Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Well folks, it was going to happen sooner or later. In a case that has made every major (and minor) media outlet, the Supreme Court will hear the final appeal of the case Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California, v. Entertainment Merchants Association. No, that isn't the Governator's next movie, it's an actual court case that details whether or not it is legal to sell video games to minors.
A little background might be needed here. Way back in 2005, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill that makes selling "violent video games" to minors illegal, which went into effect in 2006. The language is actually fairly vague, as it doesn't automatically denote what "violent" is deemed to be. It doesn't specifically say for instance, M rated games can't be sold to kids under 17, which would be in line with the ESRB's recommendations. Instead, it uses the term "violent video games", leading many to argue the law itself would be problematic to enforce since the term is very open-ended. The bill has been winding its way through the courts ever since.
The showdown needs to be watched mainly because it has big implications for the future of gaming retail, and the bigger argument of whether or not video games can be regulated if they contain not only violent themes, but also themes in which organizations, individuals, or other groups may find offensive. Details about when first arguments will be held are scant, but this case comes to the court after an appeal by the state of California. Already, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with the EMA, stating the bill is unconstitutional and violates the first amendment.
I think the bill violates common sense. I've always felt it is the parents' responsibility first and foremost to manage what their kids get into and play. Nowadays, game companies do push out violent games like Grand Theft Auto, Modern Warfare, etc. They do it because first and foremost they sell, but also because they're more than just a "shoot-em up"; they're actually good games for the most part. What confounds me is the fact that most of the parents who complain about violent video games are the ones that usually buy them for their kids in the first place! The standard reaction is, "Oh, I didn't know this game was so violent!" Really? It says it right there on the box next to the label "M For Mature". I mean, even a title like Grand Theft Auto or Manhunt should give you a clue in the first place. And if you believe your kids are going behind your back and buying them themselves, then poke around! You're their parent, you have a right to know what's going on. If you suspect your child is doing something you don't like, then they don't get privacy until they're either mature enough to handle these games, or until they're 18 and moved away to college.
This isn't a government problem, it's a parenting problem. I hope the Supreme Court holds up the appeal and declares it unconstitutional. For too long, video games have been an easy target for people like Jack Thompson who want to depict them as the reason teens get sucked into violence. There are numerous reasons why kids grow into assholes, murderers, and drug users/pushers. One of the big reasons is family life, with the other being genes and environment. Genes are difficult to deal with, and depending on your economic stance, so is environment. However, I believe there is NO excuse for poor parenting. You don't want your kid playing a violent game, do something about it YOURSELF, rather then let some government bureaucracy do it for you. Don't let it fall on the employees at Gamestop - step up and get educated about what your kids are into.
Step up and shut up.