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Lawyer Predicts Gaming Win at the Supreme Court

| 13 Jul 2010 21:21
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Videogames may be facing their gravest challenge yet in the States at the Supreme Court, but at least one lawyer thinks that the EMA stands a good chance at victory.

Back in April, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of "Schwarzenegger vs. EMA" - the proposed Californian law that would ban the sale of violent games to minors - a case that was dubbed the "most important challenge" to gaming by the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA). The case just recently entered its first stages, and is set to be decided this fall.

In a bit of good news, Jomo S. Thompson at The Fine Print blog thinks that the Supreme Court is likely to side with the gamers thanks to the difficulty the opposition faces in defining exactly what constitutes a "violent" game.

However, while the most common argument (amongst laymen) in advocacy of games claims that they are protected under the First Amendment, Thompson points out that free speech "has never been unlimited" particularly when it comes to minors. In fact, two of the "better known exceptions" both directly involve minors:

"First, child pornography is outright censored in the United States; it is illegal to make, sell, or own, no freedom whatsoever. The sale of pornography to minors is also restricted, on the theory that while adults can choose for themselves if they can 'handle' pornography, children won't know until it's too late that something is too much for them or harmful to their well-being."

Still, Thompson thinks that those who seek to lump videogames under this same umbrella - as harmful for children who don't know better - will have a tough time convincing the SCOTUS that the relationship is causal rather than correlative. That is, they will have to get the court to believe that violent videogames cause violence, instead of merely attracting those who are predisposed towards violence in the first place. Furthermore, all the definitions thus far of what constitutes a "violent" game have been fairly broad, and "courts don't like broad terms in narrow laws."

Even if the court does side with the Californian law, however, Thompson doesn't think it will necessarily be a deathblow. Many retailers already refuse to sell M-rated games to minors of their own accord, and as he points out, the porn industry isn't exactly hamstrung by its inability to market to the underage. "The harm would be far more philosophical than actual," says Thompson - and considering that this would effectively make videogames as restricted as firearms or tobacco, it's not a hard statement to agree with.

We may have reasons to be confident, but that's no reason to get lazy and complacent. There's a petition for the cause, so if you have a few moments, why not sign it to add just a little more weight to the debate?

(The Fine Print via GamePolitics)

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