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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Video games 1-up California Legislature

    On June 27, the Supreme Court ruled that video games are protected by free speech. After a long legal battle, the court ruled against California, in favor of the Entertainment Merchants Association by a 7-2 majority.

    The Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association case began in 2005, when California state Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco introduced a law that would criminalize the sale of extremely violent video games to children. This would be unnecessary since the Entertainment Software Rating Board already determines which games are appropriate for children. Games with a Mature rating can only be purchased by 17-year-olds, so the law is almost redundant.

    To video game publishers, developers and gamers, a video game is another art form that should have the same rights as a book or movie, so such a law violated the constitutional rights of video game developers. But California lawmakers disagreed, citing the research of Craig Anderson and a handful of other research psychologists.

    Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion, and explained these studies were not considered compelling evidence because “”(n)early all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology.”” The law’s definition of what constitutes a violent video game was also too vague, which some of the justices took issue with.

    Regardless, the court found California in the wrong and officially made it illegal to infringe on free speech in video games. Of course, there are people like Yee who feel that the gratuitous violence in some games is disgusting or wrong. However, as Scalia also wrote, “”Disgust is not a valid basis for restricting expression.”” The justice used Dante Alighieri’s “”Divine Comedy”” as an example of violence in literature, comparing it to the violence in the “”Mortal Kombat”” series. The violence in either case is not necessarily proper, but the Constitution doesn’t discriminate.

    This is clearly a victory for the video game community, and not just because games are now protected speech. This also brings video games one step closer to being considered a legitimate art form on the same level as literature and film. Some people may find this classification surprising, but gamers are more surprised that this was ever a question.

    Some video games have just as much detail in their stories as some books, with actual themes hidden behind the entertainment they provide. Games like “”BioShock”” deal with the same objectivism found in Ayn Rand’s work. Even gamers themselves might not have noticed this, because we’re not used to thinking of video games in this way, but articles like “”Objectivism in BioShock,”” from

    www.kotaku.com, give inarguable proof that games do have deeper meanings.

    Now that developers have constitutional free reign with their games, the doors might be open for more games with prominent, deep ideas. The interactivity of games makes them much more accessible too. Of course, the same goes for the possibility of extreme violence, but hey, they have that right now. Whether developers decide to use this newfound freedom to enrich their games with deeper stories or gratuitous violence, it’s their call. Either way, it will be exciting to see what may come of it.

    Jason Krell is junior studying creative writing and Italian. He can be reached at arts@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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