Sessler's Soapbox: Gaming is Not a Crime!

Posted: September 21, 2010
Sessler's Soapbox: Gaming is Not a Crime!
Adam discusses the current Supreme Court case, deciding if it's constitutional to outlaw the sale of mature games to minors.

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  • Zzanzabar

    I just read this replay and this argument bares looking into:

    "The issue is more complicated than that. The problem with this particular case (or one of them anyways) is the fact that if it passes, you have the force of government action enforcing policies a third-party organization. The ESRB is not a government institution, yet this law proposes they have the full weight of law enforcing their arbitrary ratings.

    In a nutshell, it would be as the entire government decided what types of candy is legal to sell to various people based solely on my opinion."

    Now I can see a legitimate reason for the Supreme Court to look at this law VERY carefully. Rather than a bogus 'free speech' issue it becomes one of a non governmental agency given the de facto POWER over access. THAT is a different ball of wax.

    Posted: September 21, 2010 7:11 PM
  • Zzanzabar

    I cannot believe that someone actually said this as part of the 'infringement' of Free speech:

    "California is stating that a portion of it's population, minors, don't have the mental capacity to decide what is and isn't appropriate for them. the problem there is, and I sated it early, that there is a big difference between a 16 who wants to play an M-rated game and a 5 year old. the average 16 year old can easily distinguish between reality and fantasy, and can understand that what they do in those games they shouldn't do in real life. It's unconstitutional for California's or any other state's or federal government, to try to enforce what experiences they think a minor should have access to."

    Damn Skippey!! Since WHEN do MINORS have the RIGHT to purchase, buy, view or use ANYTHING that the society deems 'unsafe' or morally wrong for them. What, is 16 the new age of empowerment now? Right, a SIXTEEN year old is invested with the all the knowledge necessary for enlightened decisions! Well lets us just repeal the laws on buying pornographic material, drinking and any other laws that trample on their 'rights'. Hey, why not let 12 year olds in on this while we are at it. Look I was sixteen once, and some of you are sixteen also do you really trust some of the people you know to be without boundaries?

    No one even saying that you are prohibited from playing the game, just that someone of a legally responsible age buys the game. Sure as a parent I can say to my child 'don't do this' but when I'm not there I fully expect sellers of liquor, pornographic materials, and violent materials (including games) to refrain from providing them. If I find a beer can, or porno book, or even a GAME (if they were made illegal) that I have said 'no' to in their possession then I want the vendor who sold it to them, hide NAILED to the wall (legally).

    Look, if they said that it was illegal to MAKE M rated games, or that it was illegal to sell them at all, I would be the first one there protesting. Or, if my child goes to some friends house that owned the 'forbidden' game then that is on me and my parenting.

    Posted: September 21, 2010 6:28 PM
  • amelexiam

    Before your soapbox I didn't understand what the hub-bub was all about. I thought the plan was to just give the store a fine just as if a employee was to seel a minor cigarettes or a ticket to an nc17 movie. I didn't realize that they were taking it to a much higher level.
    Thanks Sess

    Posted: September 21, 2010 6:23 PM
  • JoshuaCorning

    No idea why anyone would want to ban Naked Lunch....why ban a book that is for all intensive purposes unreadable.

    That aside i am happy Sessler favors the economic liberties argument that by making it a criminal act to sell some games to youths would have a speech quieting effect. Game makers would be scared and therefor would not produce the games. This is not a first amendment argument. The speech in question is legal. It is the transaction that is criminally illegal.

    My question though is why does G4 not take this same argument and apply it to their pro-net neutrality stance. Communication over the internet by definition speech. If i want to pay more to make my "speech" go over the series of tubes quicker why should the government have a say in the matter? And if they do want to regulate it and prevent me from choosing how fast my speech can be transmitted then how is this not limiting my speech?

    Anyway i am happy Sessler agrees to economic liberties when it comes to video games, but i am sad he takes the opposite stance with net neutrality.

    Posted: September 21, 2010 6:10 PM
  • Arm3g3don

    At the moment developers are controlled by the ESRB in a sense that if the publisher/developer wants to aim for a demographic for their game they have to dumb down the game is some cases, in turn making the game whack. Like with movie, for example, I've seen plenty of movies where if the movie was unhindered it would have been SO much better BUT the studio had to clip the juicy parts to make it "more suitable" for a wider range of people(to get more money). So they went for money instead of a quality movie. What happened to the days when people could say B%&^ without being censored(did you see the irony in that, damn you G4 for blocking my profanity)

    Posted: September 21, 2010 5:59 PM
  • StrongestSaiyan

    The worst part to me is the obvious ignorance on the part of the politicians that support this. They exaggerate how long games are and the amount of graphic content. It makes me as angry as I was when Fox News threw a fit about Mass Effect's sex scene when their "experts" hadn't even played the game. Since when did a lack of experience qualify someone to dictate policy to another or proclaim themselves an expert? And of course, they wouldn't listen to Geoff Keighley, someone who has been in the gaming press for years, when he pointed out that the scene was PG-13 at most and about 15 seconds in a 30 hour game. It's like any other media, the politicians and pundits don't understand the "new-fangled kids' stuff" so therefore it's bad.

    Posted: September 21, 2010 5:56 PM
  • HitmanHybrid

    The fact that these people did not even take into consideration the aspect of digital media shows how uninformed they are about what videogames are and how they function. What appalls me is that these so called "lawmakers" always try to find fault with videogames and they somehow place videogames to the deterioration of the country, which is simply untrue and ridiculious. These people should be focusing on things like dealing with the millions of Americans below the poverty line, not making false attacks on a billion dollar industry that will only continue to grow and become larger. Shenanigans.

    Posted: September 21, 2010 5:56 PM
  • Arm3g3don

    right now ESRB's rating is pointless. Minors are getting access to all games, namely big franchises like Halo, GoW, CoD(all being rated M for Mature). Without enforcing those ratings then you might as well do away with the ESRB.

    If a parent goes and buys the game for their kid that's what ever but too many times do I see kids with an "older brother" waiting in line to get M rated games, and the store sells them w/o question. Why? Well that's rhetorical, for the all mighty dollar of course! So its simple, enforce a rating system that has been around for over a decade OR do away with ratings all together and just trying and make the most money! I have a feeling the latter of those two would be the victor.

    Posted: September 21, 2010 5:50 PM
  • smpreet

    Great soap box, and I applaud you for bringing this to light. This is something that is very important.

    @Scorpian_2: you make a fair point but I think it's invalid, because the implications that would be faced due to this being a law. Movies in are under the same types of restrictions that game are under currently, it's not enforced by law, which I think Adam, talked about previously in either a soapbox or a feedback episode. If a company is threatend by a fine for not following the rules, then they would probably be better off not selling it. Same goes for movies as it does for games currently, if my understanding of the laws is correct.

    But you are correct about this being the responsibility of the parents at the end of the day. I can't tell you how many 10 year olds I've pissed off in my local games stop because they are whinning to there mums to get the gears of war and the parents are going to cave to shut their kids up, and I've approached the parents and actually educated them of the content of the game. I'll explain that hey if you're cool with your kid seeing that, that's fine but you need to know before you by. Basically if you are ok with your child watching Terminator or Aliens, or something along those lines then I don't think you would have much of an issues with them playing this game. If you aren't then I don't think it's a good idea. And most stores I go into do enforce the rules, they will ask for ID to make sure that a younger person is of age to get a game.

    I'm not really sure if I've articulated my point very well here... What I'm trying to say is the rules that we have in place for Videogame ratings should be enforced in the same way movie ratings are.

    Posted: September 21, 2010 5:39 PM
  • best_video_gamer

    ... why whould they worry about selling minors M rated games??? isn't that why the ESRB rating system was created?!!

    Posted: September 21, 2010 5:11 PM
  • ARCHER99

    if this changes anything in canada im gonna be pissed

    Posted: September 21, 2010 5:10 PM
  • UrbanBallerinaEsq

    For those who still don't see the First Amendment implications:

    This would create a new category of unprotected speech, namely that violent speech is unprotected, as to minors. Normally, a law that is content based, such as this one, must survive strict scrutiny, namely that the government has a compelling interest and that the least restrictive means are employed. California is attempting to argue that variable scrutiny should be applied, similar to that used for obscene content (sexual material without redeeming value for minors) so that the government need only apply a rational basis for a law. This would set court precedent that would affect more than just California. This is dangerous to speech as it could eventually influence other forms of violent media as well. Moreover, the vagueness of the statute would leave gaming manufacturers unsure as to whether their games are protected or unprotected.

    Few games are without some artistic, historical or education merit. Even Postal 2, which the state relies heavily on in support of the law, has some redeeming value for minors. Particularly, it could be said to have a social commentary on the necessity of restraint to the stressors of life, Ironically, the game comments on video game criticism. While no child should play the game, to say that it, taken as a whole, is entirely devoid of merit is not true. The same goes for the Grand Theft auto series. Grand Theft auto employs A list voice actors, sometimes showcases classical music on radio stations, and (in GTA 4) comments on the dangers of drunk driving. If the player drives drunk, they cannot steer properly and cops are more likely to chase them. This could be viewed as "Educational:.

    Again, I'm not advocating that children should play these games, I'm just saying that the statute that CA is arguing for is impermissibly vague and potential devastating to free speech.

    Posted: September 21, 2010 4:57 PM
  • kings_legacy

    Wouldn't be surprised if Jack Thompson behind this whole lawsuit.

    Posted: September 21, 2010 4:32 PM
  • Angelicsin87

    The 1st Admendment
    Rated E
    For Everyone

    Posted: September 21, 2010 4:18 PM
  • Angelicsin87

    The 1st Admendment
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    Posted: September 21, 2010 4:17 PM
  • Sumoda

    Thx for the info Adam! Because knowledge is power!

    Posted: September 21, 2010 4:05 PM
  • Lance20000

    Did anyone else see the weird cut in the video? I wonder what they had to take out...

    Posted: September 21, 2010 3:43 PM
  • Lance20000

    Did anyone else see the weird cut in the video? I wonder what they had to take out...

    Posted: September 21, 2010 3:40 PM
  • M0NG00S3M0WD0WN

    There's no reason to oppose this law. Banning the sale of M rated games to minors doesn't constitute a abridgment of the first amendment rights of the publishers or developers. They are still allowed to produce the games and sell them to those who are old enough to handle the content. Cutting them off from selling M rated games would not remove enough of the intended market to constitute and outright ban of the games. Furthermore, Gamestop has had a self imposed ban on selling M rated games to minors throughout their history, so the idea that this law would somehow scare companies away from making or selling M rated games is ridiculous. This law does not constitute a ban of sale or production, so therefore there is no infringement on the company's rights. EA et al's rights are not in danger, their sales numbers are. They are claiming freedom of speech in order continue pushing a product to an audience that it is not intended for. This lawsuit is derived from greed, not a defense of these companies civil rights

    Posted: September 21, 2010 3:32 PM
  • jmare

    I'm kind of surprised that Adam waited so long to do a soapbox on this. He is wrong about one though, at least as I understand the law: the law does not only apply to M rated games. The law seeks to ban the sale of "violent" games to minors and the definition could be interpreted to include T rated games like Uncharted where you shoot people and they is a depiction of blood. I think that this is a bigger issue than most people realize because there seems to be usually to reactions to this case: 1) It will never happen, so don't worry; and 2) It's trying to keep violent games from kids, what's the big deal?

    It amazes and saddens me that so many people don't see what is fundamentally wrong with this law. The biggest problem I have is it seeks to enact government controls when there is a standardized system of self regulation already in practice. Also, this would be the only law, that I know of, that makes it illegal to sell a product to minors that it is not illegal to furnish to them. For example, it is illegal to sell alcohol, tobacco, firearms, drugs etc to minors. It is also illegal to furnish those items to minors. This law seeks to make it a crime to sell directly to children. but not to their parent or guardian with the intent of giving it to the child. This is what happens already with the ESRB and the industry's attempt to self-regulate. Apathetic parents buy whatever their little brat is screaming for to shut them up and then they act surprised when they see junior strangling hookers and running over pedestrians.

    I don't think the law will succeed, but to all those that think it's not a big deal, think about this. Like Adam says, businesses are risk adverse and would most likely stop selling those games. There goes Halo, Call of Duty, Gears, GTA and pretty much every other record setting game that exists. This law is based on the misguided notion that only children play video games and that because they are interactive, they are somehow more harmful than movies and TV, which are inherently more violent than games are. The reason this is a first amendment issue is because games are considered a form of speech, thus it should be protected under the first amendment until sufficient cause is shown to deem otherwise. Please note that no other form of speech today is under attack like this. If this law does succeed, it will open the door to other laws based on this precedent.

    Posted: September 21, 2010 3:19 PM