In the wake of this week’s announcement by the United States Supreme Court that it will review the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeal decision invalidating California’s violent video game censorship law, video game trade organizations have issued statements supporting the lower court’s ruling.
The Entertainment Software Association, which represents major game publishers and which was one of the plaintiffs in the original suit, issued the following statement:
Courts throughout the country have ruled consistently that content-based regulation of computer and video games is unconstitutional. Research shows that the public agrees, video games should be provided the same protections as books, movies and music.
As the Court recognized last week in the US v. Stevens case, the First Amendment protects all speech other than just a few ‘historic and traditional categories’ that are ‘well-defined and narrowly limited.’ We are hopeful that the Court will reject California’s invitation to break from these settled principles by treating depictions of violence, especially those in creative works, as unprotected by the First Amendment.
A poll recently conducted by KRC Research found that 78 percent believe video games should be afforded First Amendment protection. We look forward to presenting our arguments in the Supreme Court of the United States and vigorously defending the works of our industry’s creators, storytellers and innovators.
The Entertainment Merchants Association, which represents retailers of video games and which was also a plaintiff in the original case, issued the following statement:
EMA obviously would have preferred that the Supreme Court decline review of the lower court decision finding the California video game restriction law to be unconstitutional. We are confident, however, that when the Supreme Court conducts its review, it will conclude that the lower court correctly analyzed the law and reached the appropriate conclusion.
The International Game Developers Association, which represents game developers, issued the following statement:
The International Game Developer’s Association (IGDA) asserts that video games are a form of expression whether they’re intended for entertainment, simulation or training. Like books, film, and television, games are capable of conveying many messages and many points of view.
Limiting forms of expression in video games limits the expression of game creators, which violates their constitutional rights to free speech in the United States and abroad as specified by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from the United Nations.
In the specific case of the state of California’s Schwarzenegger v. Video Software Dealers Association, 08-1448, which is coming before the US Supreme Court this fall, the IGDA’s position is that limiting the sale of video games based on violence is oppressive censorship, singling out one form of expression based only on popular myth and biased research.
The IGDA is committed to the safety of children and supports fair and objective research on the effects of video games on the psychology of children and adults alike, as exemplified by the $1.5 million federally funded Harvard Medical study headed by Drs. Kutner & Olsen and provided to the public in Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do. The IGDA stands behind informing parents about their media decisions and allowing them, rather than governmental bodies, to decide for their children.
Violence is conveyed in explicit ways on television, in print media, via the Internet, and in film. All of these platforms constitute speech protected by the first amendment of the United States constitution. The IGDA condemns the censorship of expressive media in all forms, but especially when marketed for political gain by legislators.
While video games are commonly associated with violence in the non-gaming public, in reality only a minority of video games include graphic violence, and the industry has taken a leading role in providing information and awareness to consumers about the level of violence in any individual game. The IGDA is fully committed to disclosure and an informed public, and supports the video game rating system, reviews of games prior to their release, and content warnings on packaging.
“Video games are at the heart of technical and artistic innovation,” said IGDA Chair Gordon Bellamy. “Singling out games from other media is not only unconstitutional, according to courts throughout the country, but it also stigmatizes a leading industry in our economy that’s embraced by millions in all walks of life.”