New York Game Studio Heads Decry Proposed Videogame Laws


In an open letter published in the Albany, New York, daily Times Union, the top two officers of Vicarious Visions assailed the state’s proposed videogame content regulations as unconstitutional, redundant and ill-advised.

Karthik Bala and Guha Bala, CEO and President, respectively, of the company behind the Xbox version of Doom 3 and hand-held versions of Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam, said the proposed laws would only hurt the state economically:

In fact, nine federal courts in the last six years have ruled that legislation in other states substantially similar to what is being proposed in New York violates free speech protections. States have wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to defend these statutes. Several states and municipalities have been ordered to pay more than $1.7 million to the video game industry for legal fees. Given New York’s pressing economic needs, it can ill afford to spend money enacting and then having to defend this proposal.

The Albany-based company officials touted their own contribution to the local community and economy, as well:

Today, we have 148 full-time and 30 part-time employees, and are continuing to expand. … Teachers and parents often contact us to talk to kids about career opportunities. These adults appreciate that video games are part of our popular culture and that many students are interested in pursuing game development as a career. We are in a unique position to motivate kids to combine their passion with strong academic studies.

The letter’s authors argue that state regulation and punishment for distribution of unmarked violent videogames were unnecessary because the Entertainment Software Rating Board already evaluates titles for content.

They further state that the industry’s own voluntary self-policing efforts are solid enough, and that videogames should not be stigmatized.

While conceding that they themselves do not “like the content of some video games,” the pair argued that public money would be better spent increasing children’s literacy, mental health and overall well-being.

Last month the New York State Senate voted to approve legislation that would make sale and distribution of violent videogames to children a Class E felony.

In a clear sign of the role current politics is playing in the legislation, the author of one of the bills, Andrew Lanza, cited the release of V-Tech Massacre as one example of the ways in which “the emotions and behavior of our children are far too often shaped by the virtual reality of violent movies and video games.”

However, that mini-game was made and released after the shootings. It also appeared only on the internet, for free, and was created in Australia – meaning the proposed laws would have no effect on it.

About the author