Thursday, July 24, 2008

New York Censoring Video Games?

According to an Associated Press article, on Tuesday New York Governor David Paterson signed a law that he claims will lead to restrictions on video game violence and increase parental awareness of video game violence and appropriateness.

It's a two-parter (as most censorship laws are) that will first create a "commission" or "authority" to study the effects of violence in video gaming. In this case, it will be an "Advisory Council." The second part of this law will require parental controls on consoles and prominent age ratings on each game by 2010.

This bit of unconstitutional censorship luckily comes with only a small whimper rather than a loud wail like other similar laws. Experts claim that the law itself is so vague that it will hardly be effective, and will most likely be struck down like the others because of its unconstitutionality.

Either way, though...what brings people to think that they need a body of law to judicate what we can see or do? What state believes that they have the ability to restrict one form of media over others? Why not restrict movies or music the same way as video games?

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart stated in his opinion for Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964) that, "I know it when I see it..." What you could take away from the case was that obsenity cannot be determined by a general body of law but as a fluid label that can only be determined by smaller, local principalities who can judge the moral tolerance of their own communities.

So what makes New York think that they can decide what is appropriate in the grand landscape of video games? I believe it is the parent's job to know and be aware of what media their child consumes. It's rather lazy to blame a video game for a child's poor mistakes, especially when a parent has all the chances to govern their own household. If you believe your child cannot determine what is right or wrong, perhaps GTA is not for them. However, just blindly buying a game and not even looking if the rating is appropriate for their age group should put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the parent and the parent alone.

Video games are not made solely for young children. The sooner most people understand that, the sooner the censorship of this industry will go the way of the movie industry. Like the movie industry, video games come with their own rating. This new NY law states that it will make age levels more prominent. How much more prominent do they want the T for Teen rating, or the M for Mature rating? So far, the ESRB already has the game industry make sure they feature the ESRB ratings as much and as prominently as possible.

It all goes back to the parents though. Next time you go to the game store and buy that game for your child, take a look at the rating. Is the content appropriate for your child? Perhaps you know nothing about video games...that's okay. Perhaps you don't care about what one game does over another...that's fine. I'm pretty sure though that you care about your child.

As with anything, do your homework. For the sake of your child, read the back, check out the rating, heck, even ask someone in the aisles. Most gamers would be happy to help out a parent trying to choose wisely for their child.

As for this law, it will be pushed back as all the others have but perhaps those with the power to vote should put down their controllers and take a stand for Free Speech and not elect those who wish to take it from you.

1 comment:

Rabscuttle said...

This stuff is so tiresome. Movies and tv don't get victimized like this because they are widely accessible media that parents "get."

Video games are less accessible if you don't play them, they are new, and therefore...must be FEARED!

It's getting better gradually, but it'll probably be 5-10 years before you stop seeing the legislation card being played.

If you haven't already seen it, check out G4's Adam Sessler pwning Jack Thompson on this very subject (GTA4): or