Friday, March 13, 2009

Videogames Have a New Enemy: The Terminator!

Governor Schwarzenegger recently tried to ban selling violent video games to minors. The courts ruled against it because of free speech laws, and the fact that there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that violent games are psychologically damaging to children.

The problem here is not if kids should play violent video games or not. Supporters of this bill have good intentions – they just want to protect their children – but there is something much more serious at stake. Government censorship. There is no government censorship on movies, books, or other forms of art, because this country has freedom of speech. Supporters of the bill are not looking far enough ahead – if the government is able to censor whatever game they fill like censoring in the name of protecting children, what will stop them from placing censorship on movies? And then after that… books? If this trend is allowed to start in the first place, it is not impossible to think that the government will not allow anyone 18 or over to read The Crucible, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, A Clockwork Orange, The Diary of Anne Frank, or other novels that just so happen to have violence in them. Should the government be allowed to shield someone’s eyes from everything a little violent in the world until someone turns 18? Did anyone read 1984?

Of course, there is a lot of confusion floating around. The government, to some degree, is allowed to censor works of art when it comes to pornography and the like. But, the MPAA is not a government institution – it is a very successful, non-profit censorship association, not unlike videogames’ ESRB. In other words, institutions and rules are already in place without government control. If the government does step in, they will create their own rules concerning violence, and it will do little to keep violent video games out of children’s hands anyway. Should parents be the ones to decide if a child gets to watch Kindergarten Cop at 13, or should the government decide?

Also, this is coming from Arnold Schwarzenegger. The irony that one of the late symbols of violence in movies is supporting a government ban against violence is overwhelming. It is also ironic that Schwarzenegger is a Republican, while the general Republican consensus is that the government should be small and restricted when it comes to governmental control. Government controlled censorship is the complete opposite of this ideal. This is also happening as California sits in a terrible state, and demands attention from its local government.

Things are looking optimistic, though. Judge Consuelo Callahan, who presided over this case, said something that every gamer, or even every advocate of free speech, should hear with a sigh of relief: video games “are a form of expression protected by the First Amendment.”
So, California, or anywhere this may come up again, do not listen to Schwarzenegger, Clinton, or Lieberman. Supporting their bill if it were to come up again would be supporting government censorship, which, in essence, can nullify free speech. This will not help to protect your children; it will only chip away at the U.S. Constitution, destroying what was set up to protect us over two hundred years ago.

Sources: San Francisco Chronicle, ZDNet