Censorship News: The Video Game Issue

NCAC devotes the latest issue of Censorship News to video games and the latest in a series of efforts to “protect” minors by restricting their freedom of speech.

We discuss the video game case heard in the Supreme Court on November 2,  Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association. The Court will decide whether the state can impose criminal penalties for selling or renting violent video games to minors. It may seem inconsequential to non-gamers, but it poses a critically important issue even for people who will never play a video game: whether representations of violence will continue to be protected by the First Amendment.

Here’s an excerpt from The Video Game Issue: The Case:

Legally, the dispute comes down to two narrow questions: can the government restrict the sale of otherwise legal expression to minors and, if so, under what circumstances? California argues that violent video games should be treated like obscenity – by definition explicit sexual content that lacks social value – which is not protected by the First Amendment for either adults or minors. Whatever one’s views on the relative merits of sexual and violent content, obscenity is a historical and narrowly drawn exception to the general rule that speech is protected. Creating a new exception for a completely different type of content will open a Pandora’s Box.

We also give a brief rundown of The Other Cases,” lower federal court opinions that unanimously hold that laws restricting minors’ access to violent content are unconstitutional, followed Praise for Violent Video Games, comments from those who take issue with the criticism heaped on violent video games.

In The Ratings Game,” executive Director Joan Bertin warns about the many problems with ratings. She argues that “ratings … invite censorship,” citing the California video game case as an example. She says, “Once something is rated as adult fare, as most violent video games are, many legislators develop an apparently irresistible urge to criminalize its sale to minors.” Read Alexander Nehamas’ observation that the debate over video games “actually predates the pixel by more than two millennia. In fact, an earlier version of the dispute may be found in The Republic, in which Plato shockingly excludes Homer and the great tragic dramatists from the ideal society he describes in that work.”

Finally, check out Revisiting the Culture Wars and Looking Ahead,” a series of conversations about arts and culture today, and read our roundup of some of the top censorship stories in The Long and the Short of It.

You can also download a pdf of this newsletter.

Want More? Browse the Censorship News archives.



About Blog of the National Coalition Against Censorship

Blogging Censorship is where National Coalition Against Censorship staff weigh in on the censorship issues on their minds.
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