Video game laws bring mature 1st amendment discussions

A law preventing video game sales to those under 18 has brought about a great discussion.

I am glad to see so many smart people chiming in about this, and an excellent mature discussion has been created around content, expression, and the attempts to limit expression with new media and technology.

A few snips from the article, “Court: Why the First Amendment protects violent video games” :

The courts struck down a California law preventing the sale to minors of games involving “killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being.”

The Supreme Court acknowledged California’s legitimate concern in protecting children, but said the First Amendment sets limits.

Protecting children “does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote.

Entertainment is protected by the First Amendment: The Court notes that although video games are primarily intended for entertainment, “we have long recognized that it is difficult to distinguish politics from entertainment, and dangerous to try.”

Sexual and violent content are viewed differently: America has a long tradition of limiting depictions of sexual acts, the Court notes, but has never been as restrictive about violence. “Certainly the books we give children to read — or read to them when they are younger — contain no shortage of gore,” Scalia wrote. “Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed.”

States can’t target emerging media: As new technologies are invented, states cannot target them for restriction because of concern about the potential influence on children. In this case, for example, the Court concluded that the interactive nature of video games did not warrant government action any more than a compelling book would.

Disgust alone can’t justify limits: Justice Samuel Alito did some of his own research into video games and shared his findings with his colleagues. “Justice Alito recounts all of these disgusting video games in order to disgust us — but disgust is not a valid basis for restricting expression,” Scalia wrote.

Learn more from the first amendment center

I am glad to see that the courts and other intelligent people are stepping up and stopping the slide down this very slippery slope. Personally, I am not condoning violent video games for adults or children, and I think that parents need to pay more attention to the games and other media that their youngsters consume. Ultimately it is the responsibility of parents to make sure that their kids are not over exposed to any messages in any media. I am glad to see that the supreme court is keeping that responsibility with parents, and keeping the government from censoring what people in America choose to purchase.

This blog is mainly centered around adult choices in expression, ideas, and entertainment, but I am glad to see an article and court decision that gives more rights to those you are not yet 18 as well. There has been little done over the years to fight for the rights on today’s youth, and today’s youth have access to much more information, and opportunity to mature much faster than young people in previous generations. Often times the rights of young people are dismissed, and they are considered largely invisible. The young people today are the voters of tomorrow, and I believe that we will see many more changes in the coming years based upon the adults of today ignoring the rights and maturity of them.

We are already seeing big changes in this country as far as accepting sub culture choices, everything from gay and lesbian rights to the open sharing of classified information and sharing of corporate greed and political scandals. People today are expecting all information to be shared, uncensored, and prefer to discuss issues openly on the internet for the world to see rather than having controversial and disgusting things covered up.

Whether it’s a video game where the player beats up a prostitute, or a real life video showing helicopters killing people, for good or bad, people do not want these things censored by the government. The bill of rights in the constitution paved the way for people in America to discuss whatever they want, and keeps the government from choosing what is good speech and what it bad. It is that free speech that keeps all these talk show hosts and so called news organizations putting out their message, and the messages from the people are not to be censored as well.

I do not agree with the message that many of these video games put out there, and personally a lot of the comedy that sells today on TV and film is rude and in very bad taste. I myself would not have my children consuming much of this media, but I do believe that parents and kids should have the right to choose.

What is also interesting to me if this statement from the article: “Sexual and violent content are viewed differently: America has a long tradition of limiting depictions of sexual acts, the Court notes, but has never been as restrictive about violence.” – I think that this is another issue that is going to be changing quite a bit over the coming years. Even if historically we as a country had no problem with violence in entertainment and kind of put our heads in the sand when it comes to sexual information, tomorrows leaders and parents are not going to be so shy about sex.

Sure, whenever someone tries to do some poll about sex there will be whatever half honest answers from people, and those polls will be skewed. Sure in public forums and PTA meetings and in church groups parents may remain quiet as some vocal “leaders” complain about sex on TV or sexual education in schools. However I think the honest truth is that most of today’s generation has no problem with younger people learning about sex, and learning about seduction, and other “adults” situations.

I do not know if there are statistics on how many parents actually use the channel blocking features or internet parent filtering for computers at home, but I imagine that just as there are parents who do not care if their kids are playing grand theft auto, there are plenty of parents who do now mind their kids watching the oversexxed videos that stream across MTV, and probably know that their kids are consuming sexual information from the internet, as well as HBO – and that most parents are not doing anything about it, because they do not see it as being a big deal.

I believe that most parents today had accessed some Playboy, Penthouse or Hustler magazines when they were younger, and would actually rather have their kids gain more knowledge about adult situations before they are pushed out into the adult world. Maybe I am wrong, and maybe there are some stats somewhere that show differently. If anyone has any real stats (not skewed polls) – I’d love to see them.

The revolution of sexual sharing may not be televised – as there will always be some minority groups (not racial, but ideological or something) that put pressure in public forums for broadcast TV to tone it down, and there will be plenty of people who voice their opinion with these people putting pressure on networks and even advertisers to tone it down. However if you look at these groups of people, what percentage of them are filtering the content available at home in the first place?

They may complain publicly about gay sex or teen sex on MTV – but most of them are not blocking MTV, or skin-a-max for that matter. It may be popular as a “mature parent” to sign a facebook petition against too much sex in our media – but what I bet is more popular is what is actually happening in homes all over America, not censoring the sex or violence that is flashing across so many screens every day – and that is what kind of choices free people are making. I only hope that we will have more open and honest discussion about the sex and violence and learn something beyond the messages of comedy and tragedy as entertainment, but also about changing behaviors and no repeating the mistakes that we enjoy watching people make in the news and entertainment of the free world.