Tuesday the Supreme Court made their expected decision on Brown (Schwarzenegger) V. EMA. (Entertainment Merchants Association) For those who want the backstory, California (then governed by Arnold Schwarzenegger) enacted a vaguely worded law which gave the state government power to regulate the sale of “ultra violent” videogames to minors. What made it vague? They made no attempt to define what “ultra violent” was or who was to decide what it was. Basically this would have given their state government the ability to pull a product off of a merchant’s shelves for any reason they chose.
I suppose I shouldn’t be so one-sided about this. Advocates for the bill did stress that this was an effort to protect children from harmful images and ideas, and would not restrict in any way the developers’ ability to create or distribute any material to adults. And I do want folks to know I support keeping violent images and more “adult” themes away from children.
But I do support and approve of the SCOTUS 7 – 2 decision to strike down California’s clearly unconstitutional law. The ESRB is a ratings board that clearly labels and rates video games based upon their content and tell retailers whom they can and can’t sell certain products too. If that sounds familiar to even you non-videogame players out there… it’s because that’s exactly what they do for movies and television. A ruling in California’s favor would have also opened up the movie and television industry to governmental control.
And that’s one of the reasons I’m against such things. Fundamentally I’m against larger and more invasive government. But I was worried about how this ruling would turn out. Because the backing for this California law was predominantly from the right – wing reactionary religious crowd. They call themselves Republicans, but actually they are in favor of more business-unfriendly, bureaucratic, nanny-state stupidity. It just works me up a little. Saying that they want government out of the way of small business, and then talking out of the other side of their face to push their version of “morality” on people who just don’t want someone else’s way of life forced down their throats. And this isn’t the only issue where these so-called “conservatives” show their own tremendous amount of hypocrisy. But we needn’t get into that.
And I needn’t get so worked up. The Supreme Court really put their foot down. In legal terms, 7 – 2 is a thrashing. A bi-partisan, judicial, ol’ fashioned whuppin. After reading the news that day I went home, queued up the bloodiest and most violent videogame I own, and went on a digital killfest that would have made Sam Peckinpah puke. And that’s why I’m pro violent videogames. Every digital pedestrian I drive over with an ice cream truck makes it much less likely that I would find the house of someone who called our call in line to COMPLAIN ABOUT A DIFFERENT RADIO STATION than the one they called and bash them over the head with a shovel for being a moron. It’s very simple stress relief. Not for kids, but a well adjusted (or semi well adjusted) adult should know the difference between fantasy and real life.
And so parents… the government isn’t going to hold your hands on this one. If you want to be a good parent, take the ESRB ratings into account before you buy your kid a videogame. If he gives you the “Billy’s mom bought it for him” line… repeat after me. “Billy’s mom is stupid, lazy, and irresponsible, you can have it when you’re older.” Good parents know what games their kids are playing and will be willing to discuss with their kids about games, the images within, and the meaning of content they may not have the life experience necessary to put into correct context. Here’s a rating’s guide.
cE – Early Childhood – Good for children 3 and up.
E – Everyone – 6 and up. May contain small amounts of cartoon violence. Perhaps a “hell” or “damn” spoken, but only once or twice.
E10+ - Everyone 10 and up – More cartoon violence. A few more “hells” or “damns.”
T – Teen – Mildly realistic violence, but with little or no blood. Small amounts of stronger language, an actual &%$# or ^@*% but only one or two. And slightly suggestive sexual themes. (think “Dawson’s Creek” amounts, pretty tame)
M – Mature – 17 and older – This is the videogame “R” rating. Lots of blood and gore. Strong language and sexually suggestive themes and costumes, but no nudity.
AO – Adults Only – Prolonged scenes of intense violence, and graphic sexual content and nudity. I’d have to check to be sure, but I don’t think I even own an AO rated game. It has to be pretty bad to get slapped with the AO. Most retailers won’t even sell AO rated games.
Oh, and the one other category.
RP – Rating Pending – If someone is playing an unreleased or import game it technically has a RP rating. Retailers won’t sell RP games.