The Supreme Court is hearing arguments on the California video game censorship case (Video Games on Trial).
During the proceedings Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg asked California, “What about films? What about comic books? Why are video games special?” (Gamasutra)
Why single out a particular form of media for persecution?
This got me thinking back to my childhood. I grew up watching violent movies, and playing violent video games like the “murder simulator,” Doom.
At no point while playing Mortal Kombat did I think, “Gee, I think I’m going to rip a kid’s spine out like Sub-Zero,” or “I’m going to steal a car and kill some cops,” while playing Grand Theft Auto. Not once. Not ever.
Similarly, movies, music, and television shows had no negative impact, with the exception of a nightmare from time-to-time if the movie was scary.
However, there was one form of media that scared the crap out of me on a regular basis. The news.
“Is something in the water killing your children? More at 11.”
“Coming up at 11, are your kids safe at school?”
“Anthrax. How to stay safe. Coming up next on the 11 O’clock News.”
But my damn bedtime is 11! How am I going to find out if I’m safe?
Even worse than viewing the teasers is actually watching the news broadcast. If you learn about the world through the lens of the news it’s pretty easy to conclude that we live in a horrible place. Fires, murders, drugs, sex offenders, poisoned water, disease, over and over every single night. Or in the case of the 24 news stations, it repeats every 30 minutes. The news is an ugly, distorted reflection of our society.
When you are bombarded by those images on a constant basis it throws off your perspective on the real crime rate. It can make you scared, jaded, and cynical or, completely numb.
I’m not proposing we censor the news. What I am suggesting is that there is real violence, and there is fake violence. Most kids can tell the difference. Evidence is the sheer number of kids who don’t kill each other.
Playing Doom didn’t make me fearful of demons, or want to kill people. Learning the symptoms of ebola or VX nerve gas exposure had a profound impact on me.
Censorship won’t stop children from learning about violence, and it won’t stop them from playing violent video games. Video games aren’t special when compared to any other media, and game makers deserve to have their Constitutional rights defended.
Here’s hoping that the Court rules California’s law unconstitutional.