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Video Game Design the New Frontier for Free Speech?

Tuesday November second is the day the Supreme Court has agreed to hear Schwarzenegger v. EMA. While those of us who participate in the sacred right of our democratic republic will be exercising our right to vote, the state of California and possibly the Supreme Court will be trying to suppress the rights endowed by the 1st amendment. The state of California is arguing that it has the right to censor video games that “lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.”

As interesting as it is for the star of such literary, artistic, and political classics as Predator and Terminator to consider himself qualified to run the state of California, it is even more laughable that he consider himself qualified to be not only a political expert but also a literary, artistic and scientific expert. Many artistic people express themselves through video game design and it is difficult to see the art of Game Programming lumped in with alcohol and tobacco, rather than literature and film simply because it is misunderstood. There are many shows, movies and books that have less artistic, political and scientific value than video games. I would never pretend to be qualified to make the decision on what is fit for print or film. The level of pretension required for such an assertion is astounding. It seems self-evident that violent video games should have as much constitutional protection as other forms of media. The only coherent argument offered by the Senator who created the brief is that since the government can “prohibit the sale of alcohol, tobacco, firearms driver’s licenses and pornography to minors,” then the same reasoning applies to his law restricting video games. I struggle to see the connection between machinations that kill (guns and cars) and addictive drugs (alcohol and tobacco) and video games. It is surprising that the Supreme Court has agreed to here this case after the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the law as unconstitutional. As a youngster I had my sources of information vetted by my parents not Arnold Schwarzenegger. As a parent I will have the ultimate say for the material my children are exposed to as minors regardless of determinations that are made by the State. Film Noir and the complicated morality of films that came after are credited with increasing moral intelligence. Video games, even and perhaps especially violent games have the power to do the same. There is no reliable evidence that violent games increase the propensity for violence. In fact studies have shown that they may even be a therapeutic form of venting feelings of anger, stress and hostility for both teens and adults. Additionally they offer an environment where the construction of the world and the characters are altered by the emotional reaction of the player. Conversely, there have been a wide variety of studies that show an increase in violence during period of high unemployment (which has no value as a reliever of stress or anger). Maybe California should attempt to address these issues before compounding the issue by putting California based firms which conduct Game Testing and programming under additional financial stress. I can virtually guarantee (no pun intended) that not only will censorship have no positive effect; it will create doubt within the industry and lead to reluctance to fund games that would otherwise be money-makers. I am happy that the name of the brief with the potential to trample on the First Amendment bears an appropriate and poetically Ironic name that will serve as the punch line for generations for writers, comedians, directorsArticle Search, and (hopefully) game programmers.

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Gina Kraft wrote the article for Game Shastra. Gina is a supporter of Game Shastra specially, their game design, game programming, and game development areas. Gina Kraft wrote the article for Game Shastra. Gina is a supporter of Game Shastra specially, their game programming,game design, and video game testing.

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