For those of you not aware, there is a case currently being heard before the Supreme Court of the United States that may well determine the future of gaming in the US. The case is Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association and involves California's 2005 law banning the sale of violent video games to persons under 18 and requires labeling beyond the ESRB rating. California has been blocked from enforcing the law by a US District Court ruling and has appealed to the Supreme Court to reinstate the law.
In essence, the law would ban the "killing, maiming, or sexual assault" of any person or character with "substantially human characteristics". Or to phrase it another way, just about every video game ever made.
The phrasing of this law is so nebulous it could include just about anything you wanted it to. Is a zombie "substantially human"? What about ghosts? Are the grubs from the Gears of War games more human than not? All of the Call of Duty games would definitely be eliminated.
The ESRB already rates these types of games and requires explicit warnings on the game's packaging. The ESRB, by the way, is universally acknowledged as a far better, and far stricter, rating system than the movie industry has. And apparently, California has no problem with the depiction of killing, maiming and sexually assaulting real live, actual persons in movies. Where is Hollywood again?
Make no mistake, oh ye gamers! If this law is upheld, it will soon be coming your way as well. At least two dozen other states are closely watching this case and waiting anxiously to pass their own laws. And won't that be a rosy situation for game developers and publishers. They already have to make different versions of a game for different countries. Just wait until they have to make 50 different versions for all 50 states. Think $60 is a lot of money for a video game? It could well be $100 or more a year or two from now.
"What can I do about this?", I hear you asking. First, you can head on over to the Video Game Voters Network
, and sign up if you are interested. There is power in numbers. There's a whole bunch of unemployed Democrats that can confirm that for you. You can also call or write your state and federal congressmen and tell them how you feel.
Don't get me wrong here, though. I'm all about protecting children from inappropriate materials in any form of media. I think however that is what you would call a "parental responsibility", and the video game industry already does an outstanding job of supplying parents with all the information they need to make good decisions for their children. They already have not only ESRB ratings and descriptions, but game websites, gaming news outlets and other sources of information.
Tell them "Hell nay! We wanna play!"
OK, that's a pretty pathetic slogan, but you get the idea. And let's face it. Nobody wants to play the censored game releases they have in Australia!
Sorry, TA Aussies, but... well... hell, even you don't like your games!