Activision Says Blocking Violent Video Games from Minors Goes Against Free Speech [Update]

Sep 21, 2010
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Violent video games aren't new. And the fight against them has been robust, igniting every so often as a new game is released and gets brought to the forefront of media as an exceptionally violent or explicit title. Arguments vary, but the main gist is that video games shouldn't be considered art, and ultimately there should be a way to ban the most heinous titles from getting into the hands of those who shouldn't have them. In this case, a California law that blocks the sale of violent video games from minors is being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on November 2nd, and the video game industry is beginning to join forces to fight it, including Activision Blizzard.

In the year 2005, California passed the aforementioned law, which banned the sale of "violent and inappropriate" video games to minors. Back then, the video game industry stepped in yet again, challenging the law, saying that it violated the First Amendment. The bill was subsequently blocked by a U.S. District Court in the same year, and then again by the U.S. Appeals Court in 2009. But now the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, and it will take place on November 2nd, 2010. Because of this, Activision Blizzard has moved forward and filed a "friend-of-the-court" brief, which shows Activision Blizzard is on the side of the video games industry. The industry, as a whole, is also being supported by 10 State Attorneys General, according to Activision.

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick had this to say about the situation: "Our First Amendment has survived intact for 219 years amid far greater technological, historical and social challenges. The argument that video games present some kind of new ominous threat that requires a wholesale reassessment of one of our nation's most treasured freedoms, and to take that freedom away indiscriminately from an entire group of our population based on nothing but age, is beyond absurd." This was part of an official statement Kotick made. Kotick's company is about to release a Mature-rated title, Call of Duty: Black Ops, which will probably break records in sales when it releases later this year.

The argument isn't new, but the combatants tend to be. Even if familiar faces show up, the fight has been fought before. And, as Kotick pointed out, it's the same fight that's been brought against other media outlets, like TV, music, books, and comic books. In the end, freedom always prevails, and that should make the video game industry confident in their motions, as well as the outcome.

A rating system is in place for video games, and has been for several years. Ranging in stages, you can find titles for "Early Childhood," all the way up to "Adults Only." This rating system is implemented to help parents understand the content of the game, so that they can make an informed decision about whether or not they should allow their child to purchase the title. Furthermore, many retailers around the country already enforce the rating system, and will not sell Mature titles to kids under a certain age.

This is a war that's probably never going to stop. Even if it quiets down over time, there will always be another video game that gets released that will make parents and organizations out there raise their eyebrows, and start raising their voices about how video games are pointless and empty. However, there are enough voices in both camps, struggling to get their point across, that the end result is probably too far into the fog of war to ever really discern. Then again, November 2nd could forever put an end to the argument, and that's the ultimate goal.

[Update]: Stan Lee has chimed in, saying that everyone needs to stand up for the first amendment, and video games in general. He wants people to join the Video Game voters Network to help the cause. Here's his full statement:

"I’m writing to urge gamers everywhere to take a stand and defend both the First Amendment and the rights of computer and video game artists by joining the Video Game Voters Network (VGVN). My memory has always been lousy and it’s not improving with age. But it’s good enough to remember a time when the government was trying to do to comic books what some politicians now want to do with video games: censor them and prohibit their sales. It was a bad idea half a century ago and it’s just as bad an idea now. And you can do something about it."

[via CNET; update via RockPaperShotgun]


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