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What Games Were The Supreme Court Playing, Anyway?

sjohnson
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Posted June 27, 2011 - By Stephen Johnson

California Files Reply Brief In Violent Video Game Supreme Court Case

I don't know what you've done with your morning, but I spent most of it reading a Supreme Court decision. All 92 pages of Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants Association, to be precise. While I'm not going to offer a full, literary critique of the decision, Justice Scalia's majority opinion is not only informative, it's also damned interesting reading.

Presumably, the Court didn't spend a lot of time actually playing games, they did watch video compilations of gameplay presented by each side of the argument, hear arguments from lawyers, and read a lot about the industry. While Scalia's opinion was more theoretical, Justice Alito, who also sided with the game industry, issued an opinion that contains a section that references specific games. Check it out:

"In some of these games, the violence is astounding. Victims by the dozens are killed with every imaginable implement, including machine guns, shotguns, clubs, hammers, axes, swords, and chainsaws. Victims are dismembered, decapitated, disemboweled, set on fire, and chopped into little pieces. They cry out in agony and beg for mercy. Blood gushes, splatters, and pools. Severed body parts and gobs of human remains are graphically shown. In some games, points are awarded based, not only on the number of victims killed, but on the killing technique employed. It also appears that there is no antisocial theme too base for some in the video-game industry to exploit."

"There are games in which a player can take on the identity and reenact the killings carried out by the perpetrators of the murders at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech. The objective of one game is to rape a mother and her daughters; in another, the goal is to rape Native American women. There is a game in which players engage in "ethnic cleansing" and can choose to gun down African Americans, Latinos, or Jews. In still another game, players attempt to fire a rifle shot into the head of President Kennedy as his motorcade passes by the Texas School Book Depository. If the technological characteristics of the sophisticated games that are likely to be available in the near future are combined with the characteristics of the most violent games already marketed, the result will be games that allow troubled teens to experience in an extraordinarily personal and vivid way what it would be like to carry out unspeakable acts of violence."

And that guy ruled in favor of the game industry! But either way, Jake "Killer" Gaskill and I wondered what games, specifically, Alito was referring to in the paragraphs above, and we think we have it worked out.

  • "Victims by the dozens are killed with every imaginable implement, including machine guns, shotguns, clubs, hammers, axes, swords, and chainsaws. Victims are dismembered, decapitated, disemboweled, set on fire, and chopped into little pieces. They cry out in agony and beg for mercy. Blood gushes, splatters, and pools. Severed body parts and gobs of human remains are graphically shown."  While this could apply to any number of games, Alito is most likely referring to Postal 2, Duke Nukem 3D, and/or Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. A video compilation of these games was sent to the Court by the State of California in support of its argument.
  • "A player can take on the identity and reenact the killings carried out by the perpetrators of the murders at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech." This reference is to Super Columbine Massacre RPG and v-Tech Rampage, two download-only, amateur games. Neither has been, to the best of our knowledge, ever been sold in stores, and thus don't seem to really apply, except that, at their face value, they are shocking.
  • "The objective of one game is to rape a mother and her daughters"  This one is head-scratcher. Jake Gaskill says he's probably talking about the hidden level in Super Mario Galaxy, (DISCLAIMER -- that is a joke. there is no such level.) but I'm just confused. It's probably a reference to Rapelay, a Japanese game that, as far as I know, has never been released in the United States.
  • "The goal is to rape Native American women" This, no doubt, is a reference to notorious Atari 2600 game Custer's Revenge. I think, as a culture, it's time to agree that Custer's Revenge doesn't count any more. Seriously, continuously bringing up Custer's Revenge would be like holding Hollywood accountable for Birth of a Nation.
  • "There is a game in which players engage in 'ethnic cleansing' and can choose to gun down African Americans, Latinos" This probably refers to games created by white supremacists, not commercially available games, although I could be wrong; I don't really know too much about racist games.
  • "Players attempt to fire a rifle shot into the head of President Kennedy as his motorcade passes by the Texas School Book Depository." This is a reference to JFK Re-loaded, another non-commercial game, and probably the most easily defensible game in this list. In it, you play the role of the president's assassin, and can reenact a historic event in order to better understand it. Yes, the event is an assassination

So, what do you guys think? Are we on the money with these quotes?

What Games Were The Supreme Court Playing, Anyway?
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