to free speech within the gaming industry.

If you have read my post, you should already know that I don't agree with the law. Why? Because the ESRB and retailers that sell video games already have rules in place to help prevent the sales of M rated games to minors. I also don't agree with the law singling out video games. Somehow the state of California doesn't believe that movies, television, music, etc are not as violent as video games. It singles out this particular form of entertainment. Sounds like discrimination to me!

We could go into the irony of the governor of California Mr. Schwarzenegger being an action star that promoted violence in movies now wants them removed from games (where his likeness has been used before), but that's not the point of this discussion.

Is this law constitutional? What will be the implications if this law were to be applied to other states, should the Supreme Court support it?

The issue at hand is the future of M rated games. Depending upon how the law is interpreted, some retailers may refuse to sell M rated games due to the harsh penalties. Which in turn will cause developers to remove themselves from mature content, causing those products to be "blacklisted" and killing another faction of creativity in the market. It sounds extreme, but its happened before under the Motion Picture Production Code, aka the Hays Code. It was a censorship guideline that limited an immense amount of what could be viewed by the public. If you have seen any movie or television show where a married couple had to have two separate beds, women and men being fully dressed and you were lucky to get a couple to kiss, it's because of the Hays Code. Because of this, many films were trashed, destroyed, and were prevented from being made. All of that creativity lost. It can happen again.

It is my hope that the Supreme Court will uphold the ruling of the lower courts to keep this law out of the system. It discriminates against a particular group without probably cause under a vague language with a ridiculous penalty to retailers.

I feel that the ESRB and retailers are doing a fine job at keeping M rated games out of minor's hands. The ESRB created their ratings system to help legal guardians make decisions on what content is appropriate for their children. Retailers that are exclusive to selling video games card everyone purchasing an M rated game. Everyone. Including those who are over the age of 50. I know for a fact that GameStop makes it a rule in their stores to card every individual, including fellow employees, purchasing an M rated game. They also have the right to refuse sale of an M rated game if they find that an adult or a relative is going to give that game to someone under the age of 17. There are several retailers, including big chains such as Wal-Mart, Target, BestBuy, etc., whom follow the same practices. Retailers are able to police themselves. It's up to the legal guardians, relatives, parents of the children to decide if the item is appropriate. Stop blaming everyone and everything else for not being a parent. Do your job, stop allowing the world to teach your child, and be responsible. Once you brought that child into your life, you have to start being an adult. I'm not saying limit your child from everything, but set boundaries. An 8 year old does not need to be playing M rated materials. Not even T rated games. Be a parent. Research. Learn. Putting your job into the government's hands is going to make the world a shittier place to live in.

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